How Thai Businesses Should Move Forward Following the Passing of the King

The King of Thailand, His Majesty Bhumibol Adulyadej, passed away on Thursday, October 13th, 2016, at the age of 88. His 70 years on the throne made him the world’s longest reigning monarch, and perhaps the best loved.

As the spiritual center of the nation and a constant source of wisdom and humanity, King Bhumibol was universally respected by the people of Thailand. His passing marks the end of an era in Thai history, and his loss is felt at a deeply personal level for the entire Thai population.

The Thai government has officially announced a mourning period of 30 days, during which time flags are to be flown at half-mast and no public entertainment is permitted. For this first month in particular, all noise, colors and public activity are to be toned down to a minimum. A special mourning period has been mandated for government officials, who are instructed to wear only black clothing for a full year.

Throughout the coming weeks and months, businesses based in Thailand or targeted at Thai people should approach their marketing and communications with a careful understanding of, and deep respect for, the emotional and cultural state of the nation. Some official Thai agencies have issued policies and guidelines for communication moving forward, and businesses would be wise to adhere to their recommendations.

The Media Agency Association of Thailand (MATT) has instructed media agencies to observe a standard set of rules during the present period. All television channels are currently broadcasting their content in black-and-white, and advertisers are asked to use discretion in their material, and re-screen it for approval by the broadcasters. Regular radio programs and radio spots have been cancelled, and streaming content is only provided from the National Broadcasting Services of Thailand until further notice.

For out-of-home advertising, brand owners must make their own determination as to whether their content is appropriate for the situation. Some LED media owners such as Plan B, VGI, Broadway, Q Ad, and SR Media have stopped running certain ads, while some others have not yet decided whether to pull their content. Some media owners like VGI and Broadway are now only allowing commemorative content from brands, in remembrance of the life of His Majesty. Advertisements on the BTS Sky Train TV screens (through VGI) are now stopped, and in their place are exclusively commemorative content. Advertisements on the MRT (subway) have all ceased.

For digital media, brand owners are advised to adjust content as appropriate to give appropriate respect, and it is significant that Facebook and YouTube have stopped running ads in Thailand for an expected 3-7 days. At the moment, brands cannot advertise through these channels until further notice.

Businesses in Thailand are advised to make special efforts to respond appropriately to the event. We recommend using social media to post a respectful message about the passing of the King, as a way of maintaining good relationships with Thai partners and customers. Many businesses are replacing their original company logos with black-and-white versions, which is another helpful gesture that leaves an impression of sympathy and solidarity with the Thai people.

Businesses can still post normally about products and services, although we advise companies to avoid all hard-selling of products or services for the time being. Elsewhere online, some of the popular websites in Thailand have changed their color to black and white, or significantly toned down their colors into shades of greyscale or put a banner showing sympathy towards the event. Such efforts are voluntary and worth consideration.
When having business meetings with Thai people, consider wearing plain colors such as black, white, navy blue or grey. If at all possible, avoid bright and vivid colors such as yellow, green, red or pink. We recommend wearing all black, or black with white, if doing business with government officials or at government facilities.

As a last piece of advice, we recommend paying close attention to official announcements for news of further changes.

Nutkrittaya is a Digital Marketing Strategist for Lexicon