Asia School of Business

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An Award-Winning Marketer Gains Cross-Functional Experience in His MBA

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If you think winning one global branding award is tough, try doing it twice. That’s what Andy Chin (MBA-WP 2021) achieved for MR. DIY, a leading Malaysian retailer of household appliances. MR. DIY, of which Andy is Vice President of Marketing, took the trophy for the World Branding Awards 2019 in the home improvement category for the second consecutive year.

Previous winners in other categories include Apple, Coke and Louis Vuitton, so MR. DIY is in good company. It doesn’t hurt that the winners are chosen by consumers themselves. The homegrown brand, which has expanded to more than 1,000 stores in eight countries across Southeast Asia with some 13,000 employees, opened its first India store last November.

MR. DIY’s win is all the more impressive considering the staid and highly traditional home appliances business is hardly the place where one would expect to see innovation in marketing and branding. But this is precisely where MR. DIY saw an opportunity to stand out.

Keeping it fresh

Andy’s goal is to make MR. DIY a fun brand, he says. The company was an early adopter of social media marketing and today has some 3.8 million followers on Facebook and 280,000 on Instagram. But the brand is more than just a slogan, as anyone who has stepped foot in a MR. DIY store will know. The retail experience embodies its fun and ready-to-explore image. Part of the reason why MR. DIY has been so successful at marketing is that it has never been shy to take risks.

Andy recalls that one particularly impactful campaign was its “Biar Kami Rugi, Anda Puas Hati” slogan, which translates to “let us absorb the losses so you don’t have to” in Bahasa Malaysia. The campaign struck a chord with Malaysians because it was MR. DIY’s response to the arrival of the 6% goods and services tax back in 2015. The move was exactly in line with MR. DIY’s brand promise of “Always Low Prices.”

But on top of delighting customers, the campaign attracted so much attention that other retail brands started to copy the idea. As they say, imitation is the best form of flattery. To keep the brand fresh, MR. DIY pushes out a new marketing campaign every six months, Andy says. His challenge is to make the campaigns relevant to local audiences, which is not so simple given MR. DIY’s ASEAN-wide presence. “We need different billboards in Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia,” says Andy, who was responsible for expanding MR. DIY to these countries.

Branding secret sauce

The secret to a great brand, Andy believes, is to first understand and listen to the customer. Step two is to keep communicating and maintain a consistent message. Step three is to always have a story to tell, which MR. DIY does through its popular “Lifehacks” series on YouTube, among other content. True to its do-it-yourself DNA, the company does not hire agencies to craft its messages, preferring instead to work with an in-house content creation team.

But Andy didn’t come to ASB just to add to his marketing toolbox. The MBA will come in handy as MR. DIY transitions to the IR4.0 era and ramps up its young B2B e-commerce platform, which Andy has led since its formation in 2018. The new venture involves operating an automated warehouse, which is one of the biggest in Southeast Asia, Andy says.

Stumbling into ASB

Andy stumbled onto ASB by chance. When he first started exploring an MBA, he didn’t have the required work experience and decided to focus on his career. In 2019, he began the search again. When he heard about ASB, he decided to show up unannounced on campus in Sasana Kijang to learn about the program from the Admissions team. That was when he met Juliana Roth, Deputy Director of the MBA for Working Professionals program.

Andy remembers being sold on the program, but he was not sure if he could invest the time needed for an intensive program like ASB’s, which requires – on top of a demanding syllabus – a once-in-six-week residential visit and month-long MIT Immersion in Cambridge, Massachusetts. But Andy’s CEO and managing director encouraged him to go for it. He ended up becoming the first employee in MR. DIY to be sponsored for an MBA.

More than marketing

One of the classes Andy enjoyed the most is operations management taught by Dean Charles Fine and Associate Dean Loredana Padurean.

The case studies on McDonalds and Burger King, which go into minute detail on how each fast food chain organizes their in-store production lines and workforce, left an especially strong impression on Andy.

“Now whenever I go for dinner with my wife in Kuala Lumpur, I find myself thinking about how these restaurants can improve their operational processes,” says Andy.

He has been able to directly apply the learnings from the operations course to MR. DIY’s warehouse, especially when it faces “bursty arrival” situations that cause backlogs and delays during periods of high volume, such as the 11.11 shopping extravaganza.

In the past, congestion at the warehouse resulted in cancellation of customer orders, a problem Andy says has been reduced thanks to the application of the utilization rate formula, among other operations concepts.

Though warehouse staff were once stumped by backlogs and unable to pinpoint the root causes of delays, a framework Andy helped put in place has led to smoother operations.

“Many of my friends told me that an MBA will change your life,” Andy says. He feels this has been true of his MBA-WP experience at ASB. “Each time I come to campus for residence I gain a new perspective and am able to see things differently.”