Do u want more leads or better branding?

A recent case with a client has made me ponder about this topic of branding vs marketing.
Although one can help in the other, it can sometimes clash.

Historically , marketing that brings results are not safe. We probably heard of  the

story of Orabrush, in which a youtube video brought the product from oblivion to worldwide distribution in more than 25 countries. The video talks about ”spooning your girlfriend ” and takes on a cheeky tone.


A little controversial. Probably not something that will get the stamp of approval of the corporate communication departments in an MNC.

Unless we are talking about companies with controversial CEOs to begin with. The classical example would be Virgin group’s Richard Branson who is known for his radical and bold PR moves such as cross-dressing and driving a tank. It works nonetheless, and his business results is the best testament to it.

Of course, we don’t see any of that happening in Singapore with a culture that is more conservative. The boundaries is different and we have to stay with the guidelines as marketers. Any stuns not tolerated by society can actually backfire. Think about the recent Grabtaxi campaign on breast cancer awareness that brought alot of backlash.

Coming back to digital marketing and what we do here in ICM. Of course, it is nothing as wild as the abovementioned examples, but they still do not sit well with some companies that we work with. I would like to discuss each of them here.

Email marketing

Most MNCs send out email newsletter that are professional-looking and nicely-designed with plenty of colorful banners. When I suggest to my peers in business that they should start sending out regular emails to the people in their database, they gave me the are-you-sure look. They say they don’t open and read emails from companies, not to mention buy anything. I agree.

Yet email marketing has the best conversion rate among all channels in the internet. How is that possible when people don’t open emails by companies ?

Here’s the thing. We don’t open email from companies, but we open emails from friends and people whom we know.  Isn’t it ?


The key to winning in email marketing is to infuse the personal touch into emails.

What does that mean, in actual implementation?

Here are some guidelines suggested by Neil Patel.

  • Go light on images and fancy formatting
  • Don’t just sell and promote
  • Give valuable content and tell stories
  • Keep it short
  • Use attractive and benefits-oriented headline

I know. All of the above points contradicts what you see in a standard corporate email. And thats why people think that email marketing doesnt work for companies!

They have to do it correctly.

The emails that we send out have an average of 30% open rate because people are looking forward to read them. On the other hand, the typical corporate emails have about 10-15% open rate.

In some of the companies I work with,  inspite of the better open rates, they will still not adopt the email format with a personal touch because they need to maintain their ”branding”.


SEO is another area in which ”branding” can be impinged on, more specifically,  on-page SEO that involves changes to the website that users can see.

Google robots crawl text and not images/ videos. Therefore, to allow them to understand what the website is all about, text has to be included. LSI keywords as well as the targeted keyword would all have to be incorporated for optimal SEO effects.

Again, many companies would prefer not to have those text in their website, which can dilute their design and detract from the branding.

A balance between corporate requirements and internet marketing needs has to be achieved. We will advise client on these on-page SEO measures that has to be implemented but ultimately, they call the final shot. Nope, Invisible text doesn’t work as it will be considered ”cheating” by Google.


It is no coincidence that smaller companies usually grow at a much faster pace than MNCs. The latter has to go through many layers of approval before they can release anything out to the market. Typically, anything that is different or out-of-the-ordinary will get ejected. On the other hand, smaller companies has the potential to become big through fast and bold initiatives, especially in the marketing realms.


Just think about the youtube video produced by Jeffery Harmon for Orabrush. Would it have be allowed to be published if it is for Ora-B instead ?  Its hard to say as big companies these days are opening up.  But the video could jolly well have been dismissed as being amateur and childish, since it is produced by a student. ”Marketing” is subjective.  Expensive and experienced may not translate to being better. Case in point here. Before the youtube video episode, Dr Bob, the inventor of Orabrush paid $50,000 for infomercial and saw no results. He paid $500 for the video that exploded his sales.

One of the reasons why we like working with SMEs is that we get to talk to the boss directly. Decisions can be made in a snap. That said, not everyone is a suitable partner.  Afterall , digital marketing involves trying something new and having an open mindset towards growth. Companies that are really concerned about their branding may not be a good fit.

A quote by Jay Abraham in his book, Stealth Marketing nicely sums this up:

You must decide whether you want your ads to be effective or aesthetic. The price you pay for false ”aesthetic” is a dimishment of effectiveness that is usually profound.

We help great companies grow their revenues

Ted Chong

Ted is the director of Ice Cube Marketing. His insights on marketing has been featured in AsiaOne Business, Singapore Business Review , e27 and TechinAsia. He graduated with a 1st class honors degree in Business IT from NTU. While not planning campaigns for clients, he enjoys a good read on books related to psychology.



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