Interview with Stefan Bruun, MD, Lion&Lion

official bloggerEditor’s Note: I am very pleased to be the official blogger for the Insight Valley Asia conference that is taking place at Bangkok (16/17 May 2013). I will be publishing a series of expert interviews from the panel of speakers at the Insight Asia Conference – so stay tuned at the Online MR Blog! Today my guest is Stefan Bruun who is the Managing Director of Lion&Lion.

Brief background of Stefan Bruun: 

Stefan Bruun

Stefan Bruun

Stefan Bruun is the Founder of Lion&Lion, the fastest growing digital marketing agency in the region. Lion&Lion helps its clients effectively invest their marketing budgets across all online channels by leveraging world-class best practice knowledge and technology. Stefan was the Asia Pacific CMO and the leading expert on online marketing for Rocket Internet the venture, behind e.g., Zalora, Lazada, Groupon, and was responsible for a marketing budget of over USD 200 million.

Stefan was a VP at Groupon in Asia and in Investment Banking at Morgan Stanley in London. Stefan holds a BS in International Business from Copenhagen Business School.

Stefan shares insights on his popular blog

Akshay Kanyal: Tell us something about your company in terms of history, service suite, future plans etc.

Stefan Bruun: Our history is not so long. We have been around for less than a year, but our team has grown quite a lot since then. Our background is from starting companies around the world. I was the CMO for APAC at Rocket Internet, and have hence been part of shaping the strategy for market leading companies like Zalora, Groupon, Lazada and The Iconic plus a list of other companies.

Our aim with Lion&Lion is to help other companies get to the level of execution and digital understanding that we had at Rocket Internet. We help both promising start-ups as well as global blue-chip companies.

Akshay Kanyal: What are your key responsibility areas, the challenges and your approach for the same?

Stefan Bruun: I help clients put together the right strategy across channels and I am deeply involved in the execution ensuring that we deliver the results that we have planned.

The key challenge is often in education – many CMOs either have little experience with digital or they are subject to budget approval of someone who does not understand it.

The only right approach to this is education. We spend a lot of time educating our clients and ensuring that they understand the implications of what we do and understand the output and the numbers. It doesn’t matter how well you perform, if the clients or their superiors do not know how to read the numbers and results.

Akshay Kanyal: Given the current focus on the Asia Pacific market what opportunities and threats you foresee in the coming 5 years?

Stefan Bruun: The big opportunity is obviously in helping all the companies who clearly wants to grow online, but don’t have the knowhow internally or don’t have access to the right talent, simply because the right talent doesn’t exist in their market.

The threat for them and for us as an agency is that they end with an agency who doesn’t know what they are doing. This can result in bad results and a company who once burned their fingers on some bad digital marketing is usually holding back a lot more.

The challenge is that it is so easy to open a Facebook company page or Google Adwords account, so most people can start an agency tomorrow or freelance, despite not knowing what they do.

Akshay Kanyal: Have you ever participated in the Insight Valley Conferences? If yes what has been your overall experience?

Stefan Bruun: I haven’t got the chance to participate in Insight Valley before. It is a new thing that Rocket Internet has opened up towards conferences and such. While I was still there, we were a lot more closed and secretive.

Akshay Kanyal: Can you elaborate on the topic you will be speaking at the Insight Valley Asia conference?

Stefan Bruun: Sure! Data is quite a buzz word these days.

There are many, many different ways to leverage it, but it is often thought of in a utopian way that can solve all the major problems for a marketer. I don’t quite share that way of thinking about it. To me, there are quite a few mindset changes that people have to make before the real value can be derived.

I will talk about some of these such as how data influences the marketing mix, how budgeting is different and how the entire look at finance and economics should change for transaction-based companies.

Many of the key points are applicable for companies without advanced big data software – it all starts with the right mindset!

Akshay Kanyal: Big Data is the latest buzzword gaining momentum in the research/insights circle – is it really something new or has been existence for long?

Stefan Bruun: I think it has existed for long.

Maybe I am biased by being raised in digital pure plays, but in essence, the only thing that has changed is that with bigger volumes of and better quality of data, the return on using it is higher. For that reason alone, it makes sense to do more analysis and hence derive more value.

Akshay Kanyal: [Smart Data > Big data] what is your take on it?

Stefan Bruun: I think smarts is definitely more important than the volume per se. I have experienced many companies with tons of data that was never really utilized, because the team didn’t know what to do or where to find out what to do.

On the other hand, I have rarely found teams with very smart marketers who didn’t manage to get the most out of their data or even find new ways to generate more data.

One of my key points when I talk to CMOs, CEOs, Marketing managers etc. is always that the way you think of data is step one. I think it is safe to say that Groupon and Rocket Internet are among the top companies globally, when it comes to online marketing.

When we bring that mindset and skill set to other companies, it is often light years ahead of what they have done before, so updating them on the way they should be thinking about data is quite often an efficient step in itself. But there is obviously always a step from understanding the principles to executing on them.

Akshay Kanyal: The greatest concern with Big Data is ‘privacy issues’ – what are your thoughts on it?

Stefan Bruun: I don’t think there are any real privacy issues – at least not to the degree that we use data. We always look at data anonymously.

To me, potential privacy issues come when the amount of data gets very large.

Why is that?

Most companies that really focus on data and have huge quantities also look at user journeys, purchasing history etc. on an individual level.

This is quite different from the vast majority of companies that use the free Google Analytics or similar software, where all the data is on an aggregated level and where the individual user can’t be singled out.

Even in the individual tracking, I don’t think there are privacy issues in most cases.

Akshay Kanyal: To effectively analyze Big Data do we require sophisticated and costly tools? If so won’t it put small and medium enterprises at a huge disadvantage?

Stefan Bruun: Again, I don’t think the tools are the largest drivers of big data.

Of course it makes a difference, if two companies have equal access to data and are utilizing the data fully – in that case, the company with the best software will be at an advantage.

Generally, I think there is such a big difference in how companies think about data that the mindset alone makes a bigger difference. I can easily come up with examples of companies I have spoken to, where they got far from enough out of their data to justify the massive cost associated to the software.

On the other hand, I have also been very impressed by some companies and how they got a lot of insights from almost no data. I think we were quite good at getting a lot of information without a lot of sophisticated software, when we built Zalora and the other companies. A lot there was homemade in Excel.

Akshay Kanyal: Are market researchers fully equipped to provide meaningful insights to clients via Big Data? How should a traditional researcher approach Big Data?

Stefan Bruun: I think it is a very different approach. The structure from building the hypotheses to the point where you have a rejection or confirmation is far shorter – usually a few seconds or minutes.

The cost of trying out a hypothesis is close to nothing, so there really is no reason to not try out many different hypotheses.

Big data is a lot more about approaching a set of data from multiple different angles, until you see a pattern. For some, it can be a big change, but others manage to do it well.

Akshay Kanyal:  How should companies justify the required investments on Big Data Analytics?

Stefan Bruun: It is hard to say in general, as it depends on the individual case. For most, I think it can only be justified if you already get everything out of your current analytics. So many companies may not need to invest a big amount.

Akshay Kanyal: Will Big Data Analytics complicate things or will simplify it for the companies?

Stefan Bruun: I think it comes down to how complicated things already are.

Usually, the complication is a function of how much analysis is done. It starts off from very simplistic where the marketers basically don’t look at the data at all, and moves towards a point where they go into depth with the data which makes the analysis a lot more complicated.

At some point, when the analytics gets very complex, there is a tipping point where big data software will simplify things.

In this part of the world, I think most companies are quite close to the starting point of what we can call the complexity curve. They are not utilizing data so much yet.

Akshay Kanyal: If someone wants to know more about your company ‘Lion&Lion’ how they can do so?

Stefan Bruun: Normally, we meet companies at conference across the region where we are frequent speakers.

They can also write us on where they will be redirected to the right contact person for their country.

We usually have a very informal chat in the beginning about what the challenges of the company.

Akshay Kanyal: Any inspirational message for the youngsters who want to join the digital revolution?

Stefan Bruun: I think it is just about finding the right mentor to teach you what you need.

It doesn’t come down to the name of the company, but down to how much responsibility you can get and who you can learn from. And then of course to stick in when it gets tough. I have seen many people jumping from company to company to get new fancy titles.

Forget about the titles. It doesn’t matter in the long run, what your title is today and tomorrow.

Stefan Bruun will be speaking at Insights Valley Asia: 2nd Annual 16-17 May 2013 Bangkok, Thailand

Five reasons to attend IVA2013

1. IVA 2013 has more practical examples of how companies implement actionable strategies
2. Participate in our unique brainstorming ‘Client Briefs’ where delegates help co-create solutions for real clients
3. It gives great value-add with over 20 senior executive speakers on top of its competitive conference pricing
4. Meet with clients from sectors ranging from FMCGs, pharmaceutical, financial, technology, etc.
5. Network with industry peers from Asia, USA, Europe and refresh connections and meet new ones

Key topics that will be discussed

– Decipher growth opportunities in the Mekong sub-region: Asia’s new frontier economy
– How Coca Cola segment Singapore into micro estates and do targeted marketing
– Leveraging on smart data analytics to derive consumer insights
– Co-creation 2.0, democratizing Research: for humans, by humans, of humans
– Using social media & insight communities to gain insight and increase the bottomline
– Using mobile insights to create a mobile strategy and profiling consumer trends in Indonesia
– Location based intelligence for business insights solutions to drive the bottom line
– Connecting with consumers across multiple platforms and building brands that matter
– Utilising insights to design innovative loyalty programs that help increase profits for FMCGs & retailers
– Using sensory research to create innovative product strategies and exploring emotions and sensory profiles
– A deep conversation of consumer data privacy issues in Asia and what this means for corporate researchers
– Exploring ways to measure mobile consumer experience and how it  translate into measurable business value

To register for Insight Valley Asia Click Here.

AkshayAkshay Kanyal writes survey research reviews on his popular blog Online MR. He’s an avid blogger, brand consultant and a content marketing expert, helping business owners to craft content that sells.

He provides content marketing advice to start-ups and innovation driven companies. He can be contacted at

You can also connect with him on LinkedIn ; Facebook ; Twitter


  1. Great interview. Very useful. Thank you.