Permanis’ 5 Dimensional Team


by Poonam Balan

Entry into the Malaysian book of records for having produced the “First Print Campaign Using Five Senses” for the launch of Wonda coffee, doesn’t begin to describe the unsurmountable enthusiasm and very realistic disregard for limits, which this team embodies.

The Permanis team, rightfully called so, are indeed the sweetener, cherry-on-the-top kind of marketing professionals.

We at MARKETING Magazine had a chance to steal them away recently for an outdoor shoot. Expecting a traditional interview with the President and CEO, we instead had the immense opportunity to meet the team powering these delightfully different campaigns.

I spoke to 10 energized teammates, all keen to express their unexpected learnings – and loyalty for the company’s belief in them.

Racking up over 20 awards to date, the accolades keep coming in for this team, led by a founder who has successfully implemented a no red tape, open door policy, which successive leaders all seem to echo in the interview.

The list of awards attained reflects not just achievement, but an obvious acknowledgement by industry onlookers of a well-oiled and uninhibited machine.

From winning GOLD at the coveted Effie Awards to being the advertiser of the year at the Malaysian Media Awards – setting their sights on making headway through everyday roadblocks with an open mind, seems to be working just fine!

Although we are highlighting their marketing capacity, a look back at years 2000 and 2001, will remind you that their manufacturing was noticed and voted by PepsiCo as the most efficiently operated Pepsi-affiliated plant in the world.

A testament to the company’s roots in manufacturing, this FMCG does know and has cornered the beverage market.

As a fully-owned subsidiary of Asahi since 2011 and a close partner of PepsiCo, Permanis has found a winning balance between its very authentically Malaysian way of commerce and management, to fulfilling the goals set out by its ambitious parent and partner companies.

The Permanis team has absorbed proven traits and learnings from these larger brand associates, and optimized on their evident agility.

As the company has seen a robust talent growth since its early days in 1973, introduction of further structure to its internal training and development, and performance management methods, is underway.

With 90 percent of its team entrants being – NOT from a FMCG background, and a marketing team made up of largely new age PR and digital branding professionals, the company has hardwired an effective bottom-up osmosis system.

However, the question of how they’ve managed to coax their backend manufacturing folks to turn sales ambassadors, and front line marketers to turn product development experts – is a wonder.

When asked, they credit their genuine closeness and camaraderie, and a leadership team who reinforces the importance of clarity between professional and personal.

Staring down the barrel of a 10 year low of the consumer confidence index (CCI), as published by Nielsen, the company is poised to not just hold its somewhat pole position in the beverage segment, but use this down time to conjure and concur more untapped avenues of delivering relevant ad campaigns. Igniting new, affordable and penetrative brands like Wonda is the continuous goal.

Despite dismal national sentiments, *economists forecast an increase in market demand growth for the food, beverages and tobacco segments, against an expected continued yearly growth of five percent in overall retail sales volumes, over the next few years.

There is no doubt that the 820 million ringgit investment by Asahi in mid-2011, and the advisory received by Permanis from Deloitte, was a decision with foresight.

*PWC 2015-2016 outlook for the retail and consumer products sector in Asia report

The Winning 5D Wonda Campaign

The Wonda campaign which began in 2013 reminded marketers of the pull of variety. The plan was to create simultaneous market relevant entries, build new pockets of fans based on unique associations and common interest.

Highlighting the International Coffee Day on September 29th, allowed avid Malaysian coffee drinkers to now become part of a list of coffee loving nations – particularly Wonda coffee drinkers.

There is still value in awareness campaigns like these, human beings will always be susceptible to a need to belong.

This team and the five agencies they worked with, did indeed conjure up a 360 plan that was bound to be in your face, and evoke enough connection for you to want to try a Wonda canned coffee yourself.

The MyTeksi collaboration and LRT exposure has been talked about again and again. An obvious thought running through most marketer’s minds is the sheer size and push of this brand. Persistence did pay off and there was no fear of possible distaste.

How could the consumer feel as such, when every push to try – was brought right to their doorstep – with care.

Google Wonda campaign and find the description under this stupendous commercial, and it will read; “Wonda Coffee, made with premium quality Arabica coffee beans that serve up a just-brewed taste. If it’s not the best, we won’t serve it. So awaken your senses today with Wonda Coffee’s delicious freshness, in Latte, Original, or Mocha.”

I stress on the spacing between the complimentary phrases, the repetitive reinforcement of freshness in both, and the affirmative tone reassuring that this is a product of quality – backed by people who understand and are of standards.

Much like the slogan, the video highlights sensory pleasing imagery, two gentlemen, both a certain sort, most viewers will likely allow themselves to enjoy and retain in memory.

This was validated when the video views hit over 100k in just a week!

It’s now well over six times that figure.

Wonda being a proven product in Japan, and it being Asahi’s first brand launch outside of Japan, made the achieved success no less pressuring for the local team.

It goes without saying that relevancy is crucial in advertising. The work of storyboarding a convincing ad campaign in any medium calls for a main ingredient of contemplation, anticipation of lash backs, and an undying appreciation for Murphy’s Law.

The team took a huge leap of faith with the introduction of Wonda, and came out even better armed for the next big thing.

Taking a much closer look at Wonda’s print campaign, I noticed the face of a friend who worked with me in a previous role, Ben had offered his perspective as a fellow “returned Malaysian diaspora”, and is indeed a great choice by the Permanis team.

The industry is in fact – that small. We as marketers, will our way to the next thing that will hopefully spark a lasting fizzle.

The focus Permanis’s President and CEO, Mr. Erwin Selvarajah has paid to integrating a Theory Y styled leadership, has resulted in the infectious enthusiasm of his employees. It is an exemplary mix of strategic hiring and enlightened perspective despite the odds. In this story, the outcomes have justified the risks they’ve taken in encouraging ownership, at all levels.

Pioneer to Finesseful Matriarch


Vice President of Marketing Hema regales the beginning, when she was part of a 5 member team only offering carbonated soft drinks at the time. From a modest list of a few brands, the company has come a long way in generating double digit net sales growth, year after year.

Humbly mentioning that it
has been a steep learning curve and crediting her leader; Erwin. Hema firmly affirms that taking the time to connect and understand the perspectives of the team she leads – is key. Trusting their capacities, and equipping them has created a culture of open ideation.

In Permanis, unlike in most FMCGs, structure and bureaucracy has been kept to a minimal, encouraging bold sharing of ideas and perspectives at all levels.

Positions are noticed, however managers must actually lead a sizeable team to earn and retain their titles.

Although, its talent pool is looking like it will only enlarge in the coming years, this team exudes the more benevolent approach its leadership has evidently instilled, in not just the pioneering team, but throughout the ranks.

The Tropicana campaign was a market first, Permanis had never been in the juice segment. Hema recalls it being alien to the company at the time.

This launch marked the first juice to be presented in a bottle rather than the tetra pack, it was a make it or break it situation.

Moving beyond the doubts, Permanis became the market leader in this segment within the first 10 months of its launch.

Noticed all the neon around town?

The introduction of the new neon-edition Mountain Dew bottle would have likely been cemented in the minds of many, not just because of its striking colour, but because it was the fastest growing carbonated drink in Malaysia in 2014.

The Star newspaper who partnered up with Permanis saw an increase in print sales, due to the special jacket they had created with an LED bottle you could actually switch on.

The neon green bottle made appearances all over Malaysia.

The campaign also connected with Dota and skateboarding fans, forming and epic marriage between the “kick, push” faithfuls and the many unnoticed warriors who walk, sleep and breathe Dota.

Claiming the title of organizing Malaysia’s largest amateur Dota 2 tournament, has certainly captured the attention of those targeting the youth segments.

I once read that “all success in advertising is predicated in being alive and retained in the memory”, which is an accurate way of describing the trials and tribulations of marketing.

A commonality I found from conversing with each Permanis team member, was the clarity and consistency in vision which they all possessed – a necessary trait in trying to stay on course throughout the pursuits of firsts, in a fast moving consumption based industry.

The compliment I left Hema and Group Marketing Manager Ruban after speaking to their eight bright prodigies, was that I couldn’t really tell – who worked in manufacturing and who storyboarded the ads.

Talent in the hands of this FMCG leadership team will see the expectations of the marketing profession through, a career with Permanis will truly be a journey of courage and continuous growth.

Enter the prestigious APPIES Malaysia Marketing Awards today!

Known as the ‘TED for Marketing’, campaign entries are presented by their brand marketers or campaign creators in an interactive format comprising of a 4-minute creative reel summarising the overall marketing campaign, followed by a 6-minute oral presentation highlighting significant aspects of the campaign, and finally a Q&A with the audience.

Entrant campaigns must have run between 1 January 2015 and 29 February 2016 in any of these categories:

1. Consumer Durables

2. Consumer Services

3. Food and Beverage

4. Non-food FMCG

5. Business Services

6. Government, Cultural, Social and Environmental campaigns.

Top brands including P&G, Mondelez International, Coca-Cola, Google, IKEA, IBM,
Unilever, Amazon, Shangri-La Hotels & Resorts and Asia Pacific Breweries have
all won at the APPIES over the years. Will your Brand or Agency be next?

Download details and your Entry Kit here:

Closing Date: 31 March, 2016

All entries are to be submitted to [email protected] via file transfer protocol.


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The APPIES is an annual event that presents a rare opportunity for creative, media, digital and marketing agencies or brands to present their best campaigns to the industry.

This is the only event where Live Presentations meets Live Judging.

Similar to TED Talks, The APPIES is the chance for great presenters with outstanding work to show it off to some of the industry’s most important industry leaders.

This year’s winners will receive Gold, Silver or Bronze trophies for 21 categories, and 6 special Best of Best categories (red trophies) that require no submissions!

Campaign entries must have run between June 2023 to May 2024

Submissions Deadline
30th June 2024

APPIES Festival – Judging & Presentations
11th – 12th July 2024 (Malaysia)


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