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The brightest NOKUA Star of us all: Alex Tan

A creative force to be reckoned with.

By Andy Lai

As the Creative Director of NOKUA with over 15 years of experience in both advertising agencies and in-house teams, Alex Tan is a true grizzled veteran in the industry.

He also doubled as a judge for international awards such as Muse Awards, Telly Awards, Vega Digital Awards and GlobalTrend Awards.

In our first ever NOKUA Stars, we find it fitting to feature the brightest star of us all.

“Interviewing me now?”, Alex mouthed from his glass panelled office at me before flashing his signature grin. I could find myself grinning back at him too. If anything, his grin is infectious.

However, Alex’s grin is not the only thing that’s infectious.

In his role as Co-Founder & Managing Director, he created successful initiatives for international brands such as Walt Disney, DC Comics and DreamWorks Licensee, Herbalife, Allianz, Nu Skin, Macao Tourism Board, ABB Holding, Monier, Petrofac, Eco Shop, Elken and Garnier.

His passion towards the craft of branding has earned the respect of many clients and employees, injecting them with his regular dose of confidence.


Being an industry leader

“My journey in my career so far has been eventful, to say the least.” Alex said.

“It took me a while to find out what I truly like. I studied graphic design and dabbled in digital marketing, two major studies of what NOKUA had come to be known for. Everything that I know and achieved today are done by self-learning and self-discovery.”

Alex spent 5 years in his first job before becoming a boss of his own with another partner, starting NOKUA as a two-man team in 2007.

Less than a decade later, NOKUA entered a new chapter by registering themselves as a private limited company (Sdn Bhd), ushering in a new era for both the company and Alex himself.

When we talked about what is the most important aspect of branding among the many components, Alex pursed his lips, his hands clasped together as he leaned forward.

After a second or two, a grin resurfaced from his face once more.

“Every aspect in branding is important."

"In a branding process, the crafting of your visuals is directly linked to how you advance your brand (brand guide). The advertisings and campaigns can then come into play, growing your reputation among your target audiences.” Alex said, sipping his coffee gingerly.

“A brand has a voice, a company does not. I hope many other companies can remember this.”

“We also cannot forget about analyzing your competitors as well. This will allow you to have a competitive advantage over them and thus giving you many different methods to brand your company. A brand has a voice, a company does not. I hope many other companies can remember this.”

When asked about one successful branding campaign he is proud of, Alex talked about the process of branding a local startup, Move On.

“We understand that Move On focuses on modern health enthusiasts, which means that they are tech-savvy,” he said. “We helped craft their brand insights, curate their campaigns and engage with their targeted audiences.”

“After a year, there are over a few hundred participants in their events and runs now. Move On is officially a renowned brand for all sports enthusiasts in Malaysia and have even started to explore the international market! This is just the beginning for them, plenty of roads to go!” Alex continued animatedly.

Growing a brand

When asked how to build a positive outlook for brands, Alex said that his experience as a judge in Muse Awards and Telly Awards exposed him to many different ways to grow a brand, many of which he had not seen before.

“Take the Platinum Award-winning Audi campaign from last year’s Muse Awards, for example,” Alex said.

“Not only does it look premium, it feels like it as well. Even if there’s only a single video in the video player, there is an element of extravagance to it. If I’m one of the selected mailers and not a judge, I would run to the nearest Audi showroom already!”

Alex is also a strong advocate to using the media company mentality, a branding movement that is slowly picking up in Malaysia.

“In Malaysia, we are slow to adopt effective methods to reach the audiences. In NOKUA, we try to go against the slow media current.

There is so much digital content that a company can create to boost their brand. In order to engage with the audiences, we must do more to produce content that they can click and share on the spot.”

“A company must establish a relationship with (consumers) and engage with them accordingly.”

“In Malaysia, most consumers get their first impressions from social media platforms. I believe that it is a waste to spend so much on a billboard and so little in digital marketing. “

“To understand and to evolve with their consumer needs, a company must establish a relationship with them and engage accordingly,” Alex continued.

The importance of branding

Alex shuffled through his folder in his laptop full of logos and taglines NOKUA had done, his eyes brimming with confidence.

“The logo tells a story; the tagline tells you the products or services you are providing. Seems simple enough, but it is not. For example, if you’re a car parts manufacturer for Japanese trucks, your logo should have elements of Japan in it along with a Japanese interpretation of your name.”

By the time he finished shuffling, he mentioned about one local company that has ‘all the elements of perfect branding’: AirAsia.

“The tagline ‘Everyone can fly’ is such a cheeky way to present your brand to your target audience. “

Not only does it let everyone know you can use their services because of their relatively affordable flight tickets, it also links back to their mission and core values as a whole. It is an extremely effective way to let everyone remember what AirAsia is really about, and it is all in just one sentence!”

For all the newcomers

“It is important for startups and aspiring entrepreneurs to look for agencies,” Alex said as he finished his lukewarm coffee, still grinning and animated.

“(The company) should not sacrifice the look and feel of the brand when their products are up to standard.”

“Many newcomers in their industries focus on their products, not on their branding. It is understandable that they do so, but they should set aside a budget for more engagements between their consumers and them. They should not sacrifice the look and feel of the brand when their products are up to standard.”

The virtues of budgeting for branding should never be forgotten, Alex added. It should always be about the brand and how you shape the brand to interlink with your own values.

Curtain call

As I leave the office, I could already hear the methodical typing of the keyboard from the back. Alex had already returned back to work, his eyes locked in and his hands blurring between the keys on his laptop.

With a grin on his face, of course.

If you wish to collaborate with Alex Tan and NOKUA, feel free to drop an email at enquiries@nokuadesign.com or give us a call at +6 (03) 2202 1353.