In a Q&A with WARC, HSBC’s Leanne Cutts reflects on her time as a WARC Prize for Asian Strategy judge in 2012 and Jury Chair in 2013, and offers some advice to this year’s judges and Prize hopefuls.

Leanne Cutts was first a jury member in 2012 for the WARC Prize for Asian Strategy, then lent her time again in 2013 when she returned as the Jury Chair.

That year, It’s More Fun in the Philippines, a campaign developed by BBDO Guerrero for the Philippines Department of Tourism, walked away with the Grand Prix, capping a year that saw astounding entries from the government and NGO sectors. Gold winners that year included THPF Smoking Kid by Ogilvy & Mather Thailand and MILO Cans: Twisted Football by Ogilvy & Mather Kuala Lumpur.

Analysis from the WARC team in 2013 also found that “the appetite for smart strategy in Asian marketing is widespread and growing,” adding that “a slowdown in economic growth in the region may encourage greater focus on consumer insight and fresh thinking”. It’s a state of affairs not too dissimilar to that facing the industry in 2020.

In her then-role as president and managing director Japan at Mondelez International, Cutts noted in her Chair comments that: “I was reminded once again that budget is no prediction of the quality of strategic thinking, creative idea, or effectiveness in the real world – that was very humbling, and exciting to see.”

To mark the tenth anniversary of the Prize, Cutts – who is now group chief marketing officer at HSBC – took a quick walk down memory lane in this Q&A with WARC, to share her hopes for the strategic marketing discipline and offer some advice to this year’s jury panel.

From your vantage point in the industry, how would you describe Asia’s evolution over the last 10 years?

Brilliant strategic thinking is still in demand – and in a world of clutter, brands matter more! I continue to be impressed by the growth, creativity and confidence of Asia-led brands, especially mobile integration and social media platforms, where I think Asia is a world leader.

Any favourite or memorable moments during your time as a judge?

I remember how much we enjoyed it! There were a lot of laughs, and also a few ‘lumps in the throat’, where we were genuinely moved by the work, and shared these moments with other judges.

Which case study paper from your time as a judge still sticks with you today, and why?

Looking back, it’s not just one particular case study, but more the emerging theme of purpose-led brands in many of the winning entries, that drives the distinctiveness of the campaigns, the behaviour shift, and the sustained business result.

Where do you see the discipline of marketing strategy (in Asia or globally) moving towards in the months or years to come?

Clearly COVID-19 has dramatically changed how we need to support our consumers, and how we communicate with them. Everyone has accelerated virtual and digital engagement with consumers at record speed. I am really keen to see how brands break through the digital clutter, move past the ‘react’ phase (which has been mostly generic) and help customers navigate the new normal and be genuinely helpful and useful.

What would be your message to this year’s judging panel and Prize candidates?

Some marketing principles are eternal: good consumer insights that leverage distinctive brand assets to drive business growth. Look for the intersection of these elements, and identify how has consumer behaviour shifted? And I’m a big believer in simplicity and focus – has the brand amplified the most important touchpoints?

And finally, it’s rare to be able to spend time with so many amazing ideas – so enjoy it!

This article is part of a special content programme marking the tenth anniversary of the WARC Prize for Asia Strategy. The deadline to enter the 2020 edition of the prize is 14 July. Register your entry and download the Entry Kit and Entry Form here. We look forward to receiving your work!