We Are Social has bought a majority stake in Singapore-based influencer marketing agency Kobe Global Technologies to beef up its influencer marketing services across Southeast Asia. Kobe will continue to operate as an independent brand under founder and CEO Evangeline Leong (pictured right) as well as co-founder Cha Lin (pictured left). Meanwhile, Leong will report to CEO of We Are Social Singapore, Christina Chong. 

Kobe was founded in 2016 and touts itself to have delivered influencer marketing for over 500 brands, including clients such as Suntory, Logitech, United Overseas Bank, PepsiCo, as well as Suntec City and Genki Sushi Singapore. Kobe also clinched silver for Best Social Influencer Agency at MARKETING-INTERACTIVE 's Hashtag Asia Awards 2021  and gold for Influencer Agency of the Year at MARKETING-INTERACTIVE 's Agency of the Year Awards 2021. The agency currently has over 20 employees in Singapore and five across Southeast Asia and collaborates with celebrities and influencers, touting access to 100 million eyeballs with 20,000 content creators across the region with the help of AI. Meanwhile, We Are Social Singapore has approximately 80 employees. 

While Leong declined to reveal the monetary value of the acquisition, she told MARKETING-INTERACTIVE that the move was two years in the making and she chose to sell to We Are Social for three reasons, the first being its expertise in data research and insights. According to Leong, its prowess in data research and insights has propelled We Are Social to be a social media leader among social media agencies. "I thought that was a very smart and strategic way of positioning themselves as a thought leader in social media. It's very aligned with how we have been using an education approach to propel ourselves as thought leaders in influencer marketing. This alignment was a very big fit for us," Leong explained.

Secondly, Kobe was also drawn to the prominent clients in We Are Social's portfolio, such as adidas, Netflix, and Samsung, as well as its large global network with its offices in Hong Kong, Japan, the UK, US and France, among others. At the same time, We Are Social also has the backing of Chinese marketing services firm BlueFocus Group, as well as global private equity and investment firms CVC Capital Partners and CDPQ.

"I believe that We Are Social is well-positioned to build a global network for the future with its global offices. It has a very strong infrastructure and leadership in social media. Hence, it was a strong strategic fit," she added.

As Kobe continues to function as an independent entity under We Are Social, Leong plans to evolve the agency's offerings through We Are Social's expertise and infrastructure. "Influencers have become a very integral component of social media. Hence, I think there will definitely be a good integration between both parties," she said. 

"We are very excited to be joining this large global network. I'm looking forward to all the data, insights, strategy and creative expertise we can gain. We have predominantly sharpened our niche in influencer marketing but when it comes to the overall strategy and creative work across marketing and social, that's where We Are Social's strength lies," she said.

Kobe's main focus is to double down on social media, enhance its product offerings, and be able to serve complex large-scale influencer campaigns. That said, Leong plans to hire more experienced talent in the area of influencer marketing as well as talent to beef up its account servicing team. "We will focus on these two to build on the company and take on more sophisticated and larger talents. Hence, we'll require talent expansion," she explained.

Meanwhile, We Are Social's co-founder and group CEO, Nathan McDonald (picture below centre), said the acquisition not only strengthens its Singapore offering but also shows its intention to harness more opportunities in Southeast Asia. At the same time, We Are Social's Chong (pictured below left) said: "Influencer marketing has always been an important part of our creative product across our network. We’re excited to share our expertise with the Kobe team, and to further strengthen our own influencer offering with Kobe’s skills and technology."

we are social kobe

What does the future hold for Asia's influencer marketing scene?

"It's growing exponentially in two ways" was Leong's response when asked about Asia's influencer marketing scene. Firstly, influencer marketing no longer focuses on specific platforms. In the past, for example, brands would specifically search for YouTubers to churn out content on YouTube. Instead, influencer marketing these days is cross-platform and Leong explained that the creative executions for influencer marketing are now very innovative and touch on new types of formats. "It's a very big evolution from the past when it was just a single blog post," she said, adding that storytelling is no longer just about taking a photo. Instead, it's about telling a whole story and giving it relevance and authenticity.

"We also look at cross-border influencers because Singaporeans do follow influencers who aren't local. Asia is also evolving in the area of digital so this means people now have access to devices and large networks. Through this, they can also find their passion to share what they are doing on social media," Leong said.

According to her, the influencer marketing scene has evolved such that it is no longer dominated by the same few popular individuals. Instead, there are fresh names entering the scene which according to Leong "really levels the playing field". "I see a lot more opportunities for brands to engage these types of people who can put a different spin to influencer marketing campaigns," she explained.

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