Those in the advertising and entertainment worlds find it difficult to understand when I talk about him as a game changer- him being Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges, CEO of the Hong Kong Jockey Club.

The penny drops when mentioning that if not for the man who arrived in Hong Kong from Germany over twenty years ago and some of us have the privilege of knowing as “E.B”, there would never have been those Happy Wednesday nights.

Making this happen and bringing me in after EMI Music self-imploded to help create that much-needed mid-week break for many in Hong Kong was his.

Situated in the unique location that is Happy Valley Racecourse, and starting with the Beer Garden, everything evolved seamlessly into being the city’s only open air club and the most unique venue for ‘live’ music, socialising and giving horse racing a makeover.

Here’s also someone who has that mental agility to explain how to read the totaliser, explain every aspect of horse racing, take you through the psyche of the main characters in the “Godfather” trilogy and then talk about his appreciation for the talent of artists like Marvin Gaye, Bob Marley, Barry White, Amy Winehouse and Mr Bojangles- Sammy Davis Jr.

For over five years, maybe longer, “E.B” has also been talking about the importance of catering to the wants and needs of today’s very different customer demographics.

To an ex “Mad Man” from ad agency DDB, and someone very interested in looking at how brands and products are marketed- and why- conversations with “E.B” are always interesting obstacle courses that might wander all over the place, and, more often than not, lead to solutions. They just do.

Whenever he gets into customer demographics- and it’s often without being a bore- it brings back memories of working on the McDonald’s business- an extremely focused and disciplined business built on the promise of always providing customers with Q,S,C and V- Quality, Service, Cleanliness and Value.

McDonald’s also made sure that no one working on the business lost sight that its flagship product was and is the Big Mac.

Add to this, the emphasis placed on creating content and everything else needed to appeal to the kid, tween, teen and adult markets. The “tween” market was something new to me, but I got it.

Also understood was why McDonald’s in the States used three different ad agencies- one to market their product exclusively to the Black market, another only for the Latino market and the main agency overseeing the ‘look’ and ‘feel’ of whatever was McDonald’s corporate advertising theme at the time.

This had to do with ensuring that the marketing and creative product for these three very different customer groups was worked by those who not only understood, but were part of these communities.

There was always a Burger War going on with Burger King, plus, McDonald’s, which positioned its outlets as family restaurants, looked at every other fast food business as competition.

It was savvy, strategic marketing. Those of us who worked on the account in an executive level needed to attend Hamburger University in Chicago and spend time at every work station. This was to help us understand those part time staff working behind the counters and their commitment to McDonald’s.

Sure, it all sounds somewhat goofy and an exercise in brainwashing whereas Ronald McDonald always gave me the creeps, but I graduated from Hamburger University with a Degree in French Fries and Hamburgerology.

Of course, the marketing of horse racing is far less complicated, which is not to say that it shouldn’t keep evolving and being aware of consumer trends and the constantly changing media landscape. The music industry took its eye off the ball for a nanu second and is still being spanked for this- for allowing technology to overwhelm the music.

Mistakes like this are not lost on the CEO of the HKJC and the Chairman of the Asian Racing Federation. I know: ARF? Other than everything else on his plate, it’s making his troops understand that one customer size doesn’t fit all. Not even Trainer John Size. That’s a pun.

Especially during these long and tedious Covid days and nights, with horse racing- and pretty much every other industry- having to move online and/or become a television product, there’s the need to realise this and the huge difference it’s made to marketing in the new abnormal.

For example, the 24-28 female consumer could never be put into one box. Same with the 28-38 customer, especially the female customer. Gawd knows, no two females are the same. Perish the thought…

In the extremely crowded online world, with different products jockeying for positions to be noticed is not about throwing everything against the wall and see what sticks.

Each age group can be subdivided into individuals with very different tastes- different tastes in what they wish to do in their spare time, different tastes in every form of entertainment and, in a nutshell, different ways of looking at what makes them happy.

More and more, if these different customer demographics had one thing in common, it’s this: Being happy.

For the marketer, it’s understanding this and doing everything possible to offer customers this intangible thing called “happiness”.

None of this is to say that there’s a need to get rid of the very basics of its business. It’s not unlike McDonald’s flagship product always being the Big Mac.

In horse racing, the CEO of the HKJC knows it’s always evolution and not revolution. It’s about offering and improving the basics needed by its current customer base, but, in tandem, looking at new business streams, very possibly relooking at the wagering landscape, and finding new ways of expanding its popularity.

Of course, the latter objective can only be achieved by persuading those currently not looking at racing find something interesting enough so that they make the time to see if this leisure pastime is for them.

This is what the Happy Wednesday was and is all about. It’s nothing to do with teaching newbies how to bet. It’s everything to do with having them see that, first and foremost, horse racing is good, clean fun. That it’s entertainment and that “younger people” are not some freaks of nature.

In 2021 and almost everyone fighting for attention in the same online space, surely there is a need, now more than ever, for horse racing to continue with its country specific marketing and advertising campaigns for all those different customer demographics out there- and, at the same time, have one global campaign?

One can hear the groans. But Impossible is nothing.

Every major global brand and product has a thematic advertising and marketing campaign. This is to create uniformity and one consistent message and image.

Getting here won’t be easy. But no one said life would be easy. It’s all about adapting to Change in what is the new abnormal and making it work.

If anyone can make this happen, it’s “E.B”. The game that’s horse racing needs some changing.

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