To mark its tenth anniversary, WARC’s Managing Editor – Case Studies, Lucy Aitken, analyses previous winners of the WARC Prize for Asian Strategy to see how strategy will evolve across the region and announces a new Special Award.

I took over the reins of running the WARC Prize for Asian Strategy from David Tiltman, WARC’s VP Content, in 2016. It has been an honour to work with some of Asia’s finest strategic minds on our juries over the last four years and, with our Asia Editor, Gabey Goh, I’m looking forward to working with this year’s eminent jury.

The WARC Prize for Asian Strategy is an unparalleled bellwether of strategy’s progress in the region. What’s more, its ongoing efforts to encourage entries from across Asia, particularly smaller markets, means that it is never too singular in its outlook.

We know that WARC users all over the world are looking to learn from all countries in Asia, not just the ones with the biggest economies, and believe that often the smartest ideas can emerge from the smallest markets. And while there is sustained interest in what big brands in the behemothic fmcg, auto and finance sectors are up to, it’s often work from the less obvious brands that can offer the most valuable lessons.

People-centric strategy

Asian strategy is beginning to spawn ideas that are less like traditional ad campaigns and more like well thought-out, grassroots solutions. This is because one big step that agencies are beginning to take is not automatically devising an ad campaign every time they receive a brief from a client. Instead, they are really listening to their clients and delivering solutions that are overflowing with imagination and nous. Strategy has become people-centric and that’s one trend we can expect to see more of in the future.

Take two winning examples from 2019’s Prize. Illuma, a formula milk brand in Taiwan, organised a delivery service for expressed milk to help mothers returning to work continue with breast-feeding. Much as it may seem counter-intuitive for a formula milk brand to be picking up bottles of expressed milk from Taiwanese mothers to deliver them to their infants back at home, which brand do you think will be top of mind when those mothers stop breast-feeding? 

And Berger Paints found a novel way to appeal to people with information about missing children in Pakistan: painting their portraits on the back of long-distance trucks. This led to seven children being reunited with their families. It also showed off Berger’s range of colours, leading to a steep rise in visits to Berger’s Facebook page.

My all-time favourite example of how people-centric strategy is transforming business is Saregama’s Carvaan which took the Grand Prix in 2018. 

Saregama could have churned out an advertising campaign to promote its back catalogue of classic Indian music. But instead it opted for product innovation, investing in a new style of digital music player that looked like a retro radio. It instantly resonated with its audience of over-55s. This way of working is much more challenging and demands a new skill-set among Asian strategists who are finding themselves figuring out prototypes and logistics or collaborating with third parties in tech and innovation.

Looking long-term

While there will be more emphasis on being more solutions-driven for strategists, the WARC Prize for Asian Strategy is committed to showcasing outstanding examples of long-term brand building. This is why we have introduced a new Special Award for Long Term Strategy, to mark the tenth anniversary of the Prize. It’s to reward the case study that can show how a well-articulated strategy has built up a brand over a period of three years or more. In these challenging times, building up brand equity over the long-term has never been more important. To find out more about the new Special Award, please visit the WARC Prize for Asian Strategy page

My message to this year’s Prize hopefuls would be to revisit previous Grand Prix winners for inspiration: think of Ariel-Matic’s Share The Load, 2016’s Grand Prix, that was an early adopter in promoting gender equality. Or It’s More Fun In The Philippines, 2013’s Grand Prix, a vibrant effort that leveraged Filipinos’ love of social media, passing the baton to them so they could show the world what a special country it is.

At WARC, we look forward to seeing what new and elegant solutions the region’s sharp, dynamic strategic minds will produce over the next decade. As always, we’ll be there to share the most pertinent learnings and applications for your own businesses.

This article is part of a special content programme marking the tenth anniversary of the WARC Prize for Asia Strategy. To find out more about this year’s Prize, click here.