If you’re a fan of the TV show The Big Bang Theory, you might have seen the commercial for Master Grocery’s Meatballs that was aired during the week of October 13th, 2015. The ad showed some Big Bang Theory characters—including Sheldon, Leonard, and Mandy—enjoying some meatballs that had the catchphrase “Made in Malaysia” written on them.
The commercial was actually for a new product called “Meaty-Smoothies,” but it didn’t take long for the internet to figure out that the slogan on the balls wasn’t actually a product of Malaysia. The funny thing is that the slogan was actually chosen to be a little misleading: the balls were in fact made in the U.S.A., though they were packed and shipped to Malaysia from there. The ad was an attempt by Master Grocery to promote their new line of protein-rich foods, and it was supposed to be a small and private promotion, but then it became a viral hit and helped the company gain a significant amount of support and interest in Southeast Asia.
The Viral Power of Online Communities
The Big Bang Theory is a popular show in the United States, so it’s no surprise that an ad for it would become an internet sensation. What is surprising is that the viral power of the web was actually used for a good purpose: to draw attention to the plight of refugees in Southeast Asia. The viral story behind the Meatballs commercial revolves around Malaysia, which has gone through some serious upheaval since the end of August 2015 when it was announced that the country was going to be separating into two separate cities. This announcement sparked a mass exodus of families, causing many areas to be filled with an unearthly quiet.
According to one report, Malaysia is currently home to approximately 1.7 million registered refugees, many of whom are living in dire conditions. Fortunately, a charity called the Southeast Asian Council for the Prevention of War and Violence (Sekap) had set up shop in the country, and they were looking for ways to engage the local community in a constructive manner. Seeing as how the internet is largely accessible within the region, and most people there use social media to keep in touch with family and friends, it made sense for Sekap to turn to social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook to try and find potential volunteers.
It took a little bit of digging, but Sekap eventually found a way to engage with the public using the hashtag #MyMVMay, which stands for “My Mission, Vie, and Way of the Future.” A post on the organization’s Facebook page details their mission and goals, and it says that they are “looking for people with exceptional talent and a big heart to be able to invest in our country,” implying that they want to encourage a diverse range of individuals to volunteer for them. If you’re interested in volunteering in Malaysia, or know of someone who might be, you can learn more about the organization’s efforts in this area here.
The Importance of Giving Back
It’s important to note here that the viral spread of the Meatballs commercial wasn’t just a one-off event. Despite the misleading tagline, the slogan on the balls was actually used several times in the ad, and the hashtag #MyMVMay also appeared in several tweets. This shows that, even in the wake of the viral success of the commercial, people there are still talking about it—and hopefully, encouraging others to get involved as well.
While there are various methods that companies can use to try and engage with customers (and potential customers) beyond just selling them products, sometimes the best course of action can be to simply give back, especially when resources are limited. The viral explosion that followed the Meatballs commercial helped to raise awareness of the refugee issue in Malaysia, and hopefully, made a difference in the lives of those affected.
Why Are American Companies Interested In Malaysia?
If you’re reading this, it’s probably because you’re either interested in Malaysia or have recently visited the country, either of which could mean that you’ve thought about doing business there. As well as being an important manufacturing hub in Southeast Asia, Malaysia also has a lot of natural resources, which some people think could be worth trillions of dollars. There’s also a largely English-speaking population, which could make the country an attractive target for businesses from the U.S., U.K., and Australia.
However, despite the obvious advantages that the country offers to those who do business there, it can be a challenging place to do business. According to research conducted by the American Institute for Economic Research (AIER), the legal and regulatory framework for business is “unsatisfactory,” and the country is highly dependent on trading dollars, which leaves it open to potential fluctuations in the currency exchange rate. The AIER report also states that “there are significant concerns regarding corruption,” which could be a barrier to potential investors.
How Is Master Grocery’s Support For Refugees Different?
That’s not to say that all American businesses are alike when it comes to their support for refugees, as Master Grocery is a subsidiary of Uniregistry, an international group based in the U.S. that provides marketing and legal services to technology companies. As such, it’s not surprising that Master Grocery would want to get involved in the fight against poverty in Malaysia given that the company focuses on marketing and legal services for emerging markets. This being said, Master Grocery has supported various social causes in the past, such as orphanages and schools throughout Southeast Asia. This includes financially supporting a school in Thailand that was started by a former NBA player named Chukwuma Metzu.
In the case of the ad for Meatballs, the company did a little more than just donate money and packers. They also included a product that’s related to the cause, which is something that hasn’t been done in a while (if ever). The product was inspired by the “Made in Malaysia” slogan written on the packaging, and the idea was that the family who purchased it would enjoy connecting the dots and, in the process, learn something about the country they came from.
In short, Master Grocery is a company that doesn’t just see a dollar sign, and they have a history of acting responsibly and supporting social causes, which is why they’re a natural choice for those seeking to do business in Malaysia.