Kenneth Chia set up Pencil Sword, a marketing agency that helps brands find their voice in this rather noisy marketplace.
What’s your story?
My story begins with a little dream, a not-so-little zit, and a healthy diet of mystery novels. I was in primary one when a geeky classmate introduced me to a “detective book.” I soon developed the habit of reading one book every day. In primary two, I wrote my first “novel.” That was the start of a decade of excellent English grades (and appalling Math and Science grades). In college, I was exposed to advertising, and I knew this was where I could put my creativity and love of writing to good use. I spent nine years in multinational advertising agencies, helping to grow the likes of Samsung, Lego, adidas and McDonald’s. Earlier this year, I founded marketing agency Pencil Sword.
What excites you most about your industry?
Marketing has its pulse on the world – it is, in fact, a microcosm of what’s going on around us. When millennials got on Instagram stories, we developed ways to communicate with them there. As the population ages, we create branded apps that facilitate the everyday lives of elderly folks. It’s exciting to be in an industry that’s forward-thinking and so in touch with the real world.
What’s your connection to Asia?
I’ve lived half a year in India, and spent some time teaching in a Burmese orphanage, working on a Taiwanese farm and backpacking around Vietnam. I’m currently living in Singapore.
Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
I’m not the best person to answer this question, but Singapore – with its credibility and efficiency (until the next SMRT boo-boo) – seems like a pretty decent choice.
What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
“Be clear, then creative.” This applies to marketing ideas, and life itself.
Who inspires you?
I draw inspiration from everyone – and everything – around me.
What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
The power of being genuine.
If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
I would have being more open to learning about other industries and financial concepts, as opposed to just working hard and being a good copywriter.
How do you unwind?
I love film, and an occasional session of squash or board games.
Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
It’s a toss between Bali and Japan… but I’ll go with the latter. Scenic, idyllic onsens coupled with their signature hospitality and culinary prowess is pretty hard to beat.
Everyone in business should read this book:
Extremely Loud & Incredibly Clear by Jonathan Safran Foer.
Shameless plug for your business:
Pencil Sword is a marketing agency that helps brands find their voice in this rather noisy marketplace. Helmed by an award-winning copywriter, we help translate every brand’s purpose into relevant and engaging content in the real world. Our clientele includes McDonald’s, Mercedes Benz, Prudential, Singapore Power, and a spectrum of SMEs.
How can people connect with you?
I believe in collaborations. Feel free to connect with me at [email protected].
This interview is part of the ‘Callum Connect’ series of more than 500 interviews
Callum Laing is an entrepreneur and investor based in Singapore. He has previously started, built and sold half a dozen businesses and is now a Partner at Unity-Group Private Equity and Co-Founder of The Marketing Group PLC. He is the author two best selling books ‘Progressive Partnerships’ and ‘Agglomerate’.