Calvin Wong | The Innovator 25 2016
Calvin WongThe Innovator 25:

Calvin Wong

Director of research & analytics

Hong Kong

"I’m always looking for newer, better, faster, and more cost-effective solutions to solve old problems"


A former IT analyst with Dell, ExxonMobil and IBM, Wong brought a wealth of technical and research expertise when he was hired into the communications world at Burson-Marsteller. Since then, he has worked tirelessly to find technical solutions to measurement black holes in China  and beyond, and has also driven research-led narratives for numerous clients across Asia. Unsurprisingly, Golin swooped for Wong in 2015, hiring him to head their regional research and analytics practice.

How do you define innovation?
While the big 'i' word is forever associated with Steve Job’s 'One More Thing' moment, I do believe innovation is an approach that is ownable by anyone. Being innovative is having the drive to keep improving and the desire to challenge the conventional way. In my work, I’m always looking for newer, better, faster, and more cost-effective solutions to solve old problems for my clients that deliver similar or better results.

Most innovative comms/marketing campaign you’ve seen in the last 12 months?
Uber in Asia. A lot has been said about Uber around the world, but I’m most impressed by their speed and efficiency with their marketing as they expanded across Asia. Uber applies the same analytical approach on their marketing campaigns as they do with improving customer experience. This ensures that the learnings from the campaigns are shared, scaled and localized as Uber expands to new markets. Take #UberIceCream for example, it was first launched in 33 cities in 2013, and has been running successfully every summer since. As of this year, the campaign has taken place in over 400 cities around the world, and has truly become a shared cultural experience.

What brands and/or agencies are most innovative when it comes to marketing/PR?
In my opinion, marketing- and advertising-tech companies are the most innovative in marketing and communications. Solutions such as enterprise grade social media management tools, influencer marketing management software, holistic customer relationship management systems, automation and dashboarding have filled the gap left behind by brands and agencies and earned their share of the marketing budget. These solutions will continue to earn a bigger share as they become more mature and more effective. Agencies must become experts at utilizing these tools and integrating it into part of the service offering.

Describe a moment in your career that you would consider ‘innovative.’
In early 2014, I was tasked to support a piece of crisis communications work around food safety for a national government entity in Asia. Due to the sensitivity around the issue, we decided to build our own early crisis detection system based on social and news mentions. The system allowed our crisis team to have an early assessment on a range of issues that could potentially bubble up in real-time, and enabled us to plan for a response well ahead of an actual breakout.

In what area of marketing/PR do you see the most innovation?
Social media & online marketing.

How would you describe the communications/PR industry’s level of innovation?

Lagging other marketing disciplines

Where do you see the greatest opportunity for marketing & PR to become more innovative?
Planning & analytics.

Who most influences how innovative a brand’s marketing/PR is?

Who is your mentor and why?
I’m fortunate to have been inspired by more than one mentor in my career. A shout out to Jackie Price for challenging the convention and not being afraid to go big, to Ged Carroll for his training and mentoring , to Jonathan Hughes and Zaheer Nooruddin on ‘Going All In’ and last but not least, to the 2015 NA Innovator 25 Luke Peterson, whom I had a great pleasure working with.

How do you find inspiration?
I always find that the best way to be inspired is to immerse yourself in culture and unique experiences. In my field, I find the best source of inspiration is by engaging with the likes of subject matter experts, the end users, and the frontline customer service. I feel that these conversations make the data and insights come alive.

Advice for people seeking to bring new ideas, ways of doing things to their organizations?
In part attributed to my training in IT, I always encourage my team to look for smarter ways to solve a problem and develop scalable and repeatable processes in our approach. Just because something has been done one way for a long time, it doesn’t mean it is the best way.

In your opinion, what’s the most innovative place in the world?

I would say Japan and China. The culture of innovation started booming in Japan back in the 1970s and it is still the spirit of today. The country is very much focused on Kaizen (Japanese for “improvement”) and the 5 Whys on process improvement. It is not every day you are greeted by a robot and the food is served on a conveyor belt. China is able to innovate with speed and scale. The fast growing, dynamic nature of the market pushed some industries into an innovate or die mentality. These conditions gave rise to the familiar BATs (Baidu, Alibaba, Tencent), but also to new technology leaders like DJI, which is valued at US$12bn and is developing drones for industrial and agricultural applications, to BYD, whose aspiration is to provide clean air to everyone through electric vehicles. The next time you are in London you might be riding in one of the world’s first double decker all-electric bus.

What’s your favorite time of day and why?
Sunset. It feels good to finish a hard day's work and time to relax with family and friends. Hong Kong also has an amazing sunset over Victoria Harbour.

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