Shopee started the celebrity endorsement war among e-commerce businesses in Indonesia by signing up Blackpink, a highly popular Korean girlband, for advertisements in the latter half of 2018. Inspired by Shopee, in October 2019 the biggest domestic e-commerce platform Tokopedia spent approximately Rp17 billion to make the hottest boyband in the world, BTS, their brand ambassador. Social media were thus abuzz with talks about the ads that feature the seven BTS members.

Refusing to be outgunned, Shopee fought back. After their daring gambit in December last year, their brilliant guerrilla-like movement continued this year, already sending a shock all over the social media in the first week of 2020. Not only surprising, delighting, and amusing, their latest promotional materials have skyrocketed the brand into the public mind and the center of social media chatter. It rides on but also spurs further the recent resurgence of an old Indonesian favourites Didi Kempot.

Here’s my take on how Shopee managed to pull off one of the best guerrilla brand coups in the beginning of the new decade.

  1. Understanding the target customers

After almost a year since their collaboration with Blackpink, Shopee introduced popular football player Cristiano Ronaldo as their brand ambassador in August 2019. Not even half a year later, Shopee published a teaser of their next brand ambassador, which showed the silhouette of a guy who looked like Bruno Mars and asked who the guy might be.

The teaser gained thousands of comments from people who guessed that Shopee had signed Bruno Mars as their new endorser. It also created excitement among Bruno Mars’ fans, with some Bruno Mars social media fan accounts sharing the teaser also.

Two days after the teaser—December 6, 2019 to be exact—Shopee revealed who the brand ambassador actually was, and it turned out that the people were totally wrong. Shopee had surprisingly and amusingly signed Didi Kempot, a popular singer of the campursari music genre, who uncannily looked like Bruno Mars.

Based on the Snapchart data quoted by CNBC Indonesia, most Shopee users come from the middle-low market, where most Indonesians are. This piece of information was also confirmed by a friend who works in Shopee.

By selecting Didi Kempot as their new endorser, Shopee shows that they understand their target audience well, what they consume, where they hang out, and how to reach them. Thus, Shopee managed to increase their relevance to them.

  1. Being perceptive towards the current trends

Didi Kempot shows his Javanese-ness strongly: he consistently sports the Javanese traditional headdress blangkon whenever he performs. He sings in the Javanese language. He’s been popular mostly among the Javanese, but what has made his popularity skyrocket again to the national level?

Just like Reza Artamevia who was suddenly popular again thanks to her song “Berharap Tak Berpisah”, Didi Kempot, who was mostly only known by baby boomers and early millennials who were into campursari, has entered the consciousness of even Gen Z thanks to his song “Pamer Bojo (Cendol Dawet)”. Even though the song is in Javanese, a language that not all Indonesians understand, its upbeat music and its lyrics that represent the feeling of heartbroken people, has penetrated the Senoparty life—the parties of the mostly middle-upper folks held in the Senopati area, South Jakarta. Didi is now welcomed by the middle-upper urbanites too.

To gain people’s attention to their upcoming brand ambassador, Shopee tapped into the conversations that successfully created by their main competitor using BTS. Shopee consciously copied Tokopedia’s approach to tease customers about their next brand ambassador.

Shopee video copying Tokopedia’s: Can you guess whose voice this is?

Shopee poster copying Tokopedia’s: Can you guess who?

The promotional materials were aimed at triggering conversations about the then unrevealed brand ambassador. Not stopping there, Shopee parodied Tokopedia’s BTS promotional image by having seven Didi Kempots wearing similar clothes worn by the seven BTS members in their own promotional image. What makes it more hilarious, Shopee introduced Didi Kempot as their BRAND AMBYARSSADOR, not brand ambassador.

As soon as the billboard was up, people took picture of it, made a collage to compare it with the original BTS image, and shared it on their social media and WA groups. Accounts dealing with K-pop also posted such pictures. The responses were highly various. Some BTS fans – called Armys – expressed their annoyance over the blatant mimicking of their idols, but more people were amused, and they praised the campaign as a brilliant one. If we look deeper, Shopee seems not only wanting to retaliate Tokopedia, but also convey their message to the masses that you can be as good-looking as BTS members by shopping in Shopee.

  1. Leveraging communities to create conversations and increase shares

Didi Kempot was selected as a brand ambassador not only because of his massive hit, but also of the community that has organically grown around the popularity of the song.

The “Brand Ambyarssador” term derived from ambyar, which means emotionally devastated, heartbroken, or crying hard: the word has been popularized by Didi’s fans, who regularly tweet using the hashtag #KamisAmbyar (Devastation Thursday). The conversations mostly consist of jokes about being heartbroken by Sobat Ambyar, the sad boys and sad girls. The name that Didi’s fans have used to refer to themselves has been made official by Didi himself to call his fanbase. Its official IG account @sobatambyar has gained 85,431 followers and every post generates thousands of likes and more than 10 comments. What makes it more interesting is unofficial Sobat Ambyar accounts also popped up, such as @sobatambyarindonesia, @sobatambyarpemalang, @sobatambyartegal, etc. Those accounts also have quite a high number of followers—more than 2,000 each on average.

Since Shopee’s ads parodied BTS who currently has the biggest fanbase all over the world, including in Indonesia, they automatically gained a lot of attention from K-pop enthusiasts too.

As the fourth most populous country in the world with its fast-growing internet penetration, Indonesia offers great potentials for e-commerce. Many e-commerce players have tried to root themselves in Indonesia and competed to win the hearts of Indonesians by offering promos with gimmicks such as Single Day 11.11, National Online Shopping Day 12.12, and others. Some managed to survive, others failed and disappeared. Customers themselves have become smarter and more cautious of “sale” offers. In this increasingly tight competition, Shopee has found a way to incorporate humor in their strategy.

The competition has become more interesting, and right now undoubtedly there are people waiting for Tokopedia to take revenge. The advertisement war between the two biggest e-commerce companies in Indonesia has also made things harder for other companies such as Lazada and Bukalapak, as they now have to think harder to come up with a more captivating strategy to win the market.

Written by Eveline Isnaini, Consultant



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