Jaslyin Qiyu, Founder, Mad About Marketing Consulting & Senior Vice President, Head of Client Marketing and Digital Capabilities, Singapore, Citi

With over 20 years of B2B and B2C brand, marketing and communications regional experience in various industries, Jaslyin Qiyu specializes in brand building, client experience management, content strategy, multi-channel performance marketing, and mobile engagement and optimization strategies. She has managed regional marketing teams across Asia Pacific in global MNCs including Citibank, EY, JLL, Kantar, Credit Suisse and State Street, driving marketing transformation, building go-to-market strategies and setting up high performing marketing teams from ground-up.

A self-professed data and customer insights fanatic, she believes that a good company knows the pain points of their customers and value they can bring to address them, while a good campaign delivers on that promise in a compelling and measurable manner. Jaslyin provides consulting services to companies keen to undergo marketing & communications, customer experience, brand and content transformation. She also enjoys mentoring aspiring career entrants and marketers.

Recently, in an exclusive interview with CXO Magazine, Jaslyin shared her professional trajectory, insights on the common mistakes made by companies when implementing their brand strategies, the secret sauce behind her success, personal sources of inspiration, words of wisdom, and much more. The following excerpts are taken from the interview.

Hi Jaslyin. Please tell us about your background and areas of expertise. What made you want to pursue a career in mass communications and marketing?

I am a seasoned marketing and communications practitioner who have been in both B2B and B2C leadership roles, be it building teams from scratch or working with existing mature teams. Over the years, I have also evolved my own domain knowledge to manage customer experience excellence, MarTech, digital capabilities and mobile optimization strategies. My passion for marketing started during my first job in a boutique advertising agency as their sole copywriter. As I worked with clients and the designers on their campaigns, I started thinking more about the underlying objectives behind each campaign and how to better bring that to life beyond just a compelling visual or copy. It encouraged me to go beyond my diploma in law and take up a degree double majoring in marketing and mass communications, so I get the fundamentals correct. Since I started my career in this field, I have never stopped believing in the potential and impact of marketing as an enabler of the business.

What aspect about your current role brings you the most joy?

I pride myself in equal parts being fortunate and equal parts being adventurous in terms of venturing into new ways of working and territories of learning and exposure. It has helped to give me a more holistic view of how marketing can and should partner with sales and business leaders to bring about business value beyond just being a creative or campaign partner.

For example, in State Street, I was working with the C-suite and business heads globally to help streamline their 3 lines of business and pivot towards a customer segment and solutions-based way of selling instead of selling by product and business lines. The marketing campaign that came off the back of this new way of selling was just the icing on the cake.

Back in Citi, though it was a step back in terms of my career as a marketer, I joined to learn the ins and outs of mobile banking, journey and functionality builds, which I had a taste of when I was in Credit Suisse Private Bank but not quite as extensive. At Citi, I helped revolutionize the way they leverage mobile as a merchandising store and created a flash sale program concept in partnership with the digital channels and data analytics teams, the first amongst the banks here in Singapore.

This close connection and partnership with sales, tech, product and data to create something of real customer and business value is what brings me the most joy. The other aspect I find most fulfilling is nurturing a team and helping them to be successful on their own terms.

How has branding changed over the years to become what it is today? What marketing metrics do you value most for brand management?

The importance of brand hasn’t changed that much but the appreciation of this importance for brand has become somewhat diluted unfortunately in some companies who are solely focusing on short term revenue growth. The decision drivers that affect brand have evolved and increased with the emphasis on customer experience and alternative channels including social influencers and virtual/augmented reality experiences underpinned by the need for a solid digital channel/platform strategy.

In terms of metrics, it’s mainly in terms of brand preference and perception for more holistic attribution and brand lifts or favourability in terms of more direct measurements tagged to certain campaigns. Share of voice in terms of say media spend I think can be subjective as being the “loudest” in the market doesn’t necessarily make you the most preferred and the returns on your brand spend measured through media dollars versus your eventual preference scores will likely be unfavourable. This is simply because brand perception and preference are also driven by other factors mentioned earlier on. Therefore, it’s more important to be holistic in looking at what other insights are also contributing to your brand preference and perception. This includes social sentiments, and customer experience and satisfaction ratings.

In your opinion, what are the common mistakes that companies make when implementing their brand strategies?

I find many companies, including global corporations seem to have forgotten their roots and fundamental principles of why, what and how. The key purpose of why they exist and what are they trying to solve for in terms of problems for their target customers and how do they go about doing this differently from their competitors.

What happens instead is they try to come up with nice sounding taglines and visuals with their creative agencies and focus too much on the creative concept and execution of the concept in an equally nice way, which might be good for winning marketing awards but not so much for customer attraction and retention. They forgot the most important aspect of brand strategy, which is the customer value proposition.

This is because a good brand strategy is not the sole job of the marketing function. It requires deeper thinking and involvement of the business and product teams, including relooking and redesigning their value proposition for their services, offerings and touchpoints if needed.

Which strategies do you count on to help leaders understand the value of communications?

Nothing beats the power of data insights coming from customers and employees. Insights from your employee feedback forums, surveys and attribution patterns and insights from customers based on feedback, sales reviews and call scripts if you have a contact centre. I think both reactive and proactive gathering of such insights are important.

Having a regular forum at the leadership meeting to present these insights and identify action points as a group that can be tracked and measured to demonstrate results is also important so it goes beyond a paper exercise.

More often than not, it’s better to overcommunicate than under communicate, especially when it has a wide impact on your customers and employees alike. It’s important to be transparent and not hide behind poorly disguised feel-good townhalls or vague talking points that raise even more questions than give them answers or assurance. The impact of such actions will be felt through your brand perception and preference scores, customer and employee ratings, and social sentiments. It will also eventually impact your stock prices as well as revenue growth in the longer term.

You have been a recipient of prestigious awards and accolades over the years. Our readers would love to know the secret sauce behind your success.

I am most honoured to be recognized by the industry as a whole and I attribute it back to my personal branding beyond not just who I work for or represent but who I am as a person contributing to the industry.

This includes being willing to share my knowledge, experience and help others who are interested to know more about how marketing works or how the industry I’m affiliated to works. I believe knowledge is power and we should never stop learning or sharing with others, especially if it is helpful for ours and others’ personal and professional growth.

Who is your role model in life and why?

I have had different role models at different phases of my life and different places I have worked at. Growing up was my parents who influenced the way I treat people and animals with empathy and compassion. When I started working, I was fortunate to have met helpful mentors, including at State Street, EY and Citi, who gave me valuable advice on my career and ways to overcome my shortcomings and build my confidence. When I met my current husband, I was also inspired by his own journey in overcoming his personal adversities so in a way he is also a role model for me. He has definitely inspired me to look at situations in a more positive manner and strengthened my confidence even more.

What has been the driving force to get you where you are today?

My passion and thirst for learning, exploring new experiences, conquering new challenges, be good in whatever I do and create a positive impact on the people around me. All this has fuelled my journey and kept me going instead of settling down in a comfort zone. I supposed I could have just settled down in my last job each time I moved companies and call it good but that’s just not the way I am.

Don’t get me wrong, I do respect people who have this steadfast commitment and be able to still find their own joy and growth journey by being in an organization for years. It’s just not for me and this is also why I decided to set up my own consulting business, Mad About Marketing Consulting as I have been helping friends and people who have reached out to me on a freelance basis over the last few years for brand, marketing and communications help.

The driving force behind it was a self-reflection journey I had 2 years ago when I was contemplating about my life and path forward, including what I have enjoyed most in my career, which is helping people and the organizations they are at, to solve problems and find success, beyond a job title.

Where do you see yourself in the next 5 years?

While I cannot predict the future, I believe we need to cherish the present and create our own possibilities.

I am currently also pursuing a spiritual path to learn more about healing and positive manifestation. Combined with my consulting business helping companies to transform their marketing teams, processes and platforms with empathy, if this takes off, I plan to have an established practice with a regular stream of clients where I can be a key part of their own growth journey. Part of this plan is to establish a team and help them in achieving whatever success means to them.

Not dismissing working for a company completely, if the right opportunity comes to me where I can make a positive and transformational difference, partnering with a visionary business leader to do meaningful and purposeful work that can benefit a broader community, I would definitely be open to it too.

With progressive experience in strategic marketing & communications, what advice do you have for leaders who are trying to improve their performance?

Regardless of where you are in your career or current company, never stop learning and be empathetic in your approach. Keep your eyes open, ears peeled, communications channels accessible and remain grounded to both your customers and employees alike. Don’t lose sight of the fundamentals around why you are here in the first place in terms of your value proposition. Even if you need to pivot due to changing times, it’s better than just trying to put a band-aid solution or worse, ignoring the need like an ostrich with its head in the sand.

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