Siu Tang | The Innovator 25 Asia-Pacific 2022

Siu Tang

Founder & Executive Creative Director
The Orangeblowfish


“Forget what you know and look at the problem or need you’re trying to solve from someone else’s shoes. This sounds scary, but you can’t be innovating if you stay within your comfort zone."

For Siu Tang, innovation is an evolving process – he believes the more you innovate, the better you get at it. Others say he relentlessly pushes creative boundaries and sets new trends and standards across the industry.

He says he’s become more confident innovating over the years, and his experience quitting his job in headhunting to found The Orangeblowfish as a one-man band in his home study and growing it into a global team of talented creatives, art directors, brand strategists and storytellers must certainly have boosted this confidence. 

In the 10 years since he set up shop, The Orangeblowfish has worked with global household-name brands including L’Oreal Group, LinkedIn, Marriott Hotels, Colgate Palmolive, Sanofi and many more. His brand initiatives frequently go viral, with key opinion leaders and patrons becoming brand ambassadors. As his business has grown, so too has respect from the industry and Tang frequently receives invites to speak, judge awards and coach at leading industry events, including the Best Emerging Talent Festival by the British Chamber of Commerce Shanghai. Tang was named Outstanding Individual of the Year by China Top Digital and featured as one of TimeOut Shanghai’s Most Creative People. 
How do you define innovation?
Coming up with insane ideas that have never been done before and bringing them to life. This only happens when you are (a) pushing boundaries; (b) experimenting continuously and (c) celebrating successes and mishaps to have the energy to continue.

What is the most innovative PR or marketing initiative you've seen over the past 12 months?
I really like the Chanel No5 2020 Mother's Day campaign. They took a different approach and picked a selection of drawings of the famous Chanel No5 perfume made by children. It appeared on billboards and was shared on all Chanel social media. It was simple and appealed to everyone as it was relatable.

In your opinion, which brands and/or agencies are most innovative in their approach to PR and marketing?
Sport brands find innovative ways to create new ideas and stay relevant. Arc’teryx launched the Rebird campaign to revive the city of Shanghai in June 2022, after a two-month lockdown. The campaign included a series of offline events that brought together sports lovers to explore Shanghai by running. On top of that, they launched a multi-sensory experience pop-up store across China which made the campaign more memorable and engaging.

Describe a moment in your career that you would consider to be innovative.
I see innovation as an evolving process. The more you innovate, the better you get, and the more risks you’re willing to take. Each year I feel like I’ve gained more confidence to take risks because of the experience I know that should something not work, my team and I will figure it out. When you put your heart and energy into believing and making something work, it will.

My first innovative moment was back in 2014 when we won our first hospitality branding project for a new Gastropub in Shanghai - Liquid Laundry. Fast forward today, it’s still an iconic F&B spot in Shanghai. Back then, it was the first of gastropub in Shanghai, and I knew starting out as a young creative agency that we had to do something different. We brought the brand to life by ensuring every touch point of the consumer screamed out “Liquid Laundry – the place to be”. The place become a phenomenon and everyone who dined there, lived, and breathed the brand. Consumers shared their dining experience and shared many of our creations from the 3D string art to beer mats, the bathrooms and other merchandise. The buzz on social media drove more traffic drive traffic, and we had consumers being brand ambassadors. From that one project, I knew that being creative meant more than creating a design piece in 2D or digital format. We needed to pull together a service that integrated the brand’s visual storytelling + experience into one’s branded space, to stand out and ahead of competition.

Who do you admire for his/her approach to innovation?
Jessica Walsh, an American designer, art director, illustrator and educator. She is the founder of a creative agency and non-profit organisation that runs free events and mentorships for underrepresented creatives around the world. As a creative, she pushes boundaries and finds playful ways to address taboo subjects such as mental health issues, gender equality, diversity, etc. Mental health is a topic that affects everyone, but many are ashamed to talk about it or seek help. She helps to raise awareness of this issue through her illustrations and the different stories.

How do you get out of a creativity rut?
I doodle! I believe creativity is a muscle that needs to be nourished. It’s like exercising – you need to keep at it. Every morning, for the past ten years, I doodle. It’s the first thing in the morning to start my workday. I encourage my team as well as my children to doodle as well. I have a theme for the day or the week, and I let my mind run free and draw whatever comes to mind, for thirty minutes a day. It’s like a warm-up before the main event. For me it’s very therapeutic. It helps clear my mind, and to see things differently.

What advice would you give to the PR industry around embracing innovation?
Innovation means pushing boundaries and doing something that’s never been done before. This means breaking the norm and any preconceptions you may have. Forget what you know and look at the problem or need you’re trying to solve from someone else’s shoes. This sounds scary – I know! However, you can’t be innovating if you stay within your comfort zone. Push boundaries. Experiment. Of course, try these things on internal or personal projects first and see where it takes you!

What would you be doing if you weren't doing your current job?
I quit my corporate job in head-hunting to pursue a career in creativity and design. I love what I do, which is to push creative boundaries every day using storytelling, art, space, and technology. I can’t imagine doing anything else.

Which book/movie/TV show/podcast/playlist/other cultural source has provided inspiration over the past year?
Severance, an American science fiction psychological thriller television series created by Dan Erickson. It shows an organization that practices the procedure of ‘severance’, which separates the work memories of their employees from the non-work memories.
As the founder of a creative agency, it has always been natural for me to look after the well-being of employees, not only at work but also in their daily lives. I believe that work and personal life cannot be separated, they influence each other.

How would you like to see work culture, and the role of the office, evolve?
The role of work culture and the office space has evolved naturally because of the pandemic. Individuals no longer feel that it’s a necessity to be at the office. They can work from anywhere and still be productive.

At The Orangeblowfish, we’re a close team and we enjoy being in the same collaborative environment. We want people to come to work – not because they feel that they must. We encourage our team members to be courageous, curious, dynamic, and different. We enjoy having different personalities on our team. Together as a collective unit, it all seems to work.

At The Orangeblowfish, we want people to find joy out of what they do and who they spend their time with at work. When you’re getting out of bed for a paycheck, that’s when the fun stops. We hope that work culture and the role of the office becomes an enjoyable and meaningful part of life, rather than a means to an end.

How can the PR and communications industry harness innovation to make more progress on diversity, equity and inclusion?
It will be great to see more women and diverse individuals in creative leadership positions. At The Orangeblowfish, over 80% of our team are women. We come from all walks of life – different backgrounds, upbringing and ethnicity working towards the same purpose: creative excellence. By having a diverse and inclusive team – especially at the leadership level – enables an organization to identify new opportunities, value different perspectives as well as attract and retain high performers. Employees – an organisation’s most important asset – will be much more creative and content they feel that their opinions and voices are being heard and valued.

At The Orangeblowfish, three women lead our business divisions: Managing Partner, Client Services Director and Creative Lead. We believe that retaining, mentoring, and nurturing top performers contributes to our Agency’s success. We constantly look for innovative ways to train our employees. Thinking critically and creatively about the state of our workplaces, and how we want to become more inclusive, we can move our industry forward.