Coffee Chat with Mark Lankester

January 4, 2016

3 min read



My first blog post of 2016! Woohoo! Happy New Year!!


I am kicking off my new year's ramblings with none other than the charismatic Mark Lankester. He has been the CEO of Tune Hotels Group for the last 8 years, growing the brand internationally and in 2013, he starred alongside Tony Fernandes as one of the judges on a reality TV show, The Apprentice Asia.


I was on a mission to gather some wisdom for the new year. And so, over a cuppa coffee, Mark was so gracious to share some thoughts, tips and tales. 



M: How did you grow the Tune Hotels brand? Can you share the 3 main things you did?

Mark: Asia is not homogeneous. Filipinos will have their own way of doing things, same with Thais, Indonesians, Malaysians and so on. Eventhough we may be 4 hours time zone difference, the difference there is, if someone's asleep in Malaysia and let's say for example the Filipinos decides to stay up a little bit later in the night, you need someone to be able to activate that and act on it. To make everything far more local, this is something I'd like to share from my Warner music days, it's always the case of being global but acting very local. In the music days, you would sell all of the US and UK artists, but you would also sign your own. Invariably speaking, you will find that the domestic market is bigger than the international market. So, if you look at tourism, you will always find that tourism numbers, generally speaking, domestic is larger than international. Alongside that, key thing there was to make sure we would activate ourselves locally, act like a local brand but with international capabilities.


So for Tune Hotels, we...


1. Activate localized social media channels

  • Start up country specific social pages - Indonesia, Philippines, Thailand, Japan, UK so on and so forth.

  • Need to be in local languages because to sell more, you need connect locally.

  • Make sure things are relevant to the local, domestic market. Relevancy is absolutely key.

  • Create a mother/master channel. For Tune Hotels, it is This master channel, occasionally provide some level support to the country social media channels by overriding it. You will find the mother channel will go out with the big sale first, the others will follow. 

  • For marketing communications roll out, in Malaysia, we may start off with the Malaysian hotels followed by London, Australia and etc. In UK, we'll start off with UK hotels first, and also talk about Malaysia and so on and so forth. So, just replicate that.

  • Content in social media is key because it is different for different demographics and countries.


2. Do not try to do everything centrally

  • A lot about building the brand is PR - the old style PR. Talk to bloggers, who are relevant to that particular country. 

  • Do interviews galore, in that particular country and in local languages. Even local magazine find themselves translating into local content to sell better. You can't use one-size fits all. 

  • Outsource it, get a local PR team and a marketing coordinator in that country. It is not necessarily low cost but a more sensible way of doing it rather than building a whole team over there.

  • Good ideas are local because things happen differently. They know what's going on. Good marketing is about staying in the market and understanding it. They understand the market better than anyone sitting in the central office. As long as your messaging is right, your brand values are right, the intrinsic things which the brand is able to do and provide is right, then you have a global mouthpiece. And then you engage them.

  • In engaging local audience, talk about the brand, why we're relevant, why we're different and why we're going to make an impact.

  • Media buy mix regionally is an important area, whether digital or traditional, as it can be far more challenging/difficult than just regional branding. Some media platforms are only available to certain regions/markets, so you need to understand where your markets is and where your market is coming from. 

  • For example Australia, domestic tourism is the biggest. Intrastate is the biggest part of it, so you need to build your brand locally. If you don't have a brand voice over there or any brand recognition, you will always going to be seen as an outsider. You can't rely on international guests because if there is an incident like 9/11 happens, nobody's flying then you're in trouble, so you got to make sure your domestic stays relevant.


3. Find a platform with big regional reach

Find a platform like The Apprentice Asia that have the big reach. As long as you have a centralized mission statement, what the brand values are, what it's all about and do a few tweaks here and there to localize yourself. For example, after Apprentice Asia, Philippines market went ballistic. We were fortunate that a Filipino won, Jonathan Yabut, so Tune Hotels used that opportunity to the highest degree. 



M: How to be a badass apprentice in any organization? 

Mark: Technically, the definition of an apprentice is someone who can learn from a mentor and basically takes on the characteristic and hopefully find success after a time. It is someone who actually learns, and hopefully steps into the person's shoes or has a career path where you're seeing that person going in that direction of the mentor.  


To be a badass apprentice, essentially:


1. Making sure you understand the guts and glory of your mentor. Spending time with them. Getting under the skin because you'll find that every corporation has a little bit of "false skin" there until after you've lift it up, or look under the carpet. Take some of the values which the person has or had. Take it on board. That will at least give you, the starting chance of being a badass apprentice.


2. You got to be shrewd and you've got to be hard. Those people who have been very (very) successful are not honey, sunshine and sunflowers. Difficult decisions have to be made, something's which you will probably not made at that magnitude ever before.


3. Make sure you build a great team. None of those mentors would have been where they are without actually having a great team and a great culture. You don't need to be an apprentice, the company that you're with, will take you on a wave to where it is meant to be. So it's having the team, culture, belief in the vision and moving forward at the right pace, fast.



Thank you Mark for your time. Thanks to you, my new year's blogging resolution is off to a great start! Wisdom gained indeed! : )









M Consulting, the branding and marketing strategy development and activation consultancy, was founded by Mawarni Adam, an award winning marketer with over 13 years of experience in branding and integrated marketing across multiple industries in the ASEAN region. It is her passion in building, revamping, turning around a portfolio, leading change and breathing new life into stagnant business situations that propelled her to establish her own marketing consultancy. Helping others make a positive difference in their businesses excites her. Her direct experience in the Subscription Video-On-Demand, Airline, Insurance, Loyalty, E-commerce, Banking, Venture Capital and Advertising industries, will bring an integrated perspective and valuable marketing input, strategy development and execution to any organization. 


Read more about Mawarni here: About M




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