Nippon Paint’s Gladys Goh on digital murkiness and pushing innovation

Media transparency within the digital space is a hot topic, with several companies struggling to have a clear view of where their marketing dollars are going. Joining in the conversation is Nippon Paint Malaysia’s group general manager, Gladys Goh (pictured), who told A+M that this issue with transparency is one even she faces, which restricts her team’s ability to monitor the effectiveness of their media spend and transparency.

Nonetheless, she still relies on her agency partners for honest open communications. With “no plans” of bringing on board a media director, she says the brand focuses on getting its own talent to build on their core business capabilities and learn to work collaboratively with its partner agencies in media buying and communications.

Currently, Nippon Paint works closely with Ensemble, Entropia and Perspective Strategies to ensure it communicates effectively to the right audience pool, by developing and executing an integrated strategic campaign.

While the company believes that its partner agencies will have the ability to provide better exposure and training to their employees, Goh said one challenge she faces working with agencies is constantly upkeeping an ongoing passion for the brand, which is key when it comes to effectively communicating to our target audience.

For effective communications, she explains that “all parties are required to be on par with one another in terms of changes to the working landscape, to ensure everyone is aligned on how things are changing within the industry.”

Despite its issues with murkiness, Goh is a strong advocate of all things digital. In fact, the growth of digitalisation in Malaysia has led to e-commerce being one priority aspect that Nippon Paint is looking further into to expand its business.

“Technology is changing the way people interact with products and service providers. The evolution of technology, particularly with the rise of the number of digital platforms that we see today, affects the way we do things even on a daily basis,” Goh said. Despite the changes in the digital landscape, the company is still certain of where its main priority lies. Goh said:

Our core priority remains in value creation for our customers, as successful marketing campaigns for us often results in a stronger sales return.

Innovation is a must

Like most companies, innovation is a key focus for Nippon Paint and Goh said the company invests a double-digit figure across all its digital activities to remain relevant in the industry.

“In the paint industry, there are several trends which we have observed recently, mainly pertaining to improving overall customer service and modernising traditional aspects of marketing approaches,” Goh said. To appeal to modern consumers, Nippon Paint launched the Colour Creations App. The app offers consumers a convenient solution to select their preferred range of colours and visualise how they will turn out on their walls via their mobile or tablet. Customers can also easily find the price points and locate the nearest paint dealer via the app.

It also utilised artificial intelligence (AI) to bring to life its “Paint New Happiness” campaign. This was in a bid to connect more closely with its consumers and overcome the traditional association of paint as a problem-solution product. The campaign also aimed to position it as a highly personalised offering.

The AI recommendation engine analysed multiple data points from a connected social media account to develop a behaviour-based profile. This profile was then used to create a life colour palette and virtual mood rooms from Nippon Paint’s colour library. For instance, consumers could achieve an individualised colour palette to reflect their life moments and key occasions such as birthdays and anniversaries. Goh said:

AI is one way of progressing forward as it helps us understand our consumers on a deeper level.

This includes individual preferences and consumption habits. Such key insights enable Nippon Paint to delve deeper and further comprehend what its consumers are looking for.

Meanwhile, Goh also noted that unless the occasion arises, paint is generally a low involvement product that is not constantly at the top of consumers’ minds. She added that one of its objectives includes placing priority on short term results, which helps push brand recall while maintaining long term branding and establishing greater brand awareness. As such, the company created its own Facebook and Instagram pages which help provide consumers with content to kick start their ideation process to create a space with the colours, texture or function they desire.

As Malaysia has diverse ethnic groups with unique cultural values and views, Goh said marketers need to think of effective marketing strategies to appeal to both the masses, while remaining relevant to the niche markets.

Skills for survival

Goh who joined Nippon Paint in 2006 as assistant general manager of marketing and has risen through the ranks over the years. As the group general manager, Goh currently oversees and manages the operations of more than six countries within Asia, including Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines and Thailand. Meanwhile during her time as assistant general manager, she was tasked to grow the company from being a challenger brand to the market leader in the decorative paints industry.

“My previous knowledge and experiences from my past roles within FMCG brands and related industries have helped me grow further in my role today across all aspects, including management, operations and product strategy,” Goh said.

She added that prior experiences have especially prepared her in applying using similar effective strategies to build a low-involvement category brand such as paint into a lifestyle brand that caters to both the functional and aesthetic needs of consumers.

Having accumulated experience in the coatings industry and witnessed the proliferation of digitalisation, Goh said marketers today need to be equipped with various hard skills. These include being digitally-savvy and having working knowledge on how to operate on social media platforms effectively to meet business objectives.

Other imperative skills also include business acumen and leadership skills, which will help marketers when they move up the corporate ladder and boost team work on a daily basis.  While she agrees that finding good marketing talent is difficult, the company is constantly on the lookout for fresh, new talent who possess a good attitude and are willing to constantly learn. Also, rather than focusing solely on academic qualifications, Nippon Paint also looks at an individual’s mindset when it comes to challenging situations and prior experiences.