Evangeline Leong is the CEO and Founder of Kobe Global Technologies, the AI-driven influencer management platform that developed proprietary technology to bring authenticity, trackability, and quality back to influencer marketing.
Q: What inspired you to pursue a career in entrepreneurship and subsequently, Kobe?
A: I have always wanted to test my limit, and at that point, it was to start a profitable company. However, My parents were feeling 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 up what i was having then to start a new company. I could understand where they were coming from. With the support from my boss and friend, who becomes the sleeping business partner and co-founder respectively, I am even more determined to start Kobe. My parents started to give me their support after seeing how determined and excited I was to start Kobe. And this assurance has definitely given me the strength to push kobe to where it is right now.
Q: Tell us more about how the idea of Kobe first started.
A: I was visiting a small wanton noodles stall in MacPherson and I was suddenly curious as to how the store owner managed to remain 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 actually how I came up with the name Kobe. His answer was so simple but still significant as it made me think of how word-of-mouth could be made relevant to businesses everywhere.
Having worked in the digital marketing industry for almost 10 years, the most effective tool for marketing remains as word of mouth. Social media has liberated the speed of word of mouth amongst consumers where we often see our friends or families sharing about their latest experience at a restaurant, an overseas trip.
The adoption of digital innovation, transformation has always been a concern. There are no lack of cutting edge technologies in the market, but the adoption has always been slow. This is due to the unfamiliarity towards something new and intangible. Naming Kobe after the traditional word of mouth Kou Bei 口碑 was intentionally to help bring the understanding of traditional marketing means and bring this tool to businesses.
Q: Share with us your journey
A: Influencer marketing service is no longer the same as before. It is not just about getting anyone to promote a brand’s product or service. A redefined influencer marketing service is about getting the right people to spread the right message for a specific marketing objective. When you have won the opinions of others, they would have become your advocate, and help you win the market.
To accurately get the right people to spread the right message, Kobe adopts Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology which helps to analyse influencers’ profiles. By doing so, we can understand the influencers better and pair them up with the brands according to their image and personality.
Below are some examples of how Kobe assisted different brands to spread the right message using the right people, changing people’s opinions of the brands.
Types of influencer used:
Art students and Creative Coffee-lovers
Showing that drinking package coffee or coffee sachet can be cool, artistic and instagrammable just like cafe hopping.
By showing coffee art rather than just the normal product packaging, this introduces dimensions, as well as, brand personality. The coffee art shows that drinking café 21 can also be cool and artistic. This makes the visuals of the product also worth sharing on social media, hence deeming it“instagrammable”.
Types of influencer used:
People with “hipster” instagram feed and Pepsi lovers
Bring out the unique personality of Pepsi
Only for people with personality and not for masses
Making use of Pepsi’s new product line, Pepsi Black, we wanted to project the image of Pepsi being a cool and unique product that is not consumed by the mass market. The monochrome branding and visuals helped to signal to consumers that drinking Pepsi is “breaking away from the Bore”.
Q: How has Kobe changed the current market for influencer marketing?
A: Kobe has infused Authentic, Relevant and Credible factors into influencer marketing. Through our A.I system, we connect advertisers to relevant everyday influencers, leveraging on their ability to broadcast messages to millions of users so that businesses can get represented in front of their target audience in a credible and authentic manner.
With the use of image recognition in A.I, we can get insights from the images influencers shared by understanding the content such as scenes, food and objects.
Often, contextual content (captions) may not be sufficient to tell us about the content; whereas image recognition can generate a lot more data about the influencer.
We also make use of natural language understanding in AI to extract insight such keywords, categories and concepts from contextual content; even if not explicitly being mentioned.
For example, a millennial may not explicitly mention that he or she is a millennial but would express him/herself with words like “YOLO”, “Study Hard Play Hard” etc., and we will hence be able to learn the concepts of these to be likely a millennial.
Other than just studying the influencers’ profile, our system also helps to study their audiences profile. We would be able to see how many percent of their audiences are male or female, which countries are they from, and what kind of contents the influencers share would garner more conversation with the audiences.
A.I have helped us to pair influencers relevantly with advertisers, and as a result produce content that is authentic, engaging and impactful to advertisers.
Here is a video of our AI technology:
Q: What are your thoughts on the future of influencer marketing?
A: It’s going to be exciting for the future of influencer marketing. Every advertisers would be able to get the right-fit of influencers, for their brands in terms of the brand image and personality. This will be backed up by the data provided through the use of more advanced technology.
Just like how digital marketing changes in its format over the years – the types of content could possibly evolve from lesser words, to more image or video – or even live content.
The way the industry is coined “Influencer Marketing” could evolve to storytelling, co-content creation partnerships etc. but the fundamental of how consumers consume social media, influenced by word-of-mouth opinions would be here to stay.
“Goals without routines are wishes routines without goals are aimless.”
Q: What do you think is the role of artificial intelligence in revolutionising the marketing industry?
A: In terms of influencer marketing, AI is important in helping to determine the relevance.From the influencers’ profile, numbers only tell us two things – number of followers and the engagement rate (number of likes and comments). It does not tell us who the influencers really are.
That’s where relevance plays a much important role in this industry if we want to find influencers who can truly represent the businesses. In Kobe, we believe that relevancy is the most important factor in selecting suitable influencers for businesses.
Relevancy of an influencer can come in various categories such as:
+ Interests – what the influencers like to do (food, photography, café-hopping, parenting activities etc.)
+ Demographic/Profile – which categories the influencers (expatriates, entrepreneurs, students, home cooks etc.
+Brand sentiment – the brands that the influencers like or dislike
+ Content strength – influencers’ focus on content creation (article writing, photo sharing, live streaming etc.
+ Stage of life – (e.g. just married, first-jobber, pregnant etc.) or even Medical condition (e.g. eczema skin, oily hair etc.)
In a nutshell, the more we understand our influencers – the better we can pair them relevantly with advertisers depending on their marketing objective and target audience.
To do this scientifically, objectively and at scale – A.I is the only answer.
Q: Share with us one of the most significant moments in your journey thus far.
A: The most significant moment in my journey has to be the day when Kobe turned 1. My team took the initiative to organise a “1 year anniversary celebration” by baking a cake and surprised me. I felt touched because everyone was so busy and i did not expect them to do so.
They would also initiate to create a fun working environment by implementing a theme day. I would say that i am proud of the culture that Kobe has created. A humble yet confident one, a realistic yet innovative one – much like how perfectly eastern values meets western innovation, we have got a diverse and bonded team that had created all the successes together.
Traffic lights and Black/White Theme
Q: What are some of the challenges that you have faced and how have you overcome them?
A: The influencer marketing industry has a debatable reputation. There have been many sagas and scandals revolving around influencer marketing. Common misconceptions include influencers being fake or deceitful.
However, Kobe aims to change the perception people have of influencers. With Kobe’s PCT patent A.I system, the influencers chosen will be based on relevancy and authenticity, over the traditional selection method based on popularity or ‘style-fit’. This will help to improve the credibility of using influencers for marketing strategy.
In addition, Kobe has introduced #UNCUT program, an initiative that aims to promotes authenticity. Through #UNCUT, the influencers will be donating part of their money received from the campaigns to charity organizations. Through this initiative, we want to involve our influencers in helping the society together and at the same time, informing people that influencers are not just out there to make money.
We have since had an overwhelming response in the participation of #UNCUT, differentiating Kobe as the influencer platform with trusted influencers.
Q: How do you handle stress and pressure?
A: I simply take off my shoes! My socks always have cute cartoons on them, like Mickey Mouse or Minions. When I’m feeling low I’ll let my feet “talk” to each other — and if I step on that poor Minion and they still feel alright – who am I to be upset?
Besides that, I love heading into Johor Bahru over the weekends for good food and relaxation with friends. Our team at Kobe gathers once every few weeks to play basketball or soccer too!
Q: Success to me is…
A: Success to me is when i am able to make a positive impact. It can be making an impact to my team, by providing guidance so that they can reach their goals. It can also be making an impact to the influencer marketing industry, by educating the advertisers and public, and changing their perception towards influencer marketing.
Q: Do you have any advice for aspiring women entrepreneurs?
A: “Goals without routines are wishes; routines without goals are aimless.”
I would say set your eyes on the stars, and put your feet on the ground. Set a vision that
excites you and have the discipline to work and achieve the vision. This cycle will go on.
Review your vision, and have the discipline to put in the work. The process is never ending.