|And the central thread running through the convention
was about always staying connected to the consumer while pushing the
envelope on what would work as far as brand building was concerned.
More than one speaker pointed to the tyranny of data and number crunching
leading to people losing track of intuition and gut feel in the scheme
Talking on "The Future Of Competition: What is the Role of
Advertising?", CK Prahalad, professor of business administration
as well as corporate strategy and international business, University
of Michigan Business School, said it was crucial for the marketers/managers
to remember that customers of today have the choice to buy or not
to buy. It was up to the manager to persuade his customers to buy,
Prahalad, "Value is created only at the point of exchange and
it is co-created by both firm and consumer." According to Prahalad,
real value branding was all about "experience fulfilment".
"Consumer experience in communities will ultimately shape the
brand," he elaborated.
The rural market was a focus area in Prahalad's presentation and
he identified India, Brazil and China as the frontier markets of
the future. The reason being that India, in particular, was witnessing
a consumer revolution condensed into five years which took the West
50 years to achieve.
India was an opportunity and a challenge he said, dishing out figures
of the kind of consumer spends that were driving sales - monthly
sales of one million cell phones and 100,000 motorcycles made in
India are two examples that he offered. The new economy was the
engine that would deliver "the economy of the people, for the
people, by the people," said Prahalad.
"Breaking the Rules" is the theme of the convention, arguably
no one personified it in a more radical manner than Ricardo Semler,
president, Semco S/A, Brazil. The author of the seminal work 'Maverick:
The Success Story Behind the World's Most Unusual Workplace' was
just that in the way he made his presentation. No slides, no powerpoint
presentation, no notes even. Semler didn't even bother to speak
from the podium but chose rather to stroll up and down across the
stage. He stuck to his allotted 45 minutes almost to the second
and strongly made his point with the help of case studies and real
Semler called upon organisations to think differently and find
innovative solutions to problems. Speaking extempore about 'Creativity
at the Centre of Organization Structure', Semler said the problem
that many companies faced was that they just did not know how to
deal with the sheer speed of change that the marketplace was witnessing.
One of the world's most respected champions of organisational changes,
Semler said, what was required was to apply a different thought
process in your business.
Citing the examples of corporations such as Gillette and Microsoft,
Semler demonstrated how striking innovations in the products of
both companies happened only during the early stages of product
development. Gillette's twin blade shaving razor was a case in point.
"All that three years and $608 million in a research project
that involved two NASA scientists achieved was a third blade added."
The problem, said Semler, was that companies were "caught in
a system that is constantly emulating itself.
Concluding the pre-lunch session was Vindi Banga, chairman of Hindustan
Lever Ltd (HLL), who said it was possible to find new ways of building
bonds with the consumer. Strongly criticising the marketer's increasing
tendency to use sales promotions, Banga said, "This kind of
activity does deep-rooted damage to the brand." He said that
this was part of the phenomenon of brand commoditisation and wondered
if ad agencies were guilty of 'aiding and abetting this process'
of devaluing brands.
The post lunch session had speakers talk about 'Rewriting the Rules'.
Among others, there was Clyde Fessler, former V-P, Business Development,
Harley- Davidson Motor Company, USA, talking about the phenomenon
of Cult Branding and Carolina Inez Reyes, V-P, marketing, Jollibee
Foods Corporation, Philippines, sharing her experience of Challenging
Other speakers included Tim Lindsey, president, Lowe and Partners
Worldwide, UK; Irwin Gottlieb, chairman and CEO, Mindshare Worldwide,
UK and Sergio Zyman, chairman, Zyman marketing Group, USA.