“Be human. No matter what you’re selling, you’re still talking to a person.”

By Delani Philips

Andrew took an interesting route in his career, from marketing to advertising and then back to marketing again.

“Life is too short to be vanilla, so when the world zigs, you zag.”

Not quite knowing what he wanted to do after he graduated, Andrew joined IBM as a Management Trainee in their prestigious Big Blue programme where he was rotated through the various departments and also sent to San Diego to meet the Global CEO.

With a choice between consulting and marketing, Andrew opted for marketing, and within 3 months he was promoted to a management position.

“The marketing manager left, and I was kind of thrown into the deep end.”

However IT marketing was somewhat limiting for him, so Andrew decided to go where the action was, straight into FMCG marketing with Procter & Gamble.

After a little over a year he was ready to move again, “In P&G you’re given one category to handle, which wasn’t enough to keep me interested. I thought I’d try getting into strategising which offered more depth and range.”

This led to a seven-year period of working with various agencies both while doing his MBA in Australia, as well as after returning to Malaysia. For Andrew the experience of working in Australia was life-defining.

“If you get the opportunity to work overseas, you should. Because it just opens up your whole worldview.”

The work culture there was very egalitarian, where even junior executives could voice ideas or disagreements with those at the top level. “Letting everybody have a voice and valuing different opinions is very empowering.”

After returning to Malaysia, Andrew became Head of Strategy at Naga DDB but it didn’t take very long for him to see limitations…

“The client calls the shots. Sometimes the agency doesn’t communicate well enough with the client and campaign ideas can get rejected or watered down.”

Andrew’s next move, to IKEA, not only brought more control but also, being a company employing a large number of expats from several countries, had a similar work culture to what he’d experienced in Australia.

It also had its challenges, for example convincing Swedish executives to roll out IKEA’s Malaysia Day 2021 campaign “Kita DLL”.

The campaign went on to win the YouTube Video of the Year award, and Andrew points it out as an example of standing up for what you believe in.

Building brands is not the hard part, building people is.

“To me forming good working relationships is very important, and I realised along the way that you can be loyal to a relationship, not a company. I tell my team that if we succeed, it’s as a team, but if we don’t, it’s all on me. It creates trust and removes the fear of making mistakes in pursuing an idea.”

“When I joined TIME I spent the first 100 days winning over the team. Take a group of people, align them to a common vision, and believe in them. They will deliver.”

Andrew is most proud of TIME’s Kabel Besar campaign, launched in November 2021.

“One is the fact that TIME uses fibre optic cables. The other is the colloquial meaning of being able to pull strings, so it has a cheeky element as well.”

Another point of pride for him was the TIME rebranding exercise launched in October 2022, with the simultaneous launch of their 2GBPS service. “Unlike a cosmetic rebranding, it caught people’s attention because there was a product that they would find useful.”

On Awards and more

“Awards are the outcome, not the goal. Do work that you are proud of. Once you win awards, the team now is under even higher expectation to continue to do work that pushes the boundaries. That’s what we intend to do, and it’s my challenge to the team.”

In 2023, TIME dotCom also won Malaysia’s only D&AD Pencil.

For Andrew, being a good marketer is encapsulated in two words – Being Human.

“No matter what you’re selling, you’re still talking to a person. Humans value experiences over things, and humans are emotional. We gravitate towards things we feel an emotional connection with.”

When it comes to data and tech, he shares, “They’re important tools, but remember you’re dealing with people, not numbers.”

“You are interrupting somebody, trying to reach out to them. So at least make it worth their while. If they are not smiling, they are probably not buying.”

Andrew Yeoh won CMO of the Year at the prestigious Malaysian CMO Awards 2023 for Best In Telco 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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