Crocs Malaysia and race based market segmentation

Update – Thursday, July 1 2010, 5.38pm UTC+8: What happened, happened. What was said, was said. Oftentimes, a slip of the tongue, really is no fault of the mind. Maybe I was a little too harsh here, so when reading this 1,000-word essay, just keep that in mind. I’m sure the MarCom Manager did not actually mean what she said. The calibre of her presentation was good, and we learned some new things about their digital marketing strategy. In fact, you might just want to go read the other case studies (Canon, BFM 89.9, MyEG, P1 W1MAX)! To err is human, to forgive divine. Let’s all take a chill pill, and have a beer or something ;-)

I graced a SMCKL meetup tonight. I haven’t been in about a year (scheduling conflicts); it was fabulous to catch up with all my friends, learn new things and I have quite some notes that I’ll talk about soon. But this is about my relationship to Crocs, and Crocs Malaysia, at large.

I love my Crocs Yukon. In fact, I love it so much, I pretty much buy a new pair once every six months! You might wonder why. The soles tend to wear out, not evenly, just around the midfoot, usually towards the forefoot. But this quick wear has never been a problem to me, because I love my Crocs; I wear them everyday. Crocs™ Yukon | Crocs, Inc.

If I’m on my feet, my Crocs are wrapped around them. The current pair (in its six months with me) is world travelled – it’s been to: Singapore, London, Thailand, Finland, Iceland, Germany, the United States, and China. Its been on numerous planes (Dopplr suggests my carbon total stands at 17,414kg CO2). Its been through freezing winters and rather hot tropical weather. Crocs have been on me when I meet deputy-ministers, ministers, and even a certain prime minister. I wear Crocs to meetings. I wear Crocs when I give talks. Some friends refer to my pairs of Crocs as “government Crocs”. We always have a chuckle at that.

The bottom-line is that it’s quite hard to find me in a pair of shoes. I’m usually always in Crocs. The very rare occasion of me wearing shoes has me wearing a very comfortable pair of Geox shoes, or an amazing pair I picked up from Marks & Spencer.

Back to SMCKL #7 – we had the Marcom Manager for the company that imports/distributes Crocs in Malaysia come speak to us. She mentioned the name of the parent company, but I never did get it, so for all intents and purposes, this is defined as “Crocs Malaysia“. Her presentation was rather interesting, and a few points I took away from it:

  1. They invest heavily in Facebook – they have the regular Crocs Malaysia page, as well as a Crocs Ideas page (which isn’t linked form the main page). They have over 14,652 fans that like their page. Content is largely what’s coming out in the stores, and what’s to become available.
  2. There’s some Twitter engagement (@crocsmalaysia), but it does not seem as popular as Facebook (other speakers had similar comments).
  3. They’re doing blogger engagement. For the year 2010, they’ve picked five: FeeqSays, Rebecca Saw, Marcky.my, MissyCheerio, and Christopher Tock. These bloggers are known as their “official bloggers”.
  4. While the arrangement isn’t made clear with the official bloggers, it is made clear that the official bloggers get free Crocs, in exchange for writing about how Crocs have influence on the daily life of the blogger. Bloggers are basically selling stories, pushing experiences, where their Crocs get involved. I don’t know if there’s a minimum post count/amount of engagement required, or its something you do in passing (which is why I said the arrangement isn’t clear). I do however think that with the proper metrics, story telling and sharing experiences, totally rocks.
  5. To engage with their readers, these official bloggers also get to run competitions on a weekly basis, and the rewards are free Crocs for winners. Good, it gets more Crocs out there, especially to the non-believers ;)

Everything seemed like it was going well, and she was doing a fabulous job at presenting her case study. Until the moderator asked her: How do you choose your bloggers?.

She does not go for “A-list bloggers” like Kenny Sia, or Nicolekiss. A-list Malaysian lifestyle bloggers. She went on to tell the audience that each blogger has value in them. I take it that everyone has a story to tell, and everyone has their own tribe. Then she talked about Feeq. She said that his target market is the Malay market. She did not want to only target the Chinese market. Crocs Malaysia targets all market segments: Malay, Indian and Chinese.

Wait, what? There’s race based segmentation and targeting in footwear? In social media? Online? We live in a time, where Malaysia is no longer just Malaysia; its the cliché of 1Malaysia. And here the faux pas, stated in front of a large audience, the yardstick used, is in which racial segment a blogger is popular in.

I immediately reacted:

Clearly disappointed that @crocsmalaysia is profiling/targeted by race. So much for being Malaysian. Time to find new footwear #smckl

I am trying to break your heartThere was another tweet which wondered what the difference in race brings? And whomever is behind the @crocsmalaysia account stated: it is just our way to reach out to all consumers of all races thru our bloggers. One might think that this is something only I took offence in; lucky for me, I was not alone. People came up to me, replied to me, and even direct messaged me on this very topic.

Social media, and the utility that it travels on, the Internet, does not discriminate against race, colour, creed, nationality, gender, and more. You should choose a blogger because she has a wide Malaysian audience! In Malaysia however, it seems ingrained that there will always be profiling, separation, and a system in where we don’t have one nation, but at least two separate nations. Maybe we only have the incumbent political parties to blame for this.

As an aside, I think it is important to distinguish what you say to a close group of friends, versus what you say on Twitter, versus what you say to a large audience of folk (i.e. when you’re speaking in public). When you start representing a brand, you’ve definitely got to start thinking about how you articulate yourself. A topic to talk about elsewhere.

Either way, I cannot remember when I first shelled out RM209 for my first Yukon. I expect it must have been late 2007, or at latest early 2008. My (extended, truly Malaysian) family is also big on Crocs. However, I think its time to wean myself off from Crocs, and find non-discriminatory footwear.

Related posts:

  1. Silly Malaysia – race cards pulled out, what happens when oil ringgit runs out?
  2. On uniforms
  3. Malaysia stops censoring bloggers
  4. On why the iPhone isn’t ready for the Malaysian market
  5. Online photo printing comes to Malaysia – why not harness the Flickr API?
  • http://twitter.com/goldfries Brian Chong

    I've been waiting for your post – interesting.

    Malay blogger = Malay market? WTH!?!? LOL. It's as if reader race is determined by writer race.

    • http://bytebot.net/blog colincharles

      Darn, am I getting so predictable? Something cryptic on Twitter -> blog post!

      Well, there is video of this Q&A session. I expect that it will eventually go up.

      I don't read the Feeq blog; in fact from the whole list of 5 blogs above, I only have Chris' blog in my RSS reader. So can't judge who reads Feeq and who doesn't.

    • http://twitter.com/ShaolinTiger ShaolinTiger

      I have to say it is, different blogs have different demographic readership. Those written in Malay will have predominantly Malay readership, same goes for Chinese.

      English language blogs will have majority urban readership, of all races.

      At the end of the day it's simply demographic/geotargeting based on the largest mass.

      Most companies mask what they do by saying they are targeting mass-market or the majority (which are both synonyms in Malaysian marketing for 'Malay').

      The point I'd agree with Colin on most is that you gotta divide what you share publicly and what you don't, some things are known and understood..they just shouldn't be shared.

      • http://bytebot.net/blog colincharles

        Gareth,

        You're right. If the blog is in a particular language, I expect it to have a particular readership. That is like advertising in different language newspapers. It looks like (from a cursory inspection), that the blog in mention has a mix of both languages.

        And yes, some things are just better not shared. Or words need to be used in a smarter fashion.

        I think the video will be most telling. It is the reason why I had such a reaction. And others did too.

        Cheers!

      • http://twitter.com/goldfries Brian Chong

        Do refer to what I posted “It's as if reader race is determined by writer race.” – I don't know, what was the impression I got from Colin's post.

        I was talking about the ethnicity of the writer, rather than the language used. If it was a blog almost exclusively done in BM then I would understand is being targetting Malay audience.

  • Ithinkyouarestupid

    I think you're full of shit. First of all you're an idiot to pay for this overpriced piece of shit called croc shoes. And the other is you're making a big deal out of nothing about their marketing. Different race/cultures have different tastes so it is necessary to change strategies to suit them.

    • http://bytebot.net/blog colincharles

      Hi Anonymous Coward!

      I contemplated on if this comment should make it or not (since I do not moderate by default), but it just goes to show what an ignoramus you are, “ithinkyouarestupid”. At the end of it all, you're the one that looks like you're full of shit. You're on my playground, you play by my rules. Let's dissect this point-by-point:

      1. You think Crocs are an overpriced piece of shit. Well, I beg to differ. I think they are comfortable, and they have multiple uses. They're not the colourful footwear that they used to be.

      2. What's overpriced for you, may not necessarily be overpriced for me. Live with it.

      3. You can have whatever internal strategy you feel like having. That's your internal problem. But when you go and give a public speech, you don't mention how you choose to profile. Some things are just better left unsaid.

      Till the day you can market to Malaysians. Last I checked, in Australia, you market to Australians, not where people show up from. Duh!

      So, the next time you choose to say something of substance, 60.48.209.161, please don't hesitate to use your real name, so we know whom we're talking to.

  • http://kaeru.my Kaeru

    I don't think there is anything particularly wrong with race based market segmentation. As long as it's not *discriminatory*.

    You can go into any Crocs dealer shop, and buy whatever pair you want, regardless of race. They may charge more for the color schemes that research has found attractive to majority of Chinese market which they have found out to have higher income, but whoever else of other racial or income background walks in to buy those pairs can and have to pay exactly the same price. It's not perfect, but it's just basic market economics at work, in which sellers are trying to set the best price, the buyer is willing to pay.

    This misunderstanding is similar to another blog that mentioned that requirement to speak Mandarin, for a post in China by a local MNC was “racist”.

  • http://twitter.com/siewlian siewlian

    I was there at the event and felt the Crocs speaker made a major faux pas when she said so openly and casually something like “Look at Feeq! He's Malay.” Ooops. Suddenly even Freda Liu—the presenter from BFM, which regularly plays an ad about 1Malaysia—wasn't smiling so much anymore. Yes, I think she touched a sensitive nerve and didn't really realise it. The zeitgeist of the nation, since the election tsunami especially, has been to push for a race-blind national agenda. It definitely didn't show thought leadership on Crocs Malaysia's part (their distributor here, to be more precise).

    On the other hand, I've been thinking for a while now if it's possible for companies in Malaysia to ignore the race factor altogether in their market profiling/targeting. I think you can't ignore the fact that certain behaviours or preferences are influenced by upbringing/lifestyle, which is tied to our cultural roots. An obvious example could be how traditionally minded Chinese like things that are red, so a fashion label would order in a larger wardrobe of red clothes come CNY.

    So to an extent, I agree with Kaeru that race-based market segmentation is “not particularly wrong” as long as it's not discriminatory. It still is a valid determiner in certain marketing decisions. The challenge for businesses (and political parties) would be to look beyond the race card and appeal to people as a brand that has great products and customer service, and stands for something positive. This kind of brand leadership unites people. The best brands (like Zappos) make a statement about universal issues like happiness, and will be those I back up.

    Colin isn't full of shit—some of us do fall in love with certain brands and would pay more for their stuff. Instead, I think this is a good example of what happens when a brand loyalist suddenly finds out that his beloved brand does not uphold the same values he believes in. He turns to social media to vent and spur a discussion—to seek confirmation of the values he thinks this brand should have. The consumer is defining the brand.

    Crocs Malaysia, the ball is in your court.

  • CrocLoversSuck.

    Anyone who pays over 30 ringgit for a pair of CHEAP ASS low quality rubber slipper that can be made for under 10 ringgit is full of shit. Who the fuck wants to look at your feet/shoes that you must spend unnecessarily on rubbish that don't even last 4 months?! Same stupid IPOD/IPhone crowd mentality. Sheeps with no independent thought and consumer level intelligence.Lowly unspiritual and unconscious useless eaters. These people pollute the intelligent human gene pool.

    • http://bytebot.net/blog colincharles

      Hello CrocLoversSuck, yet another anonymous coward,

      If you'd like to pay RM30 for a pair of Crocs, I understand that they've got plenty in the pasar malam's waiting for you. But its good to note that there are some people that think Crocs are overpriced – maybe Crocs Malaysia will take some notice of it.

      For what its worth, I don't own an iPhone, or use an iPhone. Last I checked, everyone using an iPhone was rather happy with their product purchase. Maybe you should try it sometime? Oh wait, you'd rather not.

      Next time, 115.135.133.81, please use your real identity.

      Cheers!

  • icednyior

    Colin, I must say that though I agree with you at some points, to a certain degree, most (if not all) PR/marketing/advertising in Malaysia has some racial basis to it. Photos, ads and promos show a mix race.

    I however, would not have explained it in that way. Perhaps she should hv not blantantly state something like that.

    Btw, company is Kinderdijk – http://www.kinderdijk.com.my/

    • http://bytebot.net/blog colincharles

      Hi!

      Mix race = 1Malaysia? :-)

      Thanks for the link to the company. I see they bring in a lot of other products too.

  • http://twitter.com/galvintan Galvin Tan

    A great post but let's not boycott a brand because of it's representative. Social Media has come to a point where a lot of professionals and brand representatives tend to stand in the gray area; mixing personal thoughts with professional analysis.

    However, I do agree with you that when someone is representing a brand, he/she must be clear of any public statements made should be professional and non-bias.

    • http://twitter.com/ShaolinTiger ShaolinTiger

      Yah boycott is cos they are ugly shit rubber shoes that belong in slaughterhouses, not cos they are mis-represented about racial demographics :P

      • http://twitter.com/galvintan Galvin Tan

        Yes, they are shit ugly but we must admit it that it is really really comfortable.

    • http://bytebot.net/blog colincharles

      Its hard to boycott the brand. I love the footwear. I might just pick it up in another market, where they don't do such segmentation.

  • http://buzzmedia.com.my/ David Wang

    I think there are 2 separate issues here.

    1. As a marketer I totally understand choosing the channel to get your message to the right audience. That's just demographic segmentation – calling it 'race-based segmentation' is a tad sensationalist innit? that's good for linkbait though ;)

    2. Joanne Kay from Crocs without a doubt committed a faux pas. It's clear that she doesn't have much experience in PR or public speaking. However, please don't give her a hard time. This is the exact excuse upper management is looking for to jump and say, “Ah ha! Social media damages our brand and we shouldn't play there any more”.

    At the end of the day, it's good to see discussion like this because it grows the industry's maturity and best practices. So thanks Colin, for making this part of the ongoing conversation. Now, I hope Joanne will respond so that it's a balanced conversation.

    • http://bytebot.net/blog colincharles

      Hi David,

      1. Demographic segmentation: could have used many examples as to how to choose a blogger. There is sex, age, income, location, employment status, etc. Yet the choice used was race. So I hardly think that is linkbaiting. If marketers in Malaysia are only segmenting their demographics based on race, they have a serious problem on their hands.

      2. Upper management should train anyone going out to give a public speech. I'm not giving her a hard time – I thought her presentation was good. She seemed OK with public speaking. But when you go and represent your brand, you're not just speaking casually any longer; you're a brand manager. You want to ensure the brand values get spread.

      Remember, if I go to a bar with a few friends, I can say whatever the heck I want to say. But when I go an address an audience, I ensure that I keep my biases in check, go out there with full disclosures, and always remember to be very careful when mentioning things like competitors, confidential information, et al.

      This was never meant to give the speaker a hard time. I just could not explain what was said in 140 characters, so I wrote something much longer. The discussion that happened was actually accidental, as opposed to intentional. I personally do not like comments, and generally don't reply to comments on this blog.

      Cheers

  • Han

    Pre-emptive disclaimer: I wasn't there. You were. Hence I am only commenting based on my perception of ur description of what went down at the event.

    I think its actually GREAT that she revealed that piece of info – that they chose bloggers based on their race/the predominant race of the bloggers audience etc.

    i mean, isnt that the kind of stuff u would want to discover when going to such forums anyways? not gonna lie. i would adopt a similar approach as well.

    what would u rather have? the speaker respond with an answer a la Miss Universe 'Let's Have World Peace” sorta BS and spout some corporate jargon?

    plus, this isnt the GENERAL public that we;re talking about here. its not like she went on national tv/radio/print ad and said this. it was a 'controlled' group of sorts. the group she was talking to wouldve been, what i would assume, a SUPPOSEDLY savvy enough group to engage in blogging anyways and members of said audience would want to inquire about strategies/practices that this company has employed when engaging in the “blogosphere”.

    as for “some things are better left unsaid”? WHY? cant handle the truth? just cause the speaker wasnt politically correct? FUCK being pc. im glad she revealed something tangible. count that as a victory of having gained some valuable insight.

    use ur own blog as a case-in-point. seems like the demographics of ur audience are centered around the english-speaking, urban, chinese. dont see an “ahmad” or “mutu” on here (or at least who felt strongly enough to respond).

    not really selling urself or ur products etc. to a “wide [and i would add, DIVERSE] Malaysian audience” here now are we.

    • Han

      oh, and in regards to ur response to ithinkyouarestupid, where u said “You're on my playground, you play by my rules” …

      funny … slippery slope, this one … sounds suspiciously like big-government rhetoric here.

      complete the phrase: “you're on my playground, you play by my rules” – you say only what i let u say?

      so much for the freedom of speech on this media platform.

      • http://bytebot.net/blog colincharles

        Hi Han,

        Do you go to someone's house and then take a dump on their carpet? I don't think so.

        I do not censor anything here. I ask that if you're playing, show yourself. Be honest. What is there to hide?

        And which part of this is a *media platform*? Its my *private blog* dude.

        Go on further, and take a read, expand your sphere:
        - http://powazek.com/posts/2463
        - http://www.technovia.co.uk/2010/06/john-gruber-

        No one is stopping you from creating your own blog, and starting a discussion on your own site. I just ask that if you're going to have it on my site, I'd like to know who's here. Last I checked, I don't let strangers into my house; I'm sure you don't either.

        Cheers,
        -c

        • Han

          nitpicking.
          “red herring”.
          i'll show myself out the door. thanks :)

          • http://bytebot.net/blog colincharles

            Its all good to nitpick ;) you came in with a name. Welcomed with wide, open arms!

    • http://bytebot.net/blog colincharles

      Hello Han,

      Points for honesty – I like it. That's a great argument, and I'll take it for what it is. Who needs to be politically correct? Well, if you represent a brand, I think you should be.

      Now, back to my blog. The audience is not centered around the English-speaking, urban, Chinese as you put it. This post might be more Malaysian centric, but I'll have you know that 29% of my visitors come from the US (number #1), while only 15% come from Malaysia (#number #2). The blog has been around for a long time, and gets visitors from over 136 countries. So do not assume you know the readership market of my blog.

      Oh, and if you know me, I never sell my blog. Ever.

      Cheers

  • http://bytebot.net/blog colincharles

    Hi David,

    1. Demographic segmentation: could have used many examples as to how to choose a blogger. There is sex, age, income, location, employment status, etc. Yet the choice used was race. So I hardly think that is linkbaiting. If marketers in Malaysia are only segmenting their demographics based on race, they have a serious problem on their hands.

    2. Upper management should train anyone going out to give a public speech. I'm not giving her a hard time – I thought her presentation was good. She seemed OK with public speaking. But when you go and represent your brand, you're not just speaking casually any longer; you're a brand manager. You want to ensure the brand values get spread.

    Remember, if I go to a bar with a few friends, I can say whatever the heck I want to say. But when I go an address an audience, I ensure that I keep my biases in check, go out there with full disclosures, and always remember to be very careful when mentioning things like competitors, confidential information, et al.

    This was never meant to give the speaker a hard time. I just could not explain what was said in 140 characters, so I wrote something much longer. The discussion that happened was actually accidental, as opposed to intentional. I personally do not like comments, and generally don't reply to comments on this blog.

    Cheers

  • http://bytebot.net/blog colincharles

    Hi Han,

    Do you go to someone's house and then take a dump on their carpet? I don't think so.

    I do not censor anything here. I ask that if you're playing, show yourself. Be honest. What is there to hide?

    And which part of this is a *media platform*? Its my *private blog* dude.

    Go on further, and take a read, expand your sphere:
    - http://powazek.com/posts/2463
    - http://www.technovia.co.uk/2010/06/john-gruber-

    No one is stopping you from creating your own blog, and starting a discussion on your own site. I just ask that if you're going to have it on my site, I'd like to know who's here. Last I checked, I don't let strangers into my house; I'm sure you don't either.

    Cheers,
    -c

  • julian

    I think if you're going to start boycotting Malaysian companies based on them segmenting and targeting their market based on ethnic characteristics, then you're going to have to start doing a lot of online shopping! Like it or not, that's why there are the different Astro packages, why ads in English language newspapers cost more than those in BM newspapers, and so on.

    When it comes to language in particular, there are very good and inclusive reasons to make sure a representative spread of bloggers is used in PR campaigns. In addition, most people offline tend to mix more with people of their own 'race' (as an anthropologist I have major issues with that term), and this happens online too – therefore, in the interests of inclusiveness, it again makes sense to enrol different bloggers of different ethnic groups.

    If one was to only choose bloggers “because she has a wide Malaysian audience”, then it would probably the same usual A-listers, most of whom are Chinese and English speaking. Perhaps if there was more granularity in the analysis of blogger audiences, then one would be able to select bloggers based on their “tribe”, who no doubt are not always one ethnic group. In the meantime, recognising that 'birds of a feather flock together' (aka homophily) is not being racist IMHO. Just like one can also recognise the other demographics you mention such as age, gender, etc.

    Being 'race-blind' does not necessarily help further understanding and harmony between ethnic groups as has recently been discussed, e.g. http://www.wired.com/geekdad/2010/02/how-to-rai… . Paying lip service to '1Malaysia' is a facile excuse for many who ignore the real social, cultural, political and economic dynamics that underpin Malaysian society.

  • Kimberlycun

    looks like a classic case of foot in mouth to me by Crocs rep. that said, i'd still implore you to switch footwear on the basis that crocs are unacceptable in social settings and that they never really addressed the issues of children wearing them having their feet eaten by escalators.

  • http://llamasonic.com llamasonic

    people of the world, please flood malaysia & mate (passionately & with their permission of course) with a local so that this rather blessed spot on planet earth may move beyond all things beginning & ending with race.

    colin, most excellent commentary. crocs, live 'n learn. i guess this was case study night after all.

  • Pingback: Market Analysis – Market Segmentation-Market

  • Calvin

    I was quite disappointed with your response, seemed a bit to knee-jerk and emotional to me. I was rather happy tho when reading through the comments, to see that many people were more reasonable in their approach to the situation.

    The fact is that all products are targeted to market segments and yes, race is one of those segments. I think that she makes good sense in spreading out her bloggers to ensure that the entire Malaysian demographic is covered. As someone pointed out, if you take mainly A list bloggers, you'd be catering to a more Chinese skewed demographic.

    I do agree with you that she shouldn't have said it in that manner. Do you think, perhaps, if she had merely said that they target by demographics including race… that your reaction would have been the same?

    • http://bytebot.net/blog colincharles

      Hi Calvin,

      Is it knee-jerk and emotional when you *identify* with a brand? Do you
      not think I was disappointed hearing this coming out from a brand I so
      thoroughly loved and identified with? Or wait, you missed my whole
      introduction about why I liked the footwear?

      Now I have to question you: ” I think that she makes good sense in
      spreading out her bloggers to ensure that the entire Malaysian
      demographic is covered.” Ask yourself, do you get readers based on
      your race?

      This is not a television/radio station. If I were ASTRO/AMP radio
      networks and I had several radio stations that were targeted on a
      language niche, it is different. It is quite clear that a radio
      station that plays predominantly Bahasa Malaysian tracks, will have a
      listener base that enjoys listening to tracks in Bahasa Malaysia. The
      same goes for Mandarin, or Tamil. The language defines the audience.

      Can the same be true for bloggers? If the bloggers pre-dominantly blog
      in the English language, how do you define race based segmentation of
      readers? Last I checked, there was no analytics package that did this
      - do you know differently?

      And yes, it was largely the tone the tone. In fact, I was not the only
      one that was surprised – check out the video: http://digg.com/d31VrNE

      Video's don't lie, huh?

      Cheers,
      -c

      PS: Why do you automatically assume A-list bloggers = Chinese skewed
      demographic? Do you have statistics to back this up?

      PPS: Demographics including race in a country called Malaysia, when we
      are all aiming to be one race? How much milder can you put it?

  • Pingback: Market Analysis – Market Segmentation-Market

  • http://marcky.my/ Marcky

    My detailed response to this blogpost here:

    http://marcky.my/whats-this-hoo-ha-with-crocs-m

  • Andrew_chiam

    I was kinda shocked when I got to know this. My personal opinion on this

    http://runningandrew.blogspot.com/2010/07/crocs

  • Pingback: Market Analysis – Market Segmentation-Market


i