Name: Evangeline Leong
Role: CEO of Kobe
Evangeline Leong is the co-founder and CEO of Kobe, an influencer marketing agency that has clinched awards and delivered for over 500 brands. Recently, the agency was acquired as an independent brand under We Are Social Singapore – we get upfront with Evangeline on what’s in store for the brand in this new chapter, as well as the future of influencer marketing.
1. What are your hobbies?
There are so many hobbies that I picked up over the last few years – running, yoga, skateboarding & cycling! Recently, I started practicing piano to wind down after a long day.
2. What is your favourite quote and why?
“We have the answers, all the answers; it’s the questions we do not know.”
Curiosity and clarity have always been my personal values in life. And that is why I often remind myself to keep asking the whys before deep-diving into the whats and hows.
Questions I’ve always asked myself: What are my values, and why? What drives me, and why? What scares me, and why? What am I grateful for, and why? The list goes on.
Constantly asking myself questions leads me to clarity of my purpose and values.
3. Where’s your top foodie spot and favourite dish there?
It has to be CCK 190 Wanton Mee at Circuit Road. Firstly, I love wanton mee so much that I can eat it for every meal. Secondly, this is also the place where Kobe first started.
Long story short, I was curious as to how the stall owner remained popular even with other competing stores opening. His answer to me really struck me “我的口碑好” (my word-of-mouth recommendation is good). That’s how I came up with the name Kobe (口碑, kǒu bēi).
His answer was so simple but powerful – it made me think of how word-of-mouth could be made relevant to businesses everywhere.
4. Last good Netflix show you watched?
Explained. My number one value is ‘curiosity’, so this show answers a lot of my questions on interesting social, economic, political issues, and more.
5. If you could have a superpower, what would it be?
If I could have a superpower, I would want to stop time! I could have worked on so many more things – be it work or my hobbies. Most importantly, I will be able to spend more time with my loved ones and my dog, Cookie.
6. Three words people use to describe you:
Probably eccentric, inspiring, and fit? I do hope I live up to their expectations hahaha.
7. Three words you’d use to describe yourself:
A “work-in-progress”. There are still so many things I’m trying to learn and explore, hence I will always be a work-in-progress.
8. Tell us a fun fact that most of your employees don’t know about you
I am terrified of wet or dirty tissues! A friend pranked me when I was young by throwing tissues into a laksa soup telling me it was dumplings. I almost ate it and since then, I have had a fear of wet or dirty tissues.
9. What’s a personal or professional goal you have most don’t know about?
To keep up with my morning routine of the 5AM club, waking up exercise, meditate, read and journal before the day begins.
10. What was the most memorable moment in your career?
Kobe’s first year anniversary. I was doing my work when all of a sudden, everyone started singing a birthday song and holding a home-baked cake. Of course, I quickly sang along too, not knowing who was it for. To my surprise, they were singing for Kobe’s first birthday!
Companies usually celebrate their anniversaries with big marketing campaigns and big parties. I never expected the team to celebrate that special moment with me. Even till today, that moment will always be the most memorable one to me.
Kobe’s own mini birthday celebration.
11. What prompted you to start Kobe?
I have always wanted to test my limits, and start a profitable company. However, my parents were understandably uneasy at first because I was doing well in my previous job. My life was stable and there was no reason for me to give that up to start a new company.
But with the support from my boss and friend, who became the sleeping business partner and co-founder respectively, I was determined to start Kobe. My parents started to give me their support after seeing how excited I was – this assurance gave me the strength to push the company to where it is right now.
12. Marketing campaign done by others that most inspired you:
Tons! Netflix campaigns generally always inspire me. There was this one where they put dead zombies in the bus and the bus moves around. Ah yes, All of Us Are Dead!
And I am not saying that just because We Are Social was behind them :p
13. Marketing campaign done by you (Kobe) that you’re most proud of:
We have a strong team behind all of our campaigns and I am proud of each and every single one of them. If I really had to decide, the first campaign that popped out in my head would be the Mountain Dew x PUBG collaboration.
It was one of the most interesting and innovative storytelling campaigns we have worked on – a collaboration between two brands from different verticals. How were we going to come up with a concept which could highlight both brands?
Storytelling is no longer just about posing, taking a photo, and posting it online. It’s about telling a whole story, giving it relevance and authenticity. One of the creative executions done by our team was the use of creative overlays, with the strikingly bright green lightning – that really stood out! Of course, along with the great content creators engaged for this campaign.
14. Peers you highly respect in the local industry:
Rachit, Prantik from Happy Marketers Guys (now Merkle Singapore). They are so intelligent, humble and kind.
15. Why do you think influencer marketing works?
Influencer marketing, to put it simply, is word-of-mouth marketing, and WOM has always been recognised as one of the most influential sources of information spread since decades ago.
Imagine a friend, family member, or even colleague telling you about how great CCK 190 Wanton Mee tastes. You’ve tried it, it tastes great, you tell your friends, family, colleagues. Very quickly, many people are talking about CCK 190 Wanton Mee, and the next thing you know, everybody wants to try CCK 190 Wanton Mee.
In the context of influencer marketing, it works the same, just with the help of social media and Key Opinion Consumers (KOCs) – people like you and me. We are all KOCs in one way or another. One story or one post on social media from multiple KOCs to their followers, and BAM! Everybody’s curious. Just imagine the number of eyeballs we have reached!
We’ve always believed that “The essence of Influence is about hijacking influencers’ close relationships with their followers to engage real people, create content with credibility to generate word-of-mouth (口碑)”.
16. What qualities do you look out for in influencers and what do you think makes one successful in this area?
Fun fact: There is a picture of a faceless lady on all our media kits and she’s there for a reason.
Said “faceless lady” on the media kit.
At Kobe, we believe that the most successful influencers are neither the prettiest nor the most handsome-looking ones. It is also not a battle of who has a higher following and reach, but rather the ones who are the most authentic and relevant.
17. Any interesting trends you see in the influencer marketing industry for the next few years?
There are so many trends I would like to share, but first of all, I think “Influencer marketing” will no longer exist.
Don’t get me wrong! We’ve seen an upward trend in the word “influencer” change towards “content creator” in the past couple of years – like how “blogger” was used in the past, but nobody really uses that term anymore.
Secondly, I would say it’s cross-border influence. We noticed that cross-border lines are fading as we globalise. People have access to devices and large networks and Singaporeans these days don’t just follow local creators. Coss border potential is high, so we’ve also engaged non-Singaporean influencers to create content on subject matters to target the different markets.
It’s an exciting trend, and that is why we are extremely excited to be part of the We Are Social’s large global network – to be able to tap on their strengths across both marketing and social.
18. Advice for students thinking of starting a career in an agency? And what do you look for in hires?
Be adaptable. The industry changes very quickly, what we learnt a few months back might not be as relevant anymore because of new trends, new features, or even new platforms.
I would look out for people who possess the courage to try things out despite a fear of the unknown, and the mentality to constantly pursue new knowledge in the market to stay relevant.
Do whatever job allows you to build experience, learn from the best, and hone transferable soft skills and professional values. These go a long way. Work on your earning power. Earn later. And in the toughest times – see it as an opportunity to build your character. Don’t give up. Make a dent.
19. What do you think makes a good CEO / leader?
A good CEO and leader is one who is able to empower people – be it stakeholders, investors, or employees. Value can be defined very differently for each individual. Hence it is always important to communicate with these people, to know their motivators and challenges.
20. What do you hope to accomplish at Kobe after joining forces with We Are Social?
We are very excited to join forces with We Are Social, who will help supercharge Kobe with data, insights, strategy and creative expertise. Access to We Are Social’s global capabilities will enhance our existing services, creating opportunities for our amazing team and clients.
We also wanted to align with We Are Social because of these factors:
Independence. We Are Social will give us the freedom to continue being Kobe. They believe in our brand, vision, strategy, culture and team and will leave them unchanged.
Fit. We’re like-minded and share the same track record of amazingly fast growth. entrepreneurial spirit and ambition.
Expertise. We Are Social is the undisputed leader in social for disruptive, award-winning and cutting-edge work. Coupled with the research insights produced by data reports, we believe WAS will continue to be strategically propelled as an industry thought leader.
This post is part of our Media Industry Leaders series. If you’d like to be featured, or have a nominee in mind, please drop us a note at firstname.lastname@example.org.