To say that I am very honored judging the 2016 Warc Prize for Asian Strategy would certainly be an understatement - not just because of the extremely humbling panel of fellow judges, but also because I personally hold a great deal of this award. After all, it's Asia's first dedicated competition rewarding great strategic marketing thinking from the region.
So logically, I have closely followed the prize's case studies over the last few years - with admiration as well as a little dose of envy - and I have to say, the entries just seem to be getting stronger and stronger. While based on this trend, we should be expecting the best and most exciting year so far, I still have three very specific criteria in mind that'll separate the good from the great.
Although campaign results play an important role in the judging process, the prize itself is not focused on effectiveness per se, but on strategic thinking. So going into this, I'm considering results and their clear link to objectives and strategies to be green fees. What I'm truly looking for are bold strategies. Strategies that helped brands to re-invent themselves, strategies that broke category conventions, or put simply, strategies that put Asian marketing on the map – once and for all.
Too long has the region (certain countries more than others) been battling the stereotype of the risk-averse, tactically-oriented marketer. The truth is however, that a lot of the work that is happening in Asia, by nature requires a more disruptive and unconventional strategy approach. Up-and-coming local brands challenging well-established international players, international players introducing not only new products but entire new categories, and market leaders revamping their business models to accommodate quickly changing consumer needs, are just a few examples of Asia's day-to-day marketing boldness.
What appears to be a bold strategy in one country, might of course be the status quo in another one, which leads me to my second criteria:
Bold strategies to me, are not just defined by the extend of disruption they're causing, but more so by the extend of the disruption's relevance. Therefore, I'll be looking at entries that also answer questions like 'how was introducing a new category in this market relevant to the business?', 'how was going against industry rules relevant to local consumer needs?', or 'how were drastically changing target audiences relevant to the brand?'.
So you see, I'm not necessarily expecting to read about previously undiscovered cultural insights, but rather contextually meaningful truths that emerged from either a deep consumer, category, business, or brand understanding.
So your strategy is bold, and also born out of a relevant truth. You've nearly got my vote…nearly. There's only one more box left to tick…
To borrow the words of famous economist Michael Porter, strategy is about choosing what not to do. Yet we've all seen the exact opposite happening: marketers, pressured by tightly managed budgets, and driven by the subsequent urge for efficiency, overlook the value of informed prioritization and try to kill too many birds with one stone.
So when going through this year's cases, I actually want to see less for my money (figurative speech, as the prize is free to enter). I want to see campaigns that clearly identified one main barrier that was standing in the way of brand or business success. I want to see campaigns that didn't unnecessarily thin out budgets across a range of channels just for the sake of touchpoint variety. And, I also want to see campaigns that were inherently targeted, either at a specific audience, or at eliciting a very specific behavior.
Bold strategies, based on a relevant truth, implemented with focus – that's my expectation for this year's Warc Prize for Asian Strategy. And I'm pretty certain that I will find what I am looking for. With an even higher certainty, I can say how extremely thrilled I am about reading Asia's - potentially even the world's - most outstanding strategy work. After all, the most exiting place to be a marketer right now is Asia.