Marketing evolves with changing times

Thursday, 9 December 2010 00:01 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

By Sunimalee Dias

Marketers are compelled to work in an evolving environment, resulting in a change in product strategies in both the product and service industries.

These ideas were brought to the fore at the CIM Talking Point on the topic ‘Evolving Product Strategies’ held at the Galadari Hotel in Colombo on Monday.

Hemas Managing Director Consumer Brands Imal Fonseka observed that in spite of the daily use of laptops and power point presentations to Microsoft, SAP, educationally qualified with MBA and MS Project, the world has not changed.

This is mainly highlighted in respect of instances where interaction between consumer and customer has not changed, in addition to continued reliance on entrepreneurship and need for financial acumen, he said.

There is an emergence of organised retail trade that is currently growing to become about 20-25% in Sri Lanka. In this respect, it was emphasised there is a need to understand all dynamics that will drive the brand in a bid to ensure the product is marketed to perfection to appeal to prospective customers, Fonseka said.

Marketers today have a need to become increasingly “operational” and become part of the critical workflow; Fonseka said adding that new skills, a new approach, new technology, new strategies and new formats were required.

Speaking of an analysis carried out on the entry of Wal-Mart into India, it was pointed out that this had taken the neighbouring country by surprise in relation to the kind of marketing carried out that was beyond Sri Lanka’s imagination.

He said marketers in the country should procure skills themselves going forward in a bid to keep up with the types of techniques adopted globally.

Towards this end it was noted there is a necessity to influence the shopper by ensuring first to rightly distinguish them from the consumer.

With the shopper and consumer considered much different today compared to how they were identified in the past, Fonseka noted that 70% of brand selections today were made in stores.

In the meantime, about 5% of people remain loyal to a brand in a particular group although he did emphasise later that this concept was highly debated due to its varying standards in various sectors.

He said it was important to ensure that shopper marketing was not ignored by the marketers of today, highlighting the need to incorporate it in the overall marketing plan.

Moreover, Fonseka observed that marketers needed to keep in mind the concept of packaging that must be leveraged and not the last thing to do. “It should be an integral part of your strategy,” he observed, adding that this was all the more important today as it reinforces the purchasing decision prior to picking it up.

In this respect, he spoke of how marketers have a tendency to get carried away with the development of flashy and catchy advertisements in the media and missing on the reality of consumers coming face to face with the product in the package, which is what finally sells the product.

In marketing a product, marketers must be mindful of the various social media that will be of use in marketing their product and increasing the volume of sales.

With regard to this aspect of marketing, he observed that social media must not be ignored with lame excuses of inaccessibility.

Fonseka noted that today it was a necessity to use social media as a marketing tool and not dismiss it based on one’s opinion. The use of social media is the method of knowing and understanding the customer and a better way to get closer to them.

While engaged in marketing, today there is a need to have more sustainable brands for which such an image must be built. In doing so firstly assess the environment; identify the risks; and figure out what and who to tell in order to make sure that brands will have more sustainability, he said.

Another key speaker addressing marketers on innovative ideas was HNB Marketing and Retail Deputy General Manager Chandula Abeywickrama, concerning the service industry’s requirement of encouraging a more experience-oriented attachment to its customers.

It was pointed out that while service was an ongoing and continuous experience, it was also a matter of leaving behind a positive experience to its customers.

In the diverse services of financial and medical among others, it was highlighted that the most important factor was providing a tailor made experience as in the Japanese concept titled Kaisen.

Service required to be provided in true excellence at every point that it comes face to face with its customers, Abeywickrama pointed out.

While products were noted be providing a standardised approach to marketing, service on the other hand required a difference incorporated in marketing it from person to person.

People count at every point in service and it is this service industry or service marketing and in this respect it is necessary to draw the people, hold the people and sustain them.

Service industry is engaged in providing an experience for a long time, he said noting that at HNB there were four generations of people who were banking with them, indicating the loyalty towards the brand.

HNB was the first to brand as a financial services brand and make the product tangible with the elephant till, Abeywickrama said.

Patience and commitment were a prerequisite in service delivery while empathy was a must and a requirement that needs to be taken seriously, he said.

The people factor was crucial in the service industry, he said, adding that in the banking industry there was a high level of remuneration. In addition the hotel and service charge is given and strongly emphasised in the service factor, he pointed out.

A better working environment was required in the service sector industries to ensure that employees’ level of service delivery and empathy towards their customers was high, Abeywickrama explained.

Pix by Upul Abayasekara