Jess Tang | The Innovator 25 Asia-Pacific 2019

Jess Tang

Chief Marketing Officer

The Zest Group

“Doing extraordinary things, innovative work, requires gut and grit”

After serving as global innovation lead at Johnson & Johnson, Jess Tang took on the CMO role at Zest Group earlier this year, joining an F&B company that believes in the power of technology, and has enabled end-to-end digital infrastructure that powers the business from product development, customer service, outlet management to marketing and advertising. Tang leads Zest’s team in developing data-driven strategies for marketing, optimising the tech stack for higher ROI, and overseeing partnerships management. It is an ideal role for Tang, who has spent much of her career in planning and innovation roles, including more than three years with Zeno.

How do you define innovation?
When great ideas that provide value to the consumers are made into reality. Creativity that is made tangible through excellent execution.

What is the most innovative comms/marketing initiative you've seen in the last 12 months?
Marmite mind control campaign — recently launched. I love how the campaign used an actual hypnotist to create an ad that goes against the 10 seconds rule of digital, but so different you can't turn away. Top off the great idea with a packaging change, a call for actual marmite haters to try the hypnosis program and a well-directed ad, and it's the most innovative thing I've seen this year.

In your opinion, what brands and/or agencies are most innovative around PR and marketing?
I definitely see great consumer marketing innovation consistently from Unilever brands. From an agency perspective, Edelman is one of the most recognized.

Describe a moment in your career that you would consider 'innovative.'
Definitely the moment I had the role of acquiring innovative partners for Johnson & Johnson, based on marketing challenges from the consumer sector. At that point, I realized very quickly that innovation cannot be limited to just ideas in today's world. There are a series of technology-based startups with great products and services that can push the boundaries of creative marketing campaigns, but just requires the marketer to understand the 'how' in this process. A lot of time was spent in understanding what the technology entails, and then more time to combine the power of this marketing tech, the consumer insight, and the kind of creative execution that will complement all these factors. The knowledge transfer from working with these tech partners really opened my eyes to a world of possibilities.

Who do you admire for his/her approach to innovation? 
Gary Vaynerchuk. He tells it as it is, without the fluff or quotes of the day (if you believe it, it will happen) type of optimism. Doing extraordinary things, innovative work, requires gut and grit, be prepared to put in the hours and get your hands dirty.

How do you get out of a creativity rut?
Talk to people and get different perspectives. Everyone is bounded by our own perspectives and a fresh mind often helps. Grabbing a friend for a coffee run (or whisky rant) often works wonders. And the great thing about being in this industry is that I have so many friends with amazingly intelligent perspectives to share.

What advice would you give to the PR industry around embracing innovation?
Go beyond storytelling, embrace the new world of technology. Be open to partnerships. Go to any co-working space and understand the types of partners we can build communications and creative content on. Don't just tell stories, create them.

What would you be doing if you weren't doing your current job?
Writer/musician/videographer, probably travelling the world on a shoestring budget to capture stories that can inspire others, maybe sitting outside Hollywood hoping to be part of their crew.

Favorite book/movie/podcast/article that's not related to PR/marketing/business?
I am a huge mainstream Avengers fan. Just check out the YouTube series 'One Marvelous Scene' and you'll understand why.

What's your favourite time of day and why?
5am. The world is quiet, peaceful and free from distractions (i.e. social media/whatsapp messages). I get time to organize my thoughts for the rest of the day ahead.