• Kaylee Chung

Knock Knock, Who's There: Khong Guan Visit

Source: danielfooddiary.com

Thus begins our first post of a new segment: Knock Knock Who's There! 😊 Where we write about visits to company offices, have a chat with the staff (which might or might not have been planned..) and provide some insights to how companies can continue to stay competitive in the industry.

First stop: Khong Guan! Amazingly, from the name itself, it triggered an unconscious reaction of me deeply inhaling as if hoping the buttery, homey smell of Khong Guan biscuits would tickle my olfactory senses. Of course, followed quickly by

a twinge of guilt, recalling I was also an incessant gem stealer. Admit it. We all were.

Khong Guan is no doubt a nostalgic brand, as per their tagline: “A legacy of Generations, the taste of Traditions”, which I felt was ingenious and captured the exact essence of my sentiments. With Khong Guan biscuits (and the sugar from gem biscuits hehe) running through my veins, I couldn’t pass over a visit to their office, albeit unannounced when our team (Desmond, Lionel and I) was passing through the area.

Like their biscuits, their people are also a reflection of the familial vibes, as the security guard, receptionist and business executive took it in stride to welcome us. The business executive, though quizzical at our arrival was extremely professional as we introduced our company. Lionel and I, being inexperienced interns, were super shy and hesitant, but Desmond, armed to the teeth with experience and confidently winged it. “Why not right, we are BD eh” (Desmond, June 2019)

Okay Desmond, ok.

Being a brand intricately tied to Singapore’s history (found this out after some quick googling on their website), I found a deep sense of pride scrolling through their website, seeing how their business has progressed throughout the years synonymous to the Singaporean economy. Yet as I trawled through their web page, I felt that the UI/UX services on the website could certainly be improved to decrease the cognitive load while promoting more of their products and by extension, branding can also be strengthened.

Branding strikes a chord in me because while Khong Guan certainly had great branding (don't teach your grandmother how to suck eggs right, they survived till now...), how can we make sure this brand continues to thrive? Here's when we start deep diving into the core of Khong Guan's presence. To me, Khong Guan biscuits were always just there, like a staple you wouldn’t pay any particular attention to, but will always fall back to because of its familiarity. Just like how Sheldon (in Young Sheldon! Yay one of my favourite Netflix shows to binge watch) describes Missy: To me, you’re like string beans. No one asks for them, no one wonders about them. They’re just there on a plate. But you eat them anyway.

But what if people no longer recognise Khong Guan as the familiar? It is easy to fade away and even go unnoticed for awhile, especially if you're string beans.

With the influx of foreign products due to globalisation (not complaining though, yay to my Japanese snacks!!), what if the new generation’s staple no longer becomes Khong Guan, but Pocky breadsticks, Meiji cookies, Jacobs cream cookies? The layers of nostalgia depreciate as we progress, and the intrinsic association with the brand crumbles. I hope at this point no one envisions me like some cult leader with a sweatband and a huge board shouting “Let’s save Khong Guan!” because they don’t need saving, but rather every company should know how consumers feel about their brand, their products or their campaigns, in order to stay competitive in this rapidly changing world.

Here's where I feel packaging should come in, because in a wall of new products, aisles with shelves stuffed full of consumables, packaging now becomes the first "taste" consumers get of this product. I find myself gravitating towards the jarringly yellow and blue packet of Chips Ahoy! cookies and before i know it, its in my basket, hightailing for the checkout counter. With all these new, competitive emerging brands and the changing dynamics of Gen X, Y and Z's co-existence, knowing and understanding your consumers will bestow you a competitive edge over your peers.

Thoughts aside, after our visit to the office, by sheer luck we stumbled upon this quaint Khong Guan café called Alchemist, which gave me the 1960s hipster café vibes.

Here’s me trying to exude some hipster vibes synonymous to that of the exterior of the Alchemist. (Proof I’m not a cult leader!!!)

Our BD Boss Desmond:

Desmond was pretty sold on the café’s whole vibes and ordered his favourite black coffee and commented like a true connoisseur. Here’s a picture of him looking all so happy and hipster!

The interior. Weird that the barista’s area took up about 70% of the store space, while seating area was rather limited.

I talked to the barista (late BD work because I chickened out at the main office hehe) and got to know more about the existence of this café. The building was apparently a conservation building, and was the Khong Guan office, now turned into a cafe, and retaining the old exterior. The Alchemist roasted their own coffee beans so they could control the sweetness and the quality of coffee beans, so they needed space for the huge equipment.

Also, since it was a Khong Guan café, I felt it odd that they did not serve the nostalgic biscuits that I thought would have brought in an extra pull factor and maybe increase sales? The shy barista agreed with me and said he would try to feedback to the management. Hopefully we can get complimentary biscuits to go with our coffee next time 😊

All in all it was an extremely fun experience door-knocking with the BD team! 10/10 would do it again and perhaps next time I’ll be a better BD intern and not throw my boss under the bus to do the pitches HAHAHA. It was really insightful to talk to the people working at Khong Guan, be it at the office or the café and I really liked the vibes!

In this ever-changing world, our consumers' preferences ever so uncertain. The update in our understanding of consumers has to be continual to ensure targeted, efficient business strategies to further develop and improve a brand. Certainly do hope that my work at Neurotrend will be able to in some way or another, add value to Khong Guan and make them stand out as a brand by sleuthing out what the consumers think, and in the bigger picture, Singapore’s traditions. Ah, big dreams of a small young Singaporean…

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