When the ABM was conceptualized, the initial objective was for it to be a brand-building vehicle and a way to gain greater top of mind awareness with the SME community in Asia. Having achieved just that and going into its 4th year, the ABM needed to remain relevant and topical to the audience it addressed. This became more crucial as UPS’ competitors and various product categories all began to eye the SME market closely.
To ensure the ABM’s relevance to the issues that SMEs were facing in 2008, a pre-ABM audit was carried out. Results showed pessimistic and demoralized attitudes by SMEs of the poor economic conditions. In Q1 2008, at the time the ABM 2008 was being prepared, stock market values in China, Japan and India had already plummeted by about 30%, 20% and 30%, respectively. With the looming subprime fiasco in the US, post-Olympics “blues” and post-US presidential elections, 2008 and 2009 economic outlooks were looking dim. All these pointed to an opportunity for UPS to bring the ABM to new heights, such that it went beyond its brand building objectives, to become the definitive guide that offered insights for business leaders who were trying to brace for tough times ahead.
The primary objectives of the campaign were therefore geared towards:
- Empowering SMEs with good business insights, and motivating them to prepare themselves for doing business in tough economic environments.
- Strengthening the association of the UPS brand to SMEs.
- Generating new business among SMEs in Asia.
The pan-regional campaign targeted SMEs in Australia, China, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Taiwan.
One key observation is that SMEs do not have the resources for or access to business research and analysis, like big multinationals do, to gain insights on business development opportunities. Here was the major opportunity for the ABM – to serve as the guiding post for SMEs, and to further cement UPS’ reputation as the company helping SMEs feel the pulse of the economies and the markets they operate in
With the turbulent waters of economic uncertainty representing the tough journey Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) had to navigate, UPS repositioned the ABM 2008 as the compass to give SMEs the right directions for a safe journey. To this end, the ABM 2008 had to show insightful pointers, addressing SMEs’ current and potential pain points. Further, these insights also needed to be interesting enough for the media to report on, so that they would be communicated to the even larger SME community.
In the APEC region, SMEs account for around 90 percent of all businesses and employ as much as 60 percent of the work force. At present however they generate only around 30 percent of exports
- Testing the waters: 1,201 SME leaders were interviewed across 12 markets. Their opinions on economic outlook, recent global development, trade projections, key concerns, contributors and hindrances to competitiveness were gathered, to pinpoint what was at the heart of SME business issues and needs in the region. To ensure local market relevance, we also included market-specific questions.
- Charting a new course: Using this data, we were able to identify key trends and make observations that would help SMEs chart a new course — they would also be newsworthy nuggets that appealed to the media. Bold insights revealed the unique challenges of today’s state of business in Asia, and provided new bearings for SMEs.
Sterling results for communicating ABM insights across Asia helped steer SME directions, and positioned UPS as a strong supporter of SMEs
- Tailor-made regional and in-market insights and messaging had successful pick-up by the respective media. For example, the region-wide message of SMEs being “cautious and challenged” was covered in many articles, in such high profile regional publication such as the Wall Street Journal Asia. Topical in-market messages, such as “Hong Kong SMEs on slippery ground” were picked up by the Hong Kong media.
- In the first half of 2008, UPS had 80% of share of voice versus its main competitors in the SME segment.
- Within two months of its launch, more than 200 ABM stories with over 100 million media impressions were generated across Asia, more than tripled the result of 2007. A significant number of online media hits were also generated.
- Deepening connection with the influentials and positioning UPS as a strong supporter of SMEs:
- Government and SME associations such as the Philippines Department of Trade & Industry, Action Community for Entrepreneurship (ACE), and Indian Industries Association, proactively distributed the ABM news to their own audiences through their websites and newsletters. In Malaysia, UPS partnered with the Federation of Malaysian Manufacturers for its Asia Business Summit. In combination, these efforts deepened UPS’ connection with SMEs and influential SME bodies.
- Post-announcement audit showed SMEs welcomed the guide provided by the UPS ABM 2008. An SME from Malaysia said: “Knowing that most other SMEs saw China as an opportunity, gave me the confidence to penetrate into the China market.”
- Insight and forecast identified in the ABM turned out to be business reality as well, as highlighted by other industry players. For example, the ABM identified growth opportunities in Asia-Europe and Intra-Asia trade. Neptune Orient Lines announced an increase in its shipping volumes for these lanes for the May – Jun 2008 period, while Drewry Shipping Consultants have since announced its research findings that Intra-Asia trade is booming.
- Internal assessment of the ABM by Joe Guerrisi, Vice President of Marketing of UPS: “ABM was taken to a new level in 2008 with timely insights that helped move SMEs and UPS business alike.”