Should Brands Tango With #BenderaPutih?

#benderaputih trend on the rise

It truly can no longer be denied that the various lockdowns have taken their toll on citizens. Malaysians have been finding themselves in more and more dire situations. Keeping each other and our community safe has never been of higher priority. Many started off with making sure extended family, friends and neighbours have enough food, asking if they need any help or any emotional support. As horrible as these times are, it’s brought Malaysians closer together, bringing back the community value our grandparent’s talk about.

Twitter user @HafizolHakami found that value within himself as well. At 9.08 pm on 28th June 2021, he posted,

“To all who are struggling and have no food, raise the white flag at your residence. Let the people around you help as little as they can. Please do not take actions that break the hearts of loved ones. No need to beg, no need to be embarrassed. Just fly the flag.”

The community rose together in solidarity immediately, with over 112k total share of voice in less than half a day. The topic appears most active on Twitter with 92.87% channel distribution.

The sentiments have ranged from positive, neutral, and negative as visualised in the chart below.

Emotions have also been recorded and visualised through the chart below.

Unsurprisingly though, most Malaysian netizens have gotten involved. Selangor comes in at the top 25.9%, while Kuala Lumpur has 21.6% and the lower buzz rate comes from Putrajaya and Perlis, with their stats ranging from only 1.7% to 0.6%.

The community has come up with multiple hashtags as well to keep the word spreading, #benderaputih, #kempenbenderaputih, #pemulih, #actionbeyondpolitics, and #rakyatjagarakyat being the top ones at the moment.

Top new agencies and blogs as well as influential Twitter users have been highly active throughout the rise of the #BenderaPutih campaign

Implications to The People

This phenomenon strikes close to home, as the author of this coverage I found myself rudely awoken to the realities of our community. While sitting at home this weekend, I heard my doorbell ring. Not expecting any guests I got up surprised only to find a young woman standing outside my gate. “Can I have a kilo of rice?” Immediately I rushed back into the house, only coming out when I had a bag of food in my hand. At that moment it really struck me how people must be coping and wanting to do more.

Just then by the end of the day someone actually did more by starting a chain reaction, Hafizol initiated the #benderaputihmovement. His movement has given so many struggling Malaysians an outlet to ask for help without fear of being judged, embarrassed, or shamed.

By simply waving a highly accessible piece of white material as a flag, citizens can ask for help, whether it is outside their home, a store they need products from, etc. It allows them to simply be human, with other humans. To be themselves and be honest about their situations and not have to face ridicule.

It also simply reminds us all to be more vigilant, to keep a more watchful eye on our neighbours and other citizens, to notice small things that may be a disguised call for help.

The Befrienders, an NGO that provides mental health support, report an exponential increase of calls from struggling Malaysians year on year with a 50% increase in calls this year further proof that citizens are indeed in a dire situation.

iWISERS intel picks up on the social buzz indicating that citizens are more than pleased with the uproar of support. With these turbulent times sometimes a little support is all one needs to keep going for a few more days. The comments and jumping on the bandwagon can be construed as a negative towards the government.

Reaction from Brands

However several brands though have decided that it doesn’t matter to them, choosing to share posts with the hashtag #benderaputih, wanting to be one with the people. This can be seen with some posters perceiving the white flag movement as a symbol of solidarity for the struggling rakyat. Brands that have decided to jump on board with #benderaputih are, for example, TGV, TOC Automotive College, Selayang Mall, Hot FM, Fly FM, Sunway Pyramid, and CocoDry.

This may have been a calculated decision for many Brands as it is erring on the line of politics and could have potentially also incurred the wrath of Netizens. A true test to the Brand, Marketing, PR and Comms stakeholders to tactfully angle their postings in such a manner that it worked with people’s sentiments and not overly against the government.

Here’s a look at a few brave Brand’s attempts to jump on the bandwagon with their own takes.

99 Speedmart makes an actionable move through this post and has been received by the public in biblical proportions with over 19k engagements, 1.9k comments, and 42,000 shares in less than 3-hours.

TGV Cinemas post reached a total of 3.4k likes, 112 comments, and 339 shares at the time of writing. While many comments were satire based on the fact that TGV themselves have been shut for the entirety of MCO, several comments also talked of how they were grateful for TGV’s initiative

At the time of writing, Fly FM has been able to reach 7K views on the video they tweeted along with 137 retweets, 6 quote tweets, and 188 likes.

Sunway Pyramid’s Facebook post about #BenderaPutih collected 2.3k reactions including the “like” and “care” emoji, 35 comments, and 238 shares.

Here are some of the comments and quote tweets that these posts have garnered.

Among them, one poster has a political undertone to its message, saying #BenderaPutih is a movement that:

  • This shows the government has failed to manage the country
  • Invigorates the spirit of #rakyatjagarakyat (The People take care of The People)
  • Calls for the people to help individuals and families around them
  • Acts as a symbol of solidarity for the rakyat affected by the Movement Control Order (MCO)
  • Upholds the empathy of the Majlis Raja Raja Melayu during this time

By posting about t#BenderaPutih, they appear to be asserting to the community that they can be even more sure that the brand they support is indeed, ethical and empathetic to their concerns.

The Public’s verdict

Many citizens have naturally taken notice of whether or not their favourite brand has made any comments on the rising hashtag. With every person in the country having such strong emotions linked to the campaign, they find it a high priority to see if the brands they purchase from are carrying the same sentiment.

The reason for this is twofold. Firstly it shows the consumers that the brand truly is customer-centric and has a high priority on its consumer’s pain points. In addition, it gives them an opportunity to decide for themselves, whether or not their favourite brand is actually as empathetic as they claim.

Brands that have stood up and made a statement have naturally gotten high levels of positive feedback from their customers, ranging from comments claiming they knew they had a reason to support this brand as much as they did and reposts with supportive comments, commending the brand for standing up.

A risk worth taking it seems for those Brands that took that leap albeit well-played tactically, users seemed to have gained more confidence in these brands or at the very least have heightened awareness towards them.

The key takeaway for Brands

Tapping into viral trends that resonate with audiences done tastefully can definitely increase the Brand’s sentiment among the community. At this point giving back to the community as some of the Brands have done would go miles and miles towards building favour especially if the act is a tangible form of CSR.

The learning for brands should be a realisation of how listening to the community is critical to engage them when they are actively participating in a nationwide trend. Building a heightened level of visibility and trust is crucial, by doing so, in turn, brands can leverage the community’s support to gain the top of mind status, cementing the stand of being a customer-centric organisation.

iWISERS has a multitude of digital, social intel solutions and custom objective research services working with brands across APAC. They can be reached via email [email protected] or chat on LinkedIn@iWISERS for social intel or industry studies that enable people-centric-data-based decision making.

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