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Branding Lessons From A Malaysian Sensation


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Likes, shares, engagement, talkability, followers, micro influencers – these are buzzwords for a new generation where everyone and their mothers are looking for ways to improve their social cred.

It is every brand’s dream to create content that will go viral. But with brands spending more money and effort every year on their social strategies, it would be a mistake to make “going viral” the end goal.

Because at the end of the day, sound branding strategies are still what gets the job done.

Let’s examine this with a case study featuring Nasi Lemak Pondan!

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Nasi Lemak Pondan is a venture by Jojie Kamaruddin that has grabbed national attention at only two weeks old.  Capitalizing on the success of similar businesses with mildly risqué names, it’s name is inspired by Jojie’s own gender identity as a trans-woman. A simple roadside stall, it has drawn the attention of netizens and media outlets to the point of “going viral”.  So what branding lessons can we learn from this Malaysian sensation?

Catchy Name x Distinctive Identity x Daring Execution

It’s crucial to carve out your own space in a saturated market – to this end, Nasi Lemak Pondan is wildly successful. That name is an attention grabber- pondan is a derogatory term for people who transition from the male gender to female. While transgendered individuals are tolerated in Malaysia, they are often associated with negative elements and they still live very much on the fringes of society. So using the term in a brand is a bold decision, derided by some but is very successful in its aim – catching the attention of people who are always in search of the new and novel.

Product x Target Market x Pricing

Jojie’s product is nasi lemak, a beloved Malaysian staple that is loved by pretty much everyone. Have it for breakfast, for lunch, for dinner, for tea, for a snack, it’s the one of the first things every Malaysian misses when they go overseas. Jojie’s version boasts the authenticity of history- it’s a recipe her mother sold for 30 years before having to retire down due to illness. It’s also reasonably priced- RM1.80 for the basic version and RM4.50 for the version with squid, fried chicken or beef.

Be Kind

Branding is the process of forming memories, emotions and a relationship around your brand in the consumer’s brain. And doing good things make people feel good about your brand.  After a successful first week, Nasi Lemak Pondan donated 100 packets to the neighbourhood mosque frequented by her family. Jojie plans to do so every Friday. Do you know many big name brands that have pledged to do the same?

Disconnect from Digital

The personal touch is important. Jojie is the pondan driving the brand’s name and fame and it is her face on the advertising, and she is the one personally serving the customers making each and every pack of nasi lemak with her own hands. That’s good old-fashioned service. She’s frank when she describes her motivations – she needs to find avenues to make money in a challenging economic environment. She is also a freelance make up artist and wedding planner. People love a good story of grit and determination with many complimenting Jojie, telling others not to criticize her and wishing her all the best.

A nation’s favourite food and service with a smile from an attractive, hardworking member of a marginalized segment of society – it’s a story made to go viral.

What are your brand’s strengths and how can you use them to your advantage?
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