Branding, Idea, Insights, Trends, Positioning, Strategy and Brand Development in S.E. Asia

A personal branding journey


Jakarta City


If you had told me 8 years ago I would leave my native Scotland, marry an Indonesian lady and end up as Creative Director with a branding consultancy here in Jakarta, via stints in both Riga and Abu Dhabi, I would have thought you either mad or drunk….or both!!  But strange as it seems, here I am one year on and relatively none the worse for my journey.

One benefit of working abroad apart from the obvious sight-seeing, is the tremendous everyday perspective you absorb. Working in a foreign land gives you a real insight into the culture and immerses you in real day to day life, far removed from the glossy travel brochures. I truly believe everyone should spend time experiencing an ‘alien’ culture. The second you start to see life through other eyes is the second you become more appreciative of what you have and more open and tolerant of others’ views. Im sure it would cure most of the world’s troubles if we all swapped places for a time.
Although Jakarta rubs shoulders with the consumer giants Singapore & Hong Kong, the art and science of branding is still in its infancy here. The tried and trusted rules of the west don’t fully apply here and what there is is still undefined.  East mixes with west in a soup of the traditional and modern that spills over to business method and etiquette. Yet, there is change, a progression that combines all of these traits .

The similarities to the Middle East are all too familiar to me. I still remember the sinking feeling I had six years ago staring out from the window of my taxi on the way from Abu Dhabi airport to my hotel. Fighting back the tears, I almost forced the taxi driver to turn around and take me back to the terminal.  Had I made a big mistake?  Surely the rows of gaudy, badly designed signs and communication messaging was just a joke…the driver had went the wrong way and all the nice intelligent imaging would be just around the next corner….wouldn’t it?   It wasn’t….and I spent the next few months walking around Abu Dhabi wearing a bag over my head.  Occasionally an ‘oasis’ would appear in the shape of a Nokia or Sony Erickson ad….but they were few and far between and I was left wondering if Abu Dhabi truly was a desert.   Thankfully my dispair was short lived. As time went on, I started seeing more little flowers in the desert. Advertising was being born…kicking and clawing its way out of the sand. Thankfully now it’s a totally different story. Abu Dhabi has not only recognized & understood, but embraced a real intelligent design culture. It has become the envy of the Middle East, leading the way forward as a world force. Such notable international companies as McCann Erickson, TBWA and Y&R as well as home grown talent all have a sizable presence in Abu Dhabi and they continue to grow gathering prestigious awards along the way.

Jakarta for me has the same potential. In the short time I have been here, I have personally witnessed a marked improvement in communication methods and styles that will eventually evolve into a global but uniquely Asian perspective. There is a growing understanding, respect and realization of the need for real, intelligent, cost effective communication strategies. One by one the major companies are changing, employing a more logical approach to marketing their products, understanding the need for proper, considered, intelligent branding solutions.
Combining international methods with local sensibilities Indonesia is forming its own work ethic and behaviour. Rather than being left behind by it’s big brothers, Jakarta has finally woken up and is taking it’s rightful place as a major player in the fast growing highly competitive Asian market place.


By Steve MacDonald

Creative Director,  Bedrock Asia


It’s time to revitalize!

Packaging is one of the mos essential element to attract in-store customer attention, whether in traditional market or modern market such as Carrefour, Hero, AlfaMart, Ranch Market.

Packaging has to convey a simple and precise appeal (visual and verbal) for a potential customer’s attention in a short space of time.

Not only grabbing the attention of 230 million Indonesian’s consumers with hundreds of complex consumer segmentation but also facing hundreds of global and local product brands that force brand owners and marketers to re-think creatively on how to stay innovative in the eyes of customers.

The best way to grab the attention of consumers in-store is to revitalize by revitalize its packaging and brand communications. Marketers should ensure that packaging is in-line with brand values, target audience and key messaging to ensure consistent brand strategy, as well as grabbing customer attention.

The above photograph is one of an excellent case study in brand revitalization. for my client, Orang Tua Group. The revamp of Vita Pudding Packaging was after the result of our study that there were no local ready-to-eat pudding in modern trade that offers affordable healthy indulgence. After formulating with client,  I’ve recommended the client to capitalize in affordable healthy ready-to-eat pudding that focuses on indonesian female audience, between 18 to 40 years old. After the launch in early 2009, Bedrock Asia involved in developing brand communications and its activation events, even the recommendation of Vita Pudding brand ambassador, Artika Sari Devi, Miss Indonesia Peagant 2004.

Have you audit your product brand lately? is the brand promise still up-to-date with its target audience? Is your brand loosing the ground after your competitors flooded the same aisle? Maybe your sales are struggling, and your brand message aren’t attracting new consumers.

Your brand should stay up-to-date and reflect your consumer’s need. Maybe it’s time to revitalize your brand.

Kwan Harsono Susilo, CEO of Bedrock Asia, is a keynote speaker and practitioner with 15 years’ experience in brand management and consultancy, in the U.S. and Indonesia. He can be contacted at

None is more impoverished than the one who has no gratitude.  Gratitude is a currency that we can mint for ourselves, and spend without fear of bankruptcy. ~Fred De Witt Van Amburgh
Happy Thanksgiving!

To our Clients around the Globe,

To Colleagues & Friends in Oakland, Honolulu, Los Angeles, Mexico City, Tokyo, Singapore & Jakarta and

To Our faithful readers around the globe 🙂

We give thanks for unknown blessings already on their way.



Kwan Harsono

CEO bedrock asia

Over the last few years, dozens of Indonesian banks have been ‘acquired’ by overseas foreign banks: Lippo Bank, Niaga Bank, NISP and Bank Buana to name buy a few.  During my five year stay in Jakarta, I have diligently observed, collected, anyalised and collated their previous brand positioning, naming and its subsequent implementation.
I conclude there is a marked contrast between old and new. Previously the focus of these banks was more on locality and product offering. After the M&A (Mergers and Acquisitions) the emphasis was more customer centric but with a swing in their positioning to be perceived as either Global or Asian brands.
For example: DBS Bank  ‘Living, breathing Asia’, and HSBC  The world’s local bank’.

In this highly competitive market, the consensus is that almost all ‘National’ banks are making a marked effort to ‘connect’ more closely with their customers by instigating community events and utilizing sponsorships. It is then no surprise that we tend to overlook their brand naming.

For number of years, I’ve created and used Naming Filters™ tools  for our National clients.  For this exercise we only use a few perimeters: Relevancy and Simplicity (easy to remember). On the illustration (below) i’ve simplified and split them into two distinctive categories, either ‘Customer Friendly’ or ‘Shareholder Friendly’ names.

On the Customer-Friendly Naming where we consider relevant to customers, and easy to pronounce and remember. On the other side, “Shareholder Friendly Naming”, One of the purpose is simply to satisfy both partners/shareholders, many similar cases in asia pacific, where all corporate decision making are still centralized on the singular voice of the owners/shareholders rather than the customer’s voices.

Attributes of ‘Customer Friendly’ naming are that they should be relevant to the customer, easy to pronounce and easy to remember. On the ‘Shareholder Friendly’ side, the main purpose is simply to satisfy both partner and shareholder rather than the customer.

In my research I came across this amusing anecdote.

A mother and her child were naming their bank. The mother decided that her 10 year old daughter Cathy should choose something ‘practical’ for her birthday.

“Suppose we open a savings account for you?” the mother suggested.

Cathy was delighted! “It’s your account darling’, mother said on their arrival at the bank, “So you can fill out the application”.

Cathy was doing fine until she came across the space for ‘name of your former bank’. After a slight hesitation she put down ‘Piggy’.

In light of current events in the Banking world, perhaps the ‘Piggy’ Bank was the safest bet.

The question is which strategy & management style do you adopt to face the increasing fierce competition both locally and in the global market place.

Are you looking for Generic names that are hard to trademark, or Meaningful names that are easily protected?

Have you audit your brand name lately? After acquisition, is your brand  is getting more diluted or more meaningful to your customers?

At what cost do you educate your audience to remember your existing brand name?

At the end of the day it’s the customer that will choose the simplest and most relevant for them.

“Brand naming is more than just words. It’s the beginning of the customer’s trust.”

Kwan Harsono Susilo, CEO of Bedrock Asia, is a keynote speaker and practitioner with 15 years’ experience in brand management and consultancy, in the U.S. and Indonesia. He can be contacted at

‘There is no future without knowing our past’

While the east grows both economically & culturally, and as Asia takes its
place on the world stage, it’s crucial we prepare the next generation of future
leaders to take up the mantle. As we empower our next ‘power’ generation for
this pivotal role, the need for multi-platform, globally aware seats of learning
becomes imperative. Here in Indonesia circa 2007 many ‘international’ schools
already existed, all with fine, even excellent facilities, but their main shortcoming
was that they didn’t encompass the most important and basic values. Research
showed that parents, both Asian and expat faced a harrowing dilemma. From the
choice available, either the schools were too ‘western’ in their curriculum and
did not consider the Asian perspective, or they were too local, too introspective,
not exposing themselves to a world view. To approach education instilling
national & cultural pride whilst retaining a global perspective is fundamental
to the success not only of Asia but for the individual. It is important not to loose
sight of our identity both as an unique & ancient culture and as a future world
player. It is paramount that we instill and nurture these ‘Asian’ values in order to
grow, contribute and shape the world we have into the world we want. ‘There is
no future without knowing our past’

SWS Brand IDentity
‘Asian’ values

The concept of “Asian values” or more correctly ‘traditional values’ is a popular
idea that took shape in the People’s Republic of China, Malaysia, Singapore,
Indonesia and also in some political circles in Japan. In Malaysia and Singapore,
the concept of Asian values was embraced partly because it reconciled Islam,
the religion of the Malays, with the Confucianism of the ethnic Chinese, and
Hinduism, thereby helping to create a sense of common values between different
ethnic and religious groups in those countries, as well as forming an ideology
that they could call their own which is different from the West.

Developing a reputable brand school

In 2007, Bedrock Asia was charged with a daring and unique undertaking of a new school development under Ekacipta Foundation called Sinarmas World Academy (then called Sinaramas International School) approached and challenged them to develop a new kind of international school. To distinguish and elevate the perception as something unique, something new, not as just another school.

Step by step

The lines drawn, BedrockBrands set about defining the perameters. After careful
analysis and brainstorming Bedrock proposed a 9 step plan to build a new international school  from the scratch:

1: Qualitative Research (one on one interview) with SES: A++ parents
2: Naming development
3: Corporate Identity & Tagline
4: Corporate Identity Guideline
5: Retail Environment Guideline
6: Launch Video Profile
7: Photo Shoot Development
8: Marketing & Admission Kit Development
9: Communication Launch Campaign

The school accepted the plan and Bedrock set to work.

Research, naming and corporate identity

Research showed as previously mentioned the gap and real need for an
established centre offering a well rounded international education, but one with
its feet firmly planted in it’s Asian routes. This tenet was fundamental to the
naming development, corporate identity and subsequent tagline: (show logo and
tag). The minimalistic highly graphic style of the visual identity, using bright red
(a familiar colour in Asia denoting prosperity) and a brush stroke style swash
reflecting the Asian culture, set the overall tone of the communication. The
logo, a red and yellow brush stroke circle a deliberate reference to Asia’s global

The subsequent material, both above and below the line also reflected this new
and radical stance. (show selection of material). Quite literally, the educational
system in Indonesia had seen nothing quite like it.

Success story

The results speak for themselves. Since its brave and radical new school sprung over jakarta,
Sinarmas has went on to be one of the finest schools in South East Asia, becoming a benchmark for others. Anything is achievable, and the parents and families of Asia’s new generation can feel secure in the knowledge that not only will their children be offered the best in modern education, but that it will be tempered with respect, pride and a recognition of the principals that make Asia great.

Embracing the Future, Embracing Asia.

Kwan Harsono Susilo, CEO of Bedrock Asia, is a keynote speaker and practitioner with 15 years’ experience in brand management and consultancy, in the U.S. and Indonesia. He can be contacted at

Last Wednesday, October 6th 2010

As I was hurriedly driving to a client meeting near my office, dark clouds loomed overhead, giving me a bad feeling of what was coming next.  My feelings were well placed, as during the course of the meeting there was a sudden and torrential downpour. Leaving my client, I started my drive along Arjuna Rd, a side road near the Tomang Toll road, I was soon stuck in a bumper to bumper jam, sparking memories of the severe flooding of January 2009.  The floodwater rose an incredible 40cm in a matter of minutes! Thankfully I quickly passed the worst of the flooding before it got much worse and headed straight home!

In my 6 years residing in Asia, mostly Jakarta, I’ve witnessed the worst floods in living memory.  Repeatedly affecting more than 80 per cent of the city every year from 2003 nothing has been spared. From homes, to shops, even Presidential buildings, the mounting evidence points to the fact that Jakarta can not sustain or accommodate growth, no matter how good the spin from the government marketing and branding agencies. Urban planners , engineers and eminent scientists all agree that there is compelling evidence to show that Jakarta is sinking!

Studies made by Mr. Jan Jaap Brinkman and presented to WorldBank, seem to suggest that Jakarta will sink by 2025!

‘The major reason for this is not climate change or whatever, but just the sinking of Jakarta,’ said Mr Jan Jaap Brinkman, an engineer with Dutch consultancy Delft Hydraulics, who worked on the study. By 2025, estimates from the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change show, sea levels would have risen by only about 5cm. But Mr Brinkman said that Jakarta, which spans a plain between coast and mountains, will be between 40cm and 60cm lower than it is now. The study shows that without better defences, the sea will reach the presidential palace, which is around 5km inland, in 2025 as well as completely inundate Jakarta’s historic old city.

Other media are spotlighting this problem. ‘Suara Pembaharuan’ the Indonesian newspaper also published a similar article entitled  2050 North Jakarta will sink”. Their research and study summarizing that North Jakarta Port seawater will rise to an alarming 123cm.

Some other cities experiences similar yet different case, for example Venice – Keeping the city stay above the water. How about Jakarta? Are we still promoting Enjoy Jakarta or Saving Jakarta? Prevention and

Jakarta is not alone. Other cities, notably Venice, have experienced this phenomenon in recent years. Documented in the article ‘The sinking city of Venice’, is a similar case study showing an ever increasing trend in climate change and citing it as the trigger.

Are we still promoting ‘enjoy Jakarta’ or is it now ‘saving Jakarta’? If you live and work in Indonesia you will know and understand the slow frustrating progress in communications and response between Central and the countless number of municipal governmental offices on climate change issues that directly affect their city.

The good news is, the Indonesian Government is now working on ‘Jakarta 2030’, a spatial plan that will improve the infrastructure and rise to meet the challenges of urbanisation ahead.

Jakarta now and Jakarta then are portrayed in these two symbols:

What appears at first quite humorous is really quite ironic. On reflection, this issue holds the key to the future of coming generations of Indonesians who live and work here.

My parting thought and wish is that we can collaborate, organize and focus the best and most able minds to tackle and solve this important issue. Social networking and initiating a nation wide campaign to ‘SAVE JAKARTA’ and other Indonesia is the first and most important step.

‘Time is indeed the essence….and time flies’

Kwan Harsono Susilo, CEO of Bedrock Asia, is a keynote speaker and practitioner with 15 years’ experience in brand management and consultancy, in the U.S. and Indonesia. He can be contacted at

The Orang Tua Group is synonymous with quality and boasts many well know products.  Within its walls, the Candy Division is responsible for the sweets & candies we know and love. One of these is STATION RASA, a sub brand of soft candies of varying kinds, and a big hit with children and adults of all ages. The management in a constant quest to keep their substantial market share decided a facelift was in order.  Again Bedrock Brand Consultants – Jakarta Office rose to the challenge and put their heads together.

The New Milk Candy Packaging

The first step…’brainstorming’. The team met to informally discuss the project at hand, the problems, the competitors, the target market, the perceived positioning, the solution. This product would be sold at not only supermarkets and retail outlets as pillow packs, but would also be sold in individual ‘strips’ and ‘hangers’. The later packaging enabling Station SuSu to penetrate the traditional market ‘warung’.  Coming in 3 flavours: COKLAT, SRAWBERI and MILK, the design had to stand out in an already saturated market place. As the target audience is predominately young kids, a colourful, unique, fun approach was agreed by all. Confidence in the product was such that the client also asked that we look at changing the sub brand from STATION RASA to STATION SUSU as part of a long term re-structuring of the STATION brand. The criteria defined, the brief now set, the creative team could start the physical design process.
After a range of submitted design directions and options, the preferred solution was a very minimalistic, almost childlike design. (show).  Using hand-drawn cartoon figures in a childlike style, young kids could identify with these characters and the older teens would think them ‘cool. The various characters and poses maintain interest and make them almost collectable. Set against rich, bright colours reflecting the flavours these packs are unique and have a immediate visibility in any retail environment.   Tribute to Bedrock that the client liked the concept so much they ‘patented’ the characters.

Kwan Harsono Susilo, CEO of Bedrock Asia, is a keynote speaker and practitioner with 15 years’ experience in brand management and consultancy, in the U.S. and Indonesia. He can be contacted at

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