'Stagism' in the media: Should Ichitan's Tan be branded a sinner or a saint?

Economy April 26, 2014 00:00

By Pradon Sirakovit
Special to t

4,256 Viewed

I looked it up on Google, and to my surprise no such word exists. Therefore, it is my honour to announce to the world that I am the first person to coin the term "Stagism".

What is stagism anyway? It is derived from the word “stage”, combined with the suffix –ism, essentially meaning situations or actions that are staged or fabricated. I was so inspired by recent events this year involving a well-known ready-to-drink (RTD) tea marketer that documenting it was a must!
Khun Tan Passakornnatee of Ichitan RTD teas, the original forefather of Oishi (and Thailand’s very own answer to Richard Branson – minus the looks), has been extremely active in the public eye in the first quarter of this year. Two public stunts stood out particularly that caused the highest talk value online.
The first was when he responded to a public (but humorous) rant by one of his customers on YouTube about the legitimacy of Ichitan’s sweepstake campaigns, which went viral and garnered more than 2.8 million hits in a only a few days. That customer was gratified with an iPhone 5S for his troubles and his documented response to Khun Tan’s supposed generosity had a further million hits. It made Khun Tan look like a generous bloke.
The second occurrence, equally as popular but with an element of controversy surrounding it, was when a school band publicly came out and “begged” Khun Tan for Bt3 million to finance a trip to compete in a contest overseas. What was his response to the plea? Of course he obliged wholeheartedly but quickly affirmed that it was not the company’s money; rather, the financing was sourced by his wife. He was also quick to condemn such methods of appealing for money and pronounced sternly that this event should be a lesson for all, and would be the last of its kind. How convenient! But it made Khun Tan look like a saint!
The result: His personal Facebook page jumped from 4.5 million to 5 million fans in a month. Two million people talked about this on his page on the day the news leaked, and there were another 650,000 mentions on the Ichitan fanpage. To add the icing on the cake, another 100,000 mentions were made on Twitter, as accumulated by IPG Mediabrands social listening tools during the past month alone.
I haven’t even touched upon the Bt270 million Ichitan has spent in the first quarter of this year on traditional media, as per Nielsen ad spends. But this is beyond the topic of discussion in this article.
Khun Tan is a public figure who polarises opinion. But that hasn’t stopped him gaining so much earned media through his PR stunts. Whether or not those events were staged, it had a significant bearing on his popularity and his business. Those “plays” were executed to seamless perfection and the sentiment was generally positive. The bottom line is that more tea will be sold. Sure, there has been huge momentum in his innovative sweepstake ideas; giving away Porches and gold stacks, but “Stagism” is an innovative media idea that essentially maximises the potential of talk value, using social platforms.
The RTD tea market finally capped at Bt16.5 billion in 2013, growing over 25 per cent from the previous year, and is expected to grow a further 15 per cent this year through innovative promotions and brand PR. 
I must admit it is extremely hard to predict what will happen for the remainder of the year, especially now that ICHI is being traded on the stock exchange, facing more public scrutiny. But all I can say is that we should expect the unexpected, when it comes to Khun Tan’s marketing antics.
“Stagism” is still relatively new and this strategy is more suited for brands that are strongly associated with a maverick owner. Let’s wait and see what this irreverent innovator has got up his sleeve.
Pradon Sirakovit is group head of Strategy & Innovation, IPG Mediabrands Thailand.