With the culmination of the SLIM Brand Excellence Awards just around the corner, the President of the Sri Lanka Institute of Marketing, Mr. Suranjith Swaris and the Vice President, Ms. Thilanka Abeywardena shared their opinions, hopes and facts on the role of the prestigious awards program and its role in the Marketing arena of the country.
What is the current status of Sri Lanka’s business sector and the contribution of Marketers?
P: As a country, Sri Lanka is facing unprecedented challenges in the aftermath of the Easter Sunday attacks and the subsequent economic decline in the country. The low growth momentum has had an impact on most business sectors in the island and this has created havoc in the business environment.
On the other-hand unprecedented technological advancement has changed the market dynamics where customers are more demanding since they are equipped with all the relevant data and information about the products, services and brands.
The prime objective of any business is to increase revenue by satisfying customers in order to achieve profits and maintain sustainability. The application of marketing skills is paramount in today’s context since we are in living in a VUCA world. VUCA stands for Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity. Thus, Marketing would be the only discipline that drives any businesses to reach greater success by facing any challenges, and exploring and transforming all available opportunities. As a marketer and the President of SLIM, it is my opinion that the country needs to focus on 3 key areas – Entrepreneurship, Branding and Exports, with Marketing at the center. I believe that it is the marketers who can change the course of tomorrow’s opportunities.
How do events like SLIM Brand Excellence contribute to the development and growth of professionals in the marketing fraternity?
VP: First of all, I would like us to look at these as national projects rather than mere events. The event may be the final outcome, however these projects are meant to recognize the best work in the industry and enhance the quality of Marketing in Sri Lanka each year. Whether a brand wins or loses at SLIM Brand Excellence is secondary. In my opinion, what is most important is the criteria that we have built for the evaluation process. We want Brand Managers and Custodians to follow this and use the strategy framework for their brands. The late Prof. Uditha Liyanage built this framework from scratch, which is a very scientific approach towards creating, nurturing and evaluating a brand. If brands invest in applying this strategic framework, this alone will pave the path towards success. It will also help brands to benchmark their performance, because it can be used as a means of measurement as well.
Furthermore, Brand Excellence has been in existence for a long time, and has been taking place annually. It is not just an award ceremony, but a platform for brand marketers to get their brands evaluated, present to a jury, and elevate the bars of the industry. It is also a way of giving back to the industry.
What kind of developments do you expect to see in the country’s marketing and economic sphere due to the efforts of SLIM?
P: As the national body of marketing, SLIM continues to contribute to the country and to accomplish its mission, which is to establish Marketing as the driving force that enhances business and national value. Apart from conducting professional educational programs to develop marketing skills in our students, we also offer corporate solutions and conduct national level events to further boost our efforts. The SLIM Brand Excellence Awards program is the most prestigious event of its kind among the marketing fraternity of Sri Lanka. Marketing Heads, Brand Custodians and Entrepreneurs participate in order to gain success and sustainability for their brands.
We at SLIM expect to see Marketing develop into one of the principal aspects of the country’s economy. It is hoped that Marketing will be accepted as a way of life and a process of value creation with customer satisfaction being the prime objective.
Based on the results of the previous years, what role does SLIM Brand Excellence play in the development of the country?
VP: if you look at the global scenario you can see leading global brands which are larger in value than the GDPs of countries and are valued more than the tangible assets they own. This is the power of branding. In Sri Lanka, we have a big challenge; we lack brands. In many industries people are satisfied with sending unbranded goods without creating any value.
There are very few who have conquered the international market. To achieve this, the Brand Proposition is important. For example, previously Ceylon tea was packed and sold in gunny bags. With brands like Dilmah, the whole industry changed. Branding gave the industry a new life. This is what Brand Excellence attempts to emphasize. In turn, brands will build the national economy, whether it is an employer, product, or service brand.
What post-event results do you hope to see following the conclusion of this year’s SLIM Brand Excellence campaign?
P: Via SLIM Brand Excellence we hope to enrich the concept of brand development as the solution to business sustainability.
Despite the introduction of a new SME category we have yet to see a positive response from the sector. Thus, we hope to encourage the SME sector of Sri Lanka to utilize the SLIM Brand Excellence platform to boost their brands’ growth.
Branding is essential. It is a way of adding value as well as differentiating from the competition. It is our hope that the efforts of SLIM to create greater awareness about the importance of brand building will be recognized via SLIM Brand Excellence, and that it will lead more and more business owners, entrepreneurs and marketers to the program in the years to come.
What do you foresee for the future of SLIM Brand Excellence?
VP: SLIM Brand Excellence has been built and established locally. There is so much respect for the awards and the event within the industry. There have been companies who have built their brands through Brand Excellence. The next step is to look at how we can take it beyond Sri Lanka. How we can get regional brands involved and take local brands to the region as well.
We also want SMEs to evolve separately as a sector. We have a separate category now, and we have included two new sub categories - the Export SME Brand award and the Import SME Brand award. Once we start to receive 100 – 150 entries, then it will be time for this sector to stand on its own.