While the local marketing sphere waits with bated breath for the arrival of global marketing guru Professor Philip Kotler, SLIM caught up with Kotler Impact CEO Dr. Fahim Kibria for inside information on the world-renowned marketing guru’s recent work and his much-anticipated visit to Sri Lanka
Q: What is it like working for Professor Phillip Kotler?
A: It is a great honour to be working with the great guru of marketing. It was in the mid-fifties, after receiving his PhD in Econometrics from MIT, that he saw opportunity in the way people idolised great individuals, like John F. Kennedy for example. They look at these idols and follow them; what they wear, what they eat, and how they move. Philip saw this as opportunity and he started developing the concept of marketing as the chief way in which to develop brands; using the four Ps of marketing form the base of every product around the globe today.
Although double my age, he is very fast and works well on his own. From Stanford all the way to Shanghai or Tokyo, and even in Sri Lanka and all around the South Region, it is his books that are referred to when it comes to marketing. So working with a guru like that is a real honour for me and I feel really proud to work for him and never tire of organising his tours around the world. Sri Lanka is very fortunate to have him here for a couple of days.
Q: Professor Kotler is well-accepted in the marketing field and his work has always been contemporary and relevant. What are the projects he is involved in these days?
A: It was Professor Kotler who came up with a concept in the ’80s called Marketing 1.2, where he believed that brands should go into the minds of people. Then in the early 2000s he introduced a new concept called Marketing 2.2 where he said that human hope should be involved in brands. Finally, last year he came up with Marketing 3.2, where he said that the human soul should be in the brands.
The souls concept stemmed from the theory of values-driven marketing – where you can take care of global values while taking care of your brands. It’s called corporate social responsibility; if a corporate portfolio is taking care of the community, the consumers or the community will reciprocate simultaneously. The brand will thus be in the souls of human beings, and as consumers they will only stick to that particular brand.
When Saatchi and Saatchi, one of the top adverting agencies around the globe, asked Professor Kotler what they should do next, he told them to open an academy named Lovemarks. They opened the academy in London where they now teach the advertising people of the world the closest ways of getting to the souls of human beings. This theory that was taught to them was also taught by Philip during the last six months to the Top Fortune Companies in Saudi Arabia, Abu Dhabi and Dubai, and it was very-much appreciated and applied to their own systems.
He is now working on a new concept called ‘Innovation through Marketing’; because he doesn’t believe in renovation, but believes that innovation is the wise way to move forward in life. He is an extremely busy man, and I feel that he works for more than the 24 hours there in a day; touring the globe, talking to audiences, writing new books.
Marketing 3.2 is a fabulous recent book of his that really teaches organisations how to adopt the concepts in it. The book is quite valuable to the globe today because everyone is talking about sustainability but not the practicality of that sustainability and how much care should really go into making the planet sustainable.
The good news for Sri Lanka is that his basic marketing book ‘Principles of Marketing’ will be translated into Sinhalese. This will be done in partnership with SLIM and will include local success stories as well. The first edition maybe expected in perhaps six months’ time, and if well-received will be followed by translations of his next books on ‘Marketing Management’ and ‘Strategic Marketing Management’.
Q: Being the marketing expert, what is his busy schedule like these days?
A: Well, recently he was invited by the CEO of General Electric in New York to speak to a group of the top hundred CMOs from the Fortune 100 countries, before which he was in Jamaica speaking to the 350 top marketers of that region. In a few days time he will be flying to Bali, where on his birthday we will be inaugurating a marketing Museum. From there we are off to Jakarta, Calcutta and then will be here in Colombo for two days, after which we will be visiting three cities before going back to the States. In August we have a long tour of South America.
There is always an overwhelming turnout wherever he visits: last year in Sao Paulo there were about 9,000 people listening to him, 6,000 inside the auditorium and the rest on the staircases or outside. In Cairo people even sat on the floor to listen to his full day session. So he is always extremely busy. 2012 is totally booked in various regions of the world and we are already planning for 2013, when will be visiting countries like Poland, Finland, Lithuania and Georgia. Sri Lanka too has been asking him to visit for a very long time now, and finally he will be here.
Q: What made him finally decide to visit Sri Lanka?
A: He has a lot of respect for Sri Lanka; back in history it was a prime region where a lot of trade was taking place, and although it was facing a volatile condition for some time, now that it is settled we decided that it was time to make the visit, which we actually first planned to make in November 2006.
We understand that marketing is a big passion here and that there are a lot of marketers, so a visit by the guru of marketing itself was I think due. As a marketer, Professor Kotler has been keeping an eye on Sri Lanka for some time now and is very enthusiastic about coming here and meeting the movers and shakers of the corporate sector of the country; to talk to them, listen to them, and interact with them.
If the time allows it he also hopes to get a session with the parliamentarians and his Excellency the President to talk to him about how he can promote Sri Lanka, because the time has come when everybody should think of Sri Lanka in a big way. It will not be an overnight sailing of the ship where Professor Kotler will just come and go back; together with SLIM, we are really looking forward to a future with Sri Lanka.