‘There’s a risk for many brands to become too digitalized’

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Martin Roll, Business & Brand Strategist, Martin Roll Company, will be a part of the plenary session ‘Passions and Emotions’ in the upcoming Arab Luxury World, the conference on the business of luxury in the Middle East, in Dubai on May 22 and May 23, 2017. He will also moderate the executive workshop “Disruptive Innovation & Luxury: Ideas Implemented” hosted by the INSEAD Retail Consumer Goods and Luxury Club in Dubai on 23 May 2017.

In an exclusive interview with GMR, he sheds light on how emotions play an under-valued role in modern marketing:

What are the 3 key factors to consider when developing a brand strategy, and which you think that many marketers are ignoring right now?

A good brand strategy is akin to an hourglass, comprising 3 basic but crucial components. Just like the top of the hourglass is very wide, the first component of a brand strategy is to make sure to have a great set of data and some insights. The brand strategist casts his net out, tries to get ideas, is open, and is receptive.

This includes scanning the market, the competitors, and the company. And then the brand strategist tries to find answer to what is working and what is not working. Having said that, I often see many strategists try to strategize too quickly or just run into execution.

The second crucial point is again similar to the hourglass, i.e, the strategist gradually narrows down his strategy by focusing on creating the brand identity.

The one mistake that I see a lot of marketers make is that they try to cater to too many things, too many people, and in too many places. This means a good strategy is not about accommodating too much. It’s actually about narrowing, and de-selecting options. So the second component is about creating a distinct position.

The third component is to make sure that you internally enable people in the organization and the stakeholders to deliver on the promise. And that’s where factors such as internal education, SOP – standard operating procedures, training, workshops, and even culture, come into play.

Often, a brand strategy actually ceases to be successful because culture wouldn’t accept where the brand is heading. So it’s very important to get the organization behind it and once you have, and that’s a process over time, you start to execute on that desired new position.

When it comes to culture, what is the best way for brands to get accustomed to or strategize according to the cultural values? Are they always in conflict — the culture and brands?

Not necessarily. Very often they work in tandem. Nevertheless, sometimes you need to shake up the organization, especially when you realize the model that worked in the past doesn’t work anymore. And that’s where as the CEO, the owner, as the owner, you need to uproot yourself to make sure you’re getting heard and you’re getting to the right direction.

The one famous example of the turnaround in recent years is Danish toy brand Lego, which has lost a bit of track while connecting with kids. But they did not go out and invest in something new. In contrast, they actually went back to basics. They went back to the core of the building brick and they rediscovered inside the organization that the building brick was still very valid as a very attractive product to kids. And they started to reinvigorate the entire presentation behind that.

So that was about shaking up the organization, not to look further ahead but somehow to go back to the basic roots, the basic values, the basic insight that kids want to get inspired, kids want to play and imagine.

When it comes to culture, do you think a cultural affiliation of brands is one of the tried and tested ways to get customers emotionally attached to the brands?

Yeah, I think it is, and I think emotions play probably an under-valued role in modern marketing. Today, everything in the business world and in our daily lives are very data driven. However, when it comes to affiliation and connections, that’s where culture and emotions play a very important part for brands in order to compete in today’s world.

Programmatic advertising is growing very fast. Do you believe the rapid growth of programmatic media buying will replace or diminish the role of traditional media buying agencies?

There is certainly a potential risk of that and I think it’s up to the individual media agency and the media industry as such to sort that out.

Programmatic advertising is a big animal, it’s an ocean, and it’s still in the making in terms of how it’s actually going to play out. But no doubt that media agencies need to catch up as well on this development, if not they might see themselves being disrupted from new competitors that you mightn’t have seen before.

Traditionally in recent years, media agencies have caught up on technologies for sure, but this is taking things a step further, but it requires a lot of investment and it requires them to be very real-time and very agile to make it happen.

In current times when everything is going digital, do you think it’s getting difficult for brands to ensure personalization? I mean to put it another way, how do we ensure personalization in the times of digitization?

I think there’s a risk for many brands to become too digitalized in the sense that we cannot think that computers would run everything for us. Brands need to play on the channel very well but it doesn’t leave out the personal experience.

I think the brands that are going to win in the digital age are the brands that will merge the best of the digital age but still keep the attachment to personalization. I’m a big believer in the digital revolution.

We just need to make sure that it doesn’t get the overhand because it that way many brands will get out of touch with what I believe consumers will want and need.

How should brands now stand out or what is the greatest differentiator in the age of digitization? How can brands stand out in a crowded digital marketplace?

The winner in this space are going to be the ones that do the digital journey very well not only in terms of the customer journey through the channel but also daring to do things a little different.

However, in the end nothing has changed in terms of building brands. It’s still about building that very strong connection with consumers. It’s just about having that distinct compelling message at the right time, at the right place and so forth.

What are the latest trends you are seeing when it comes to digital marketing?

I think one of the big challenges right now is omni-channel, because competing well in a digital age is not only about doing digital right, it’s about doing off and online right in a great way and omni-channel combines everything you’ve got at your disposal in your marketing suite.

Secondly, I think it’s about de-cluttering, and getting back to the basic, distinct, clean about what your brand is and building that very deep consumer connection. Today’s consumers have become very fickle and they expect you to catch up almost immediately in order to mirror at least what other competitors have done, compared to where you are today.

So there’s a huge requirement of brands in terms of timing and in terms of what I would call agility, and in terms of your marketing reactions.

About Martin Roll

Martin Roll is a world-renowned thought-leader, CEO mentor and advisor to Fortune 100 and prominent business families on the most important issues in managing successful businesses and exercising great leadership. Martin Roll delivers the combined value of an experienced global business strategist, senior advisor and facilitator to Fortune 500 companies, Asian firms and global family-owned businesses on how to build and manage strong, global brands as well as leadership of high-performing, marketing-oriented businesses. He is the founder and CEO of Martin Roll Company, and brings with him more than 25 years of C-suite management experience.

He is a highly accomplished keynote speaker at global conferences, an experienced conference moderator and executive workshop facilitator. Martin Roll is in constant demand at more than 100 of the most global influential business conferences worldwide. He is available for conferences, seminars, workshops and internal executive meetings anywhere in the world. He teaches MBA, EMBA and Executive Education programs at Nanyang Business School (Singapore), and is a frequent guest lecturer at INSEAD and other leading global business schools. He is also an Associate Fellow at The Institute on Asian Consumer Insight (ACI). Martin Roll is the author of global bestseller “Asian Brand Strategy” (2015) and co-author of “The Future of Branding” (2016). Martin Roll holds an MBA from INSEAD. 

For more visit: www.martinroll.com and https://martinroll.com/resources/insight/

Download free executive sample chapter from “Asian Brand Strategy”: https://martinroll.com/wp-content/uploads/Asian-Brand-Strategy-Martin-Roll-Sample-chapter.pdf