Thailand’s Chang beer has undertaken a significant rebranding, moving away from its brown bottled past, towards a global brand positioning around ‘authentically Thai’ cultural moments.
Speaking at Adfest in the brand's home turf of Thailand last month, Chang communication and media director Asawin Rojmethatawee, joined three senior execs from its agency Iris, (Luke Nathans, regional chief executive officer, Graham Van Der Westhuizen, managing director of Iris Bangkok, and Mark Hadfield, regional planning director) to discuss how the brand has started to make progress in modernising.
According to Rojmethatawee, the brand has been bold with its marketing decisions, starting with abandoning its brown bottle, which had come to represent its previous heavier recipe.
“If you want to become number one, or the leader, you must evolve along the way. If you look at the previous brown bottle, it had to change at some point and it was the first part we changed. The brown bottle was at a time when we had to make a decision because of the baggage that would stick with us, which was about the heavy taste and the alcohol content. It was at the right time and we had the right research, which signified to us that we should make that change,” he explained.
In terms of product, it’s not just the taste of the beer and colour of the bottle that’s changed. The brand is evolving its marketing platforms around a universal truth about ‘being together in moments as friends’ and has also launched a bigger magnum-sized bottle for sharing.
“We can’t just stop there, that’s why you see that continuous modification and you now see new big bottle. If we want to be ahead of the game, we should introduce things before the market is even asking for it,” he added.
From a marketing perspective, Chang has three geographical layers to its challenge and the perceptions of the brand is different in each one. Iris, tasked with taking the brand and its new positioning out to market, set up a two-office team in Bangkok and Sydney, in order to bring two different perspectives to the marketing strategy.
Nathans said the relationship between Iris and Chang is very close: “The reality is we came in at the beginning of the evolution, so Chang were looking at positionings and Iris came in as a combined team, in Singapore and Australia. Since then, from a brand-level, we have always worked in partnership, it’s quite an organic evolution around where the brand is going next, whether that’s sport or music. We work very closely and we are trying to find new ideas to challenge the team and they are also challenging us the whole time as well.”
Rojmethatawee agreed, saying the closeness between the agency and client allowed for consistencies, despite the campaign running across different markets and with such a significant change to branding. “At this very moment Chang has changed very much and without this kind of relationship, it wouldn’t happen. Being hand in hand all the time, you can see the consistency. Sometimes they’ll raise the flags around the issues, and that kind of relationship has been good,” he said.
Consistency is an important part to the marketing, which has seen events focus around food, via the Chang Sensory Trails events, and more recently the Chang Urban Pulse events, which focused around Thai Muay Thai fighting and music.
Nathans, explained: “It’s about authenticity, so if you look at the fight platform Chang Urban Pulse, the Muay Thai part we don’t change, that is consistent. The talent and parts around it might change but the elements of ‘Thainess’ are important to the Thai brand. There’s a little bit of flex because you have to stay culturally relevant but then you have to be true to who you are as a brand. They have been pretty clear who the brand is: for me, the Chang brand and modern Thailand go hand in hand, so it’s not that hard, as long as we stay on brief and so long as we can elevate that experience.”
The first Chang Urban Pulse event happened in Singapore earlier this year and is now being followed up in other key cities in Southeast Asia. Rojmethatawee says the brand now has to stay open to change, as it tweaks the platforms for each country as it evolves.
“From a client perspective, we have to be open minded. We decide wisely but it's ok to be open and learn. There will be adjustments, maybe there’s not enough budget or we need to change some aspects, but now it’s the learning time so we can push it forward,” he said.
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