A Big Switch For An Introvert: Saki Goh, Senior General Manager of Marketing at Wipro Unza Malaysia

By Delani Philips

This is the amazing journey of Saki Goh, Senior General Manager of Marketing for Wipro Unza Malaysia

Saki Goh is a new-age marketeer with a track record of turnarounds, double-digit growth, and multiple marketing awards for every brand she has led. She oversees the start-to-end marketing function for 11 brands in 13 categories spanning beauty, personal and health.

Despite her dream to work for the famous brands featured in her college textbooks – Saki’s first job was in sales.

She confesses, “I’m very introverted and shy. The thought of speaking to large groups of people was inconceivable to me.”

From talking to thinking 

When Saki eventually moved from sales to marketing, it was a huge mindset shift for her.

“My boss at Wrigley’s told me that if I wanted a career in marketing, I needed to move away from my sales way of thinking and start practising the fundamentals of marketing. Suddenly talking wasn’t enough, I needed to start thinking.”

Marketing is more than just pretty pictures and clever activation

When Saki eventually joined her dream companies, Unilever and later Johnson & Johnson, she learned how to appreciate and understand the importance of analytics and analysis. She explained how this approach helped grow the Aiken brand from a leader in the niche acne segment to the No. 1 moisturiser in the category of skincare….

“By mapping data, we realised that Aiken had exhausted its consumer base because it was already ahead of its key competitor.

The only way to grow over the next few years would be to occupy a higher value segment.”

This led to another aspect of marketing that Saki enjoys: New Product Development.

“We started planning in 2019 and we benchmarked the category leader. We listened to consumer needs and addressed the design and concept. We changed our positioning and started focusing on skin science. We moved from a traditional media platform onto digital.”

By 2020, they executed their plans, and within a couple of years, Aiken became the category leader in the hydration segment, with double-digit growth every year. Aiken has since won Gold awards over 2 consecutive years at the APPIES, and Saki is thankful for the morale- boosting effect it’s had on her team.

“My team works so hard because they aren’t just marketers, they’re also product developers and brand drivers. So the awards aren’t just an acknowledgement of their dedication, but are an industry-wide recognition of their efforts.”

Introvert grows outward

In her 18-plus years as a marketing expert, Saki has had her fair share of challenges, but she cites her personal challenge of introversion as a steep hurdle that she had to overcome as she moved up the marketing ranks.

“As an introvert, I tend to make decisions on my own without consulting others and that can sometimes make the team feel left out. When I was at J&J I was once yelled at by a team member because she felt I was not empathetic and did not choose to understand the situation before I questioned her about an issue we were facing.”

It was an eye-opener for Saki, and with mentorship from her bosses, she learned how to put people first and include their opinions in her decision- making.

“I was good at managing brands, but I had to learn how to manage brands through others, to have a more collaborative approach.”

Saki admits that she has grown in the last five years, and while she is still an introvert, she puts on her “marketing cap” to handle the people portion of her job, whether managing her team or influencing stakeholders. She also learned to address the “profit part of things”.

Post-pandemic, global shortages, wage increases, supply chain disruptions and inflation have affected all businesses. Saki explained that when their gross margins started to suffer after COVID-19, they needed to shift gears in 2021, “The entire team had to start looking into cost management.

My bosses are marketers but ultimately, it’s always a question of ‘Is this going to make money?’.

If we don’t make money, then we can’t spend money.

She believes that the conversation needs to change to growing brands and creating marketing campaigns that are sustainable in terms of profitability.

According to her, to be a successful Chief Marketing Officer in today’s challenging environment, one needs to move beyond the conventional 4Ps of Marketing and to focus also on the 2Ps, People and Profits.

Back to the shelves

Seeing what I have done come to life in the market excites me as I see my products on the same supermarket shelf that first inspired me. When people tell me they love a product, not knowing that I worked on it… it feels truly amazing!

Saki Goh won CMO of the Year at the prestigious Malaysian CMO Awards 2023 for Best In Non-Food FMCG Marketing.

This article is excerpted from the coffee table book Who’s Who In The Malaysian Marketing Landscape – a ready reference to the leaders who are making a transformative difference in the industry. Available at https://marketingmagazine.com.my/shop/books/cmo-coffee-table-book/

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