Q&A: Mario Alvin – Head of Marketing, Gojek Singapore

“We are an inherently dynamic and agile company, and that translates into our marketing and creative work too.”

As the world returns to getting back out and about, ride-hailing apps are once again back at the forefront when we open our phones looking for a way to get wherever it is we can once again go. 

To garner more insight into marketing and campaign strategies in this increasingly competitive industry, Branding in Asia recently caught up with Mario Alvin, Gojek’s Head of Marketing for Singapore.

Alvin’s background in strategic planning and brand building spans work in Singapore, Hong Kong, and Pakistan across a diversified portfolio of brands. He currently leads Gojek’s marketing and creative team in Singapore.


 

What’s been keeping you busy lately?

There’s never a dull moment at Gojek. We are an inherently dynamic and agile company, and that translates into our marketing and creative work too. Particularly in Singapore, where I’m based, consumers are discerning, and standards are high. The vast majority also keep up with the latest social and cultural trends, which requires us to do the same.

Like most teams and businesses, we plan our campaigns and initiatives well in advance with a clear strategy laid out for the year, but we always have to be ready to respond to the latest cultural context or changes to our macro environment. Similarly, while we know many of the year’s key milestones or company focuses ahead of time, some of our most exciting work can be more spur of the moment. Whether that’s jumping on a timely social trend or developing a new campaign idea in response to market needs.

So, essentially, what’s keeping us busy? Lots, but it’s great! Our recent Milestones film actually helps to summarise all the things we’ve been working on lately, including this film itself.



 

As a ride-hailing app operating in an increasingly competitive landscape, what market insights shape your creative communications strategy and the story you tell?

For us, our creative strategy is guided by the needs of our users. From listening to their feedback to gathering insights based on their habits and data trends, this helps us to understand our users’ needs and therefore what stories to tell.

A great example of this is our off-peak, ‘For Students, By Students’ campaign. With students making up a significant proportion of Gojek’s off-peak customers, what better way to tap into that audience than to work directly with a group of talented university students to create a campaign aimed at their peers to help launch the promo code, ‘925’.

What do your campaigns like “Vaccination Rides” and “For Students, by Students” say about Gojek’s creative work and marketing strategy?

These campaigns were all about tapping into the changing needs of consumers in a timely way, that would also emphasize that we care deeply for our users. Both came about amid the challenges of the pandemic and focused on helping to keep Singapore moving safely.

To support Singapore’s fight against the pandemic, our vaccination campaign aimed to use the Gojek platform to remove transportation barriers to vaccine access and contribute towards the national vaccination effort. We devised the biggest consumer ride giveaway campaign in our history providing every user in Singapore with a pair of ride vouchers (2x$15) to help them commute safely and conveniently to their vaccination appointment.

As a result almost 1.1 million people travelled in a Gojek to or from their vaccination, equating to a fifth of the population. The campaign helped not only to reinforce our commitment to supporting our users, but also to emphasise our role as a leading provider of ride-hailing service in Singapore. Our efforts have since been recognised with numerous industry awards, including PR Awards Asia 2022, CLIOS, AdFest, Spikes Asia, Creative Circle Awards and, most recently, Champions of Good in Singapore.

Our ‘For Students, by Students’ campaign was another way for us to show we understand our users’ needs, but with a unique approach. In a competitive market like Singapore, we are always looking for ways to stand out from the crowd and explore new and brave ideas. In this instance, we handed over the creative reins almost entirely to a group of talented students and allowed them to develop a campaign on our behalf for their own target group.

How did these campaigns shape the brands’ reputation in Singapore? E.g. Brand loyalty? Engagement? Social response?

I think both campaigns really helped consumers to feel like we understood them, and that we genuinely care. Both campaigns tapped into a culturally relevant need and provided a timely solution that was simple to engage with and clearly communicated.

Our vaccination campaign truly put Gojek in the minds and hearts of Singaporeans, even now, its impact still resonates with people. That impact is also directly reflected in our data too, brand salience increased by 32% v.s. pre-pandemic days and our total awareness also increased by 14%. We were also the most downloaded app on both Android and iOS platforms back in June 2021.

Gojek’s ‘For Students by Students’ campaign put students at the forefront, providing affordable rides through off-peak hours for the people who needed them the most. Based on our own data, this campaign helped to triple our awareness among younger audiences, and increased our association with affordability. Following hot on the heels of our vaccination campaign, ‘For Students, by Students’ also helped to maintain the momentum we had built and keep Gojek top of mind amongst our users.

How effective are celebrity-based campaigns in the region and what drives the process of deciding which talent you will work with and how they will be portrayed?

Celebrity-based campaigns can be helpful in opening up a brand to new target audiences – one will almost always have a direct, immediate and positive affinity with a brand associated with their idols.

BTS was an obvious choice in that they have a large fan base in the markets in which we operate and their image and message is one that naturally aligns with the Gojek brand. The engagement with this campaign, which is still running across the region, has been outstanding. It has undoubtedly helped bring more awareness to our services and attracted new audiences to the Gojek platform.

What are some campaigns you’ve worked on in your career that you are most proud of?

Throughout my career to date, one of the campaigns I’m most proud to say I was part of is Gojek’s vaccination campaign in 2021. It was also the first campaign that I worked on at Gojek Singapore.

There is a certain pride in knowing that this campaign put the community first – making sure mobility wouldn’t be a barrier for anyone looking to get their COVID-19 vaccination. The free rides we gave to all users directly contributed to improving the vaccination rates in Singapore – and to a larger effect, helped the community to stay safe and the country to bounce back faster.


Quick Hits:

A book that everyone in the industry should read: 

One of my team members gifted me a book recently titled, “The Boy, The Mole, The Fox and The Horse”. It was a very cathartic and vulnerable read about friendship, gratitude, and all other positive and feel-good human emotions – one that helped tide through the turbulent days of the pandemic. We can probably all benefit from the lessons in this book – both in our personal and professional lives.

Favorite show you’re watching lately:

My favorite show of all time is Survivor. I’ve watched it for 20 years. It’s a reality show with realistic consequences: the winners are almost always the ones who are social and embrace the community spirit.

One album you would take to a deserted island: 

No particular album or artist, but I like to listen to lo-fi music to help keep myself zen.

Something you want to learn or wish you were better at?

I picked up tennis during the pandemic. My backhand and serve still need improving though!


Gojek’s marketing campaigns were developed in partnership with creative agency Forsman & Bodenfors Singapore.

 

Bobby McGill

Bobby McGill

Bobby is the founder and publisher of Branding in Asia.

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