Daily life has been rather monotonous the last 2 weeks since the reopening of the economic activities in this country. Nobody is excited with the daily cases of positive COVID cases as proven by the sudden absence of daily viral postings of positive cases and hospital numbers. Traffic jams in the city centre have returned and weekend traffic jams on highways is now a norm.
The latest major hue and cry must be about the whisky brand Timah which was built around the story of an Englishman called Captain Tristan Speedy and making whiskeys in tin mines etc. Local politicians raised the issue that the brand owners were insensitive to local culture and religion as Timah is short form for the name Fatimah and Captain Speedy looks like a religious preacher wearing a kopiah (picture).
Brand owners in multi racial Malaysia do have to more careful when it comes to brand names and brand imagery. What seems like an innocuous name or image would suddenly cause a big furore among certain segments of society. This is despite the fact that Malaysia is a secular society and the constitution protects the right for all citizens to live in this country, to work and conduct any businesses that does not fall foul of the law.
Any marketeer worth its salt will understand that it takes a long time and heavy investments to build a brand name. As such my advice to the brand owner of Timah is to continue using the brand name now that it is famous or infamous. This is an unexpected bonus as far as brand building is concern. The brand owner has not broken any laws and no courts in the country will agree with any such far-fetched complaints that Timah is short form for Fatimah. In fact, google ‘short form for Fatimah’ and you will find nothing on the web.
However, looking at the picture of Captain Speedy on the label, he does look like a bearded preacher wearing a kopiah. The brand owner should be conscious of this brand imagery especially when it is placed on the label of an alcoholic bottle. My advice to the brand owner is to remove the picture of Captain Speedy from the label. The image of a religious preacher on an alcoholic bottle is a no-no as far as basic packaging designs are concerned.
I certainly hope that this issue can be resolved amicably between all parties. Brand owners should not be bullied by politicians into changing brand names that are harmless and legally valid. Always remember that if you are on the right side of the law, you are protected by our Constitution and our Judiciary. But brand owners must always be sensitive to the idiosyncrasies of religious fanatics who see a devil behind every shadow. In this case, keep the brand name and remove the sensitive picture from the label on the bottle.
Looking back to 2007, the late Yasmin Ahmad directed a movie called Muallaf and her main actress Sharifah Armani had to shave her head to play her role. Pictures of her in an interview appeared and there was big uproar from the hard-line conservatives where the Mufti of Perak said, ‘Woman should have long hair. In Islam, a woman cannot act like a man and a man cannot act as a woman’. Armani was under tremendous pressure at that time with all newspapers reporting on the incident.
As Armani was the brand ambassador for Silkygirl, we had to act swiftly. After discussing with Yasmin, we decided to do a photo shoot for Armani making sure she wore a long sleeve cardigan and projected a film star with a shaven head looking confident and unshaken with our Silkygirl tag line, Unleash your confidence. Simple advertisement in black and white that was placed in both English and Malay medium. Her popularity remains intact and her later TV commercials with Mawi (our male ambassador) was such a big hit among the Malay audience.
Any major incidents will produce positive and negative publicity for your brands. As Brand Managers, you must act swiftly. If it is positive publicity, then you need to continue to accelerate the brand momentum by increasing investment in clever advertising. If negative publicity and you are not sure on how to handle the fallout, quickly consult with your PR agencies to formulate a strategy of containment.
This Timah case is interesting as they have to deal with those who are devoid of common sense. Members of Parliament should be debating on the national budget at this juncture instead of wasting precious debate time on this ludicrous issue.
I would have thought that the major discussion at this moment should be on how our government should construct a national budget that will hasten the recovery of our economy. That these MP’s should be asking the government to help raise the standards of living for the people that they are supposed to be representing.
Looking at brand names, Omar whiskey from Taiwan will face similar pressure. Importers of wine from Spain (brands like Dara), Italy (Amira, Aisha, Nur, Citra), USA (Nadia) and India (Raya) should be concerned too. If the word ‘hotdogs’ can’t survive in this country, nothing will. So hot sausage will do just fine.
But if you check the Malay-English dictionary, Timah means Tin as in alloy metal. Anybody reading it otherwise will be considered a tin head or a dim wit. Captain Speedy do look like a dimwit so it is no loss to the brand if it is discarded from the face of this earth.
We have bigger problems to worry about so let’s put a stop to this ridiculous debate. Sigh…