Australian Open 2013 and Sri Lankan brands

Tuesday, 29 January 2013 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

I always believe that the best lessons in life can be learned from sports. The weekend was enthralling given the high share of voice on TV, be it the 20-20 cricket or the tennis from the Australian Open 2013. Let me capture my pick-ups for Sri Lanka from the latter.

Australian Open 1: Practice body language

Even though tennis queen Serena Williams did not make it to the Finals in the Ladies segment of the Australian Open 2013, it is said by many experts that she demonstrates the best body language that communicates confidence – especially the manner in which she walks and acts on the court intimidates her opponents even before a match begins.


Implication for Sri Lanka

This is one area in which Sri Lankans fall short. It’s true that Sri Lankans in general have a pleasing personality and tend to smile by nature, but when we engage global business leaders we must demonstrate that we are strong in our skills and aggressive in our behaviour though it may not be as strong as our big brothers. If we do not learn this skill, we will find it tough to negotiate when engaging the corporate world.

But a word of caution – whilst working on practicing the power of body language to demonstrate confidence, we must continuously sharpen our skill set to hold on to attacks on what we say. This could be at presentations or at board meetings that brand marketers engage in.


Australian Open 2: Get the first serve in

Statistics reveal that the first serve success is the highest in world once again by Serena Williams. The insight that her early coaches say is that from the age of eight she had been working for hours on a daily routine just to perfect the first serve in. American psychologists say that when a player gets the first serve in, it dictates the rest of the game by the player.


Implication for Sri Lanka

In the last month or more I have seen that that the biggest critics of Sri Lanka continue to highlight the CJ fiasco to get the psychological advantage at high-powered discussions. Maybe you and I cannot change life, but we sure can win by opening a discussion with a theme that sets the stage for us to manage the discussion in our favour.

I normally start with the strong unconventional marketing strategies that Sri Lankan brands execute to win consumers in Sri Lanka and out there in the global market. My favourites are how Baby Cheramy has beaten a multinational brand Pears Baby and Dialog has withstood the financial muscle of Airtel and Etiselat to remain the market leader in the mobile brand war in Sri Lanka.


Australian Open 3: Never stop improving

Three times winner Novak Djokovic is one player rated by the industry experts as a player who continuously improves. His serve keeps getting better. He is getting more agile over the years strongly. He never accepts his status quo, just because he is the world number one.

Yesterday’s finals was a classic to this fact. Apparently, post the match he personally goes through the statistics to understand his behaviour, such as unforeseen errors, success in his first serve and first serve, net play vs baseline winners, etc.


Implication for Sri Lanka

My pick on this in the world of brand marketing is the brand Rocell. It has revolutionised the tiling industry to offset the competitors in their own game. The introduction of designs to fit into the changing lifestyle of the Sri Lankan home have taken the company from a turnover of Rs. 71 million to a 1.9 billion company and its share price from Rs. 15 to Rs. 115.

From a brand value perspective, this Rs. 357 million brand in 2010 was a Rs. 919 million brand in 2012 as per Brand Finance. This performance could not have been achieved if not the ethos of wanting to change continuously. Change is the only permanent thing for such companies and is the ‘in thing’ in today’s world.

Australian Open 4: Bryan brothers win 13th Title

Mike and Bob Bryan won the Doubles title at the Australian Open 2013 and secured their 13th Grand Slam win, making them carve out a piece of history in the world of tennis. They have been ranked No. 1 for the last eight years in the last 10 years, which tells us of the command they have in the game of men’s doubles championships. Their secret is that they have a lot of sugar just before an event.


Implication for Sri Lanka

The parallel in Sri Lanka to my mind is the continuous awards that Munchee secures in the country, from Brand Marketing to National Business Excellence. The secret is the passion by which the senior leaders in the company work. When they win they always celebrate together and take credit as a team. This must be equal to the sugar that the Bryan brothers indulge in. You have to find what makes your company tick so that performance can become a way of life rather than just a victory in the eyes of the world.


Australian Open 5: Release mind from pressure

Novak Djokovic says that the only way to drive oneself to higher performance is by freeing one’s mind from the pressures that come from the entrenched competition. He believes that tension, frustration and self doubt tends to have a crippling effect on performance. Hence the only way to out beat your competition is by learning the skill to ease your mind from the pressure created by external sources like the media and the audience.


Implication for Sri Lanka

The company that comes to my mind which did this really well in Ceylinco Insurance post the scandal of their Chairman.

The company very skilled fully divorced itself from the angry agitation that surrounded the company and the barrage on the media.

Even though its brand value took a beating from the 2008 value of Rs. 6,900 million to fall to Rs. 2,758 million in 2010, with profits declining from Rs. 1,149 million to Rs. 1,001.6 million in the same period, as at 2012 the company has come out with a strong performance where brand value has catapulted to Rs. 4,537 million and enterprise value registering a Rs. 55.7 billion performance. In my mind it’s a classic case of how adversity can be managed with some strong and clear business strategies.


Australian Open 6: Handling media

Believe it or not, the biggest challenge for Victoria Azarenko was not the tennis at the Australian Open 2013 but handling the press attention. Coming in as number one with her opponent China’s Li Na the darling of the crowd created many issues for the world’s top tennis player. But what she did was ruthlessly target the challenger and win the matches one at a time. She finally concluded that it was one her best experiences she has had in handling celebrity status.


Implication for Sri Lanka

I guess this is a new skill that must be mastered. Some say it’s best to stay away from the media but now the media is the consumer. With viral media dominating the global media, be it Twitter, Facebook or YouTube, one must know that everyone is a reporter in this day and age. So the implication is that handling every single consumer complaint effectively is key to successful business.


(The author serves the United Nations (UNOPS) as the Head of National Portfolio Development – Sri Lanka and Maldives. He is an alumnus of Harvard University, Boston.)


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