M&C Saatchi Launches Brand Consultancy Clear in Asia

Developing Brand Strategies Sometimes Requires Inventive Solutions Like Digging Through Hotel Trash Cans, Say Asian Directors Oliver Cartwright and Charlotte Wilkinson

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Oliver Cartwright
Oliver Cartwright
HONG KONG (AdAgeChina.com) -- The brand consultancy Clear has opened its first Asian office in Hong Kong to help advertisers develop new brands and products for local consumers.

Founded in London in 2002, the company was acquired by M&C Saatchi for $19.2 million in cash and 3.4 million shares in 2007. It also has offices in Amsterdam and New York.

The company's Asian operation is led by two directors. Oliver Cartwright runs Clear Asia's innovation offer while Charlotte Wilkinson heads up Clear Asia's insight practice. Both are based in Hong Kong and operate out of M&C Saatchi's office in the Chinese territory.

Mr. Cartwright moved to Hong Kong in 2002 with Springpoint, where he was head of brand consulting for Asia. Prior to joining Clear, he was strategy director at TBWA Worldwide's The Disruption Consultancy division in Asia.

Ms. Wilkinson was associate director at Added Value in Beijing before she joined Clear.

Clear has partnered with Hong Kong University's MBA program to assist with specific projects in a setup called Innolab, working in particular with Toys"R"Us. Clear works with advertisers in Asia such as Unilever and ANZ National Bank.
Charlotte Wilkinson
Charlotte Wilkinson

"Companies have a lot of data but they don't always know what to do with it and how to get the right information," Mr. Cartwright said. "Even so, understanding consumer behavior is about more than doing surveys."

For instance, to help a luxury hotel chain in Hong Kong come up with ideas to improve their service, Clear's senior staff poked through trash cans for several days to figure out what guests do in hotels.

"Once we got over the initial discomfort," Mr. Cartwright admitted, "it was really interesting. We discovered a lot of blister treatments, so the hotel has started stocking more remedies like foot creams, insoles and plasters [Band-Aids] in its gift shop and offering foot massages. But health concerns never would have come out during a focus group or a survey."

The company also helps marketers find the right fit for local customs and tastes. Clear works with McDonald's Corp., for example, in 11 markets in Asia.

"We're dealing with a lot of different tastes in this region. Our job is finding out what interests them about western food, like Italian sausage, which is often popular in this region. Or it's figuring out that Thai tastes will be popular in China," Ms. Wilkinson said.

For a U.S. company that sells male skin care products, Clear staff spent time with gay Asian men, shopping and getting hair cuts to learn about male grooming practices.

"Sometimes you have to go more upstream in the branding process with the brand owner to figure out how they can grow," Mr. Cartwright said.

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