“The new Big Mac of McD Asia” was first published in MARKETING Weekender Issue 306
By Raihan Hadi
Have I got big news for you?
The titular Big Mac I’m talking about here is none other than fast food marketing heavyweight Eugene Lee, who just became the CMO for the Asia Business Unit for McDonald’s!
Multiple award winner Eugene, who is also one of Asia Pacific’s 50 Most influential Marketers for a consecutive year since 2020, has added yet another giant leaf to his decorated career hat with his new role.
Eugene was accoladed CMO of the Year at the inaugural Malaysian CMO Awards, and will be a judge at the upcoming APPIES Asia-Pacific Marketing Campaigns Awards.
Eugene was previously the Regional Director of Marketing for Asia at McDonald’s, where he has been working for over 12 years now.
Spearheading activations such as the BTS Meal in Asia, Eugene has been working closely with international teams to develop new directions or guidelines for McDonald’s on areas such as media, creativity, and menu.
I took this opportunity to have a light conversation with the man of the hour.
Big congratulations to you Eugene! Are you lovin’ it?
I’m definitely Lovin’ It. It’s such an honor to have this amazing opportunity, and I’m excited to be working closely with all the amazing marketing talent from across our wonderful region.
So what exactly are you taking on in addition to your previous role? What’s changing?
To be completely honest, the actual job doesn’t change all that much. I’ve been Regional Marketing Director since Feb 2020, so it’s been 1.5 years in the regional role. There are more meetings that I’ll need to attend now, and of course having the heavy responsibility of being fully in charge.
During the past 1.5 years, I’ve had the extreme pleasure of working under Nick Rodd who has been an amazing coach, mentor, and partner in crime. He is actually retiring, which is why I was afforded this opportunity, so I have big shoes to fill. I will continue building on his legacy and the strong foundation he has set in place but will try to sprinkle some of my own fairy dust along the way.
What’s the most challenging part of this job? How do you handle it?
I think the most challenging part of the job is understanding and truly appreciating the vastly diverse cultures and nuances between markets.
Being candid, during my time in Malaysia, I always asked myself “How different could it be in other markets?”
Only after joining the regional team did I really understand that every country is very different, and what worked in Malaysia won’t necessarily work somewhere else.
So I’ve handled it’s through having tremendous empathy and keeping an open mind, allowing myself to indulge in the local culture, and having full trust in the local team to make the right decisions because they know their market best.
Asia is a huge mix with different types of menus, which ones are the most diverse in terms of flavor?
Every country is definitely unique, and that’s why even for a brand as “standardized” as McDonald’s, we have special local menu items in every market.
For example, in Malaysia you have Nasi Lemak McD, in Indonesia there’s Nasi Udok, in Korea there’s the Bulgolgi Burger, in the Philippines there’s McSpaghetti, and in Hong Kong they have Twisty Pasta.
The beauty of McDonald’s is that we’re a global multinational corporation that operates like an SME in the countries we’re in. Market teams have full control of their local menu development and marketing calendars, and we’re big on localization to cater to the rich and diverse taste buds of our local customers.
What are some of the biggest difficulties you faced because of the pandemic? How did you tackle them?
The biggest difficulty was definitely the lack of travel. It’s almost impossible to fully understand a country unless you’ve been there and seen it with your own eyes.
I joined the regional team in Feb 2020, managed to visit 1 market which was the Philippines, and the world went crazy in March. However, just from that 1 trip alone, I feel like I understand the Philippines much better and was able to live like a local for a week, experiencing their local value driven food truck culture.
So unfortunately, in the absence of travel, I now connect with the local CMOs more regularly (2-3 times a month) to get insights about the market directly from them. Again, keeping an open mind and fully trusting the local teams to make the best decisions for the business.
What are the various types of campaigns you and your teams have to work on every year? What’s the best thing about working on such culturally diverse campaigns?
As mentioned earlier, every market manages their own unique marketing calendars, which makes the regional role that much more exciting.
For example, when running a Big Mac promotion, what it looks like in Indonesia will look completely different from Taiwan.
Local culture plays a huge part in the creation of the campaigns, and insights vary from country to country, so it’s such an exciting journey.
You’re the voice of Asia on global forums, tell us a bit about how that works.
As the representative for Asia on many global forums such as the Global Creative Council, the Global Media Council, the Global Knowledge Council, the Global Menu Council, just to name a few… my job is to bring Asia’s ideas, experience and concerns to the table. These councils help shape the way forward for McDonald’s globally, and I make sure that Asia’s voice is clearly heard by the decision makers in Chicago.
This helps ensure that any global guidelines that come from the center has Asian inputs considered and is fit for roll out in this part of the world.
At the same time, it’s also my duty to showcase the amazing marketing work we produce over on this side of the world to the international team so Asia gets our rightful time in the spotlight.
Once again Eugene, I would like to congratulate you on behalf of all of us at MARKETING Magazine, and wish you the very best for your journey ahead.
Submissions Deadline: 15 November 2021
Announcement of Finalists: 29 December 2021
Judging & Presentations: 25 & 26 January 2022
Winners Announcement: 22 February 2022
Download the entry kit here.
Submit your entry here.
APPIES Asia Pacific 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.
MARKETING Magazine is not responsible for the content of external sites.