Telum Talks To… Calista Tambajong, Head of Marketing, Bentley Asia Pacific
Telum caught up with Calista Tambajong, who heads marketing at Bentley Asia Pacific to discuss developments in communication and PR in the automotive industry, how social media is influencing purchase decisions and how Bentley is using digital technology to enhance its customers experience.
You’ve been in the automotive industry since 2006. What have been the biggest developments in the industry's communications over the years?
This question is very pertinent to me as I started my communications career in print advertising, allowing me to forge relationships with journalists. The younger generation today have difficulty understanding how only a few years ago, the first pictures of highly anticipated new cars were launched through a few top car magazines globally.
Over the past decade, a wave of digitalisation has swept over the communications sector in the automotive industry. With rapid advances in technology, hyperlocal news now has a global reach, and the media is keeping abreast of news topics on an instantaneous basis. These developments have spurred the digitalisation of brand newsrooms to ensure the efficient dissemination of the latest news which are tailored to the various local languages across our diverse region. We are speaking to a much wider target group today, and with that, we are reaching out to various different types of media channels, and our “middlemen” so to say whom we are dealing with on a day-to-day basis have evolved.
What is interesting is also about what we hear back from our audiences. In the past, we have relied heavily on feedback from publications, but today, members of the public are our reviewers too. We value this a lot, to the extent that we read their feedback through social media analytics to uncover nuggets of knowledge and optimise our communications and marketing strategies.
How did the emergence of COVID-19 prompt your team to reassess your communications plans in the region?
Our digital channels were our alternative mode of communications, but the pandemic has certainly propelled its role, making it almost the only way to communicate with our audiences. With this, we have creatively re-evaluated our traditional customer touchpoints to encompass a holistic range of platforms, ranging from broader communications channels such as social media to more personalised one-to-one forms of communications such as mobile messaging to continually stay in touch with our customers and prospects.
It has also resulted in an opportunity to further personalise the experience for our media. While the pandemic has put a stop on international press drive events around the launch of the new Bentley Bentayga, we have been agile by overcoming the travel restrictions in place by introducing the Global Media Drive-in-a-Box, where we fly press cars around the world and facilitate individual test drives at the convenience of our journalists or influencers. As a result, our regional media have enjoyed the exclusive opportunity to view the new Bentayga in the flesh and experience it on local roads within less than a month of the international reveal of our new luxury SUV.
Social media marketing has become an essential tool across every industry. Can you share the role it plays for automotive brands like Bentley?
Social media plays a significant role for automotive brands especially in our current day and age. At Bentley, social media marketing is more than just a communication platform that is solely focused on brand building and raising awareness around our products. The communication preferences of car buyers have shifted towards being mobile-first; with car buying interactions now being facilitated through digital channels, social media is often the first touchpoint where they can get the latest news and updates from automotive brands.
Beyond this, our customers and prospects are also actively engaging with the brand on social media, and social media marketing is taking on an important role in being the start of the customer journey as our prospects follow through their purchase journey by requesting for test drives and sales enquiries through our social media platforms.
Why is important for your team to devise tailored marketing strategy plans across markets?
At Bentley Motors in Asia Pacific, we currently oversee and support 15 different retailers in 10 countries, ranging from Cambodia to Australia. You can imagine how diverse that is with different languages, culture and preferences to stay connected. Just as our vehicles are uniquely personalised for our customers, mainly the modern luxury (U)HNWI, our team devises tailored marketing plans for our individual retailers to ensure the best possible fit to their market conditions. For example, there is a localised focus moving forward on WeChat in Australia and New Zealand as the Bentley brand is connecting strongly with a growing Asian customer base there, whereas we are looking at different channels in Thailand, Japan, Korea or in the Philippines.
Has Bentley adapted new technologies to re-engage consumers and reignite demand in the current marketing environment?
Definitely so. As these unprecedented times have given rise to changing media consumption habits, we are leveraging on digital technology to create novel experiences to engage our customers and Bentley enthusiasts in innovative ways. In our highly dynamic marketing environment, there will always be the giant players out there reigning over new applications for branding or entertainment values to engage audiences with the newest and coolest technologies.
Seeing that our media friends have been inundated by digital press conferences and virtual launches, we sought to do things differently in our recent introduction of the new Bentley Bentayga to our region. We created an interactive virtual experience to inspire our customers and Bentley enthusiasts to embark on a virtual adventure. This is just one of the many ways where we are reimagining how Bentley can engage with their customers and enthusiasts today and beyond.