Telum Talks To... Kirsten Molyneux, Group Corporate and Consumer Affairs Director, The Dairy Farm Group

Telum Talks To... Kirsten Molyneux, Group Corporate and Consumer Affairs Director, The Dairy Farm Group

Telum caught up with Kirsten Molyneux, who heads up corporate and consumer affairs for The Dairy Farm Group, one of Asia’s leading retailers. Dairy Farm operates over 10,000 outlets across Asia and manages well-known brands including Wellcome, 7-Eleven, Mannings, Guardian, IKEA and Giant to name just a few… She shared some insights on the importance of addressing customers’ needs, branding and marketing strategies that have been successful for the company, and more on the exciting new launch of their yuu Rewards Club app.

The launch of the yuu Rewards Club app connects all brands under one digital platform. What was the idea behind launching it and is digitalisation the way to go for brands?
Needless to say, the role of digital during this pandemic has been unparalleled and having the right digital strategy in place is critical. Whilst we have launched a number of new digital and e-commerce initiatives, the launch of yuu is a particularly significant milestone for Dairy Farm Group’s digital transformation - yuu is the first digital platform that connects all the Group’s brands in Hong Kong on the digital front. Between Dairy Farm, Jardine Restaurant Group and our banking partners Hang Seng Bank, we created a yuu Universe, in the form of a free and easy-to-use Rewards Club app that offers convenience and great value to all Hongkongers. With more than 2,000 places to shop and dine, yuu members can earn more points in more places faster than ever before.

The Rewards Club also offers customers a simple way to save money in the places they shop every day and rewards them without changing any of their shopping habits. By bringing together some of the city’s biggest brands in shopping, dining and finance we can offer even more value to our customers. It’s exciting for members because it gives them rewards that are relevant to them. And it’s exciting for us because it brings to life the collective power of Dairy Farm Group's partners on one platform.

Dairy Farm Group’s operations span across Greater China and numerous Southeast Asian countries like Vietnam and Cambodia. How do you tailor your PR and marketing strategies to consumers in these countries / markets? Any specific examples?
Understanding what our customers want and need goes to the heart of our business. As a diversified retail conglomerate going through a significant multi-year transformation, we continuously look at opportunities to leverage our scale and resources for customer benefit - whilst remaining very local and focused on what our customers truly want in each market.

A very recent example of this is the relaunch of Giant in Singapore. Just recently, we announced a significant investment into lowering prices across hundreds of daily essentials and keeping these prices low to help customers whose wallets are increasingly impacted by the pandemic. This lower price campaign is a key component of the brand’s transformation programme, which has been 100 per cent customer led.  

This strategy and approach came about on the back of extensive research Giant conducted on what matters most to our customers, which is fresh and quality products at great value, along with a positive shopping experience. Added to that, customers also told us that they were getting increasingly anxious due to the financial strain caused by COVID. With this understanding, Giant has made its single largest investment in the last decade into lowering prices of daily essentials, and just as importantly, keeping them lower for longer so that everyone can benefit. 

Under nationwide lockdowns and social distancing measures, brands have had to come up with creative strategies to retain their customers. Were there any effective comms or PR campaigns that stood out for you in this regard?
First and foremost, with many of our brands seen as essential services, we have been laser-focused on ensuring that our customers get what they need, when they need them. With customers and team member's health and safety paramount, our communication strategies have been focused on driving initiatives that ensure our customers can shop safely with us - whether it's in-store or via e-commerce (e.g. Click & Collect programmes). Our guiding principle is doing what’s right by the customer, and we believe that this is what keeps them coming back into our stores and shopping with us.

But even during these challenging times, our customers are still looking for pleasant surprises and innovations and 7-Eleven is one of our brands that regularly delivers this experience to them. Recently, 7-Eleven partnered up with Carlsberg, Coca-Cola as well as PEANUTS to bring brand new concept stores to Hong Kong and Singapore, offering exclusive deals that are only available at the stores.

For example, to coincide with Snoopy’s 70th birthday, 7-Eleven launched several Snoopy concept stores in Hong Kong and Macau to not only showcase and generate awareness of the programme itself, but also create an exciting destination for Snoopy fans to visit and enjoy. “HAPPINESS IS….” was selected as the overarching platform for the campaign - a famous catchphrase from the PEANUTS cartoons that encourages us to appreciate the little things in life. And 7-Eleven is just one example - many of our brands are currently engaged in campaigns and initiatives to continuously excite and delight our customers.
 
As consumer confidence continues to rise, the “fight” for businesses, eyeballs and customer attention is more competitive than ever. What new developments in marketing / PR have you been implementing in this environment?
Our brand Meadows is a really good example of addressing a market need and bringing something unique to our customers at the same time. We recently launched Meadows across Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia and Cambodia with the mission to make our customers’ life a little easier with high-quality and tasty food choices at great value.

Meadows' range of products was created as a result of thousands of taste tests conducted with consumers, and every product has been specially selected with utmost care from countries all around the world, with a focus on quality, value and presentation. At 20 per cent cheaper than the equivalent brands, Meadows offers customers amazing quality and value at its price points as we are able to leverage our scale as a group, working closely with our suppliers all over the world in order to achieve this for the benefit of our customers.

The comms industry is female-dominated, yet this is not always reflected in leadership positions. What is your take on this? 
Whilst this is certainly not confined to the communications industry, I’m pleased to see that the communications industry in particular has made notable progress. We are seeing more women hold leadership roles within blue-chip organisations and helm multinational communication consultancies - I am optimistic for the future. And these very turbulent times have keenly demonstrated the critical role strategic communication plays. Companies that value and understand this will be looking to appoint the right person for the role, whatever their gender.

Is there anything else that keeps you up at night?
Lots but I think it’s probably the same thing that keeps everyone else up at night these days - the unprecedented times we are living through, while focusing on the safety and well-being of loved ones...

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