When Haze Becomes A Marketing Strategy


“Wow, today macam Genting,” read the text message that I received from my teammate when the recently-ended haze started early September.

At that point of time, I brushed it off thinking that the haze won’t be around for long. Probably another week at most. It turned out to be a month-long phenomenon of choking on dust particles in the air as we unwillingly breathed it into our lungs. Truly a depressing ambience.

The recent haze occurrence was due to the forests burning in Kalimantan and Sumatra. Schools were closed, health reports escalated, air traffic was affected, and many more repercussions have been reported as a result of the haze.

Mention of the haze was suddenly everywhere – advertisements made sly comments about the haze, companies started talking about the advantages of remote working policy, and brands not in the health industry shared tips about staying healthy despite the air condition outside. There was even a hilarious Spotify playlist with songs symbolising the haze! 

All the content above were made so easily available for an average media consumer to engage with; be it talking about them, or sharing them around with others, consequently increasing the visibility of brands of the content producers. Going back to the haze-related content, are all of the content in relation to the haze produced just for fun? Most likely, it’s not. In fact, it’s actually a marketing strategy and it’s simply called Real-time Marketing (RTM).

What’s RTM?

As defined by Marketing Land, RTM is “when brands and agency marketers react quickly to local, national or global events happening online or offline, in an effort to interject corporate marketing into consumer conversations via social media messaging or boost brand recognition utilizing marketing platforms.”

RTM requires companies to be quick and nimble to be aligned with the trends that are happening either locally or globally. Most times, content needs to be shifted to fit the mood as content creators shuffle around to produce works that respond to how the target audience react to the ongoing situation. You will probably ask, “What’s with all the effort?”.

Firstly, producing RTM content shows that companies are capable to pick up current happenings and empathise with them. Corporates are not made of cold-hearted robots; we are humans just like everyone else! During the haze, we Malaysians went through the same struggles and hardships. Hence, it’s the human connection that makes us feel that we should be sharing ways on how all of us can live better lives. We breathe the same air after all.

Secondly, RTM is a great way to give brands a positive boost. Together with building a positive brand sentiment, creating relatable and useful content will cause consumers to start sharing and spreading this content around their circles. Hence, giving these brands a wider reach without additional cost!  When a piece of content does well enough to be shared around like this, it’s known as viral marketing. If done right, people will take notice of the content, and applaud the brand for their responsiveness and savviness towards the situation. An example can be seen below:



A Malaysian royalty made the statement in the photo in the Parliament which tickled many hearts of Malaysians. Nando’s Malaysia jumped at the chance to add its own spin to this and people loved it!


Positive sentiments towards the brand was palpable around social media.

The thing to keep in mind is that RTM shouldn’t just be done on whim.  There is a very thin line to tread; brands must be careful to execute content that responds, and not just reacts, to the ongoing situations. They also need to be aware of trends within their local markets and how their customers communicate. Therefore, what are the things to keep in mind for successful RTM? 

  1. Audience’s behaviour

Your immediate audience is the most important factor in running successful RTM content. Ask yourself these questions: Is the content suitable for your business? Would it be useful for your audience? Would posting the RTM content seem out-of-the-blue for your brand?

You need to be cautious with the RTM content you are producing to avoid being seen as something that is forced, out of place, or insincere as it will backfire against initial positive intentions. Therefore, understanding your audience’s behaviour is very important.

       2. Timeliness

Getting the right content out at the right time is the basis of RTM. If not executed well, it will turn out disconnected. For instance, a company creates content on safety measures for children during the haze with the intention of connecting with parents but by the time the content gets released, the haze has already disappeared. In situations like this, the posted content will seem out-of-trend and almost like an afterthought, hence getting low engagement and has no effect to the target audience. Therefore, when it comes to RTM, content creators need to be alert towards trends and able to catch on quickly.

One company that stood out during the recent haze phenomenon was Coway Malaysia where they produced an advertisement to promote their products and services.



Coway, a water, air and home wellness company released this video in mid-September. The air purifier advertisement not only draws from the trendy K-pop music culture, but it was also released at the peak of the haze in Malaysia. The video has garnered close to 2 million views within a week!

What is interesting is that the video could have been planned and produced way before the haze phenomenon but since the company could have seen it coming (seeing that the haze seems like an annual occurrence), they aptly released the advertisement during the condition, hence boosting their brand and now Coway is probably on top of Malaysians’ mind now when it comes to air purifier products above other brands selling the same thing.


RTM may seem like a gut response to the events that are happening on the ground, but a lot of planning and strategising is required when it comes to producing the appropriate content. And it needs to happen quickly or this would become a missed opportunity for your brand. For something like the haze, missing your chance would mean you’ll have to wait another year before it comes back (not that we are wishing for it to happen again!).


Brands and organisations today are expected to be in tune and in touch with their intended audience and trends, delivering key touchpoints and relevant messaging. As a young and vibrant team, we would love to work with your brands on marketing strategies that resonates with your respective target audiences, consequently boosting your brand experience.   


Photo credits: Nando’s Malaysia Twitter