The SLIM Brand Excellence Awards 2019 was launched at a press conference held on the 20th of June. For the past 17 years the SLIM Brand Excellence Awards have served as a platform upon which brands, marketers, brand custodians and entrepreneurs gain recognition and entrée into the international market. Following last year’s revamp, this year’s Project Chairman of SLIM Brand Excellence, Mr. Ahamed Aroos, in a recent interview, discussed his plans for the program this year and the means by which he and his team intend to continue the event’s success. The following are excerpts from the discussion.
What is the theme of this year’s SLIM Brand Excellence? What inspired it?
This year’s theme is an interesting one, and is based on the concept that the Sri Lankan consumers’ and marketers’ mindsets are somewhat challenged by the many macro factors currently affecting market conditions. These challenges, which are faced by many corporates, pose the question of the exact role of marketers when it comes to addressing these issues. We thought the best course of action was for organizations and marketers to push Brands beyond their comfort zones by breaking boundaries. As we know Brand positioning based on the brand’s country of origin is at the centre of attention in the international market. It is evident that global brands constitute of critical intangible assets for businesses and the economies of their countries of origin. Through this year’s Brand Excellence theme, we’re trying to convey the message to all the marketers out there to take on any challenge as an opportunity to “Catapult Your Brand Beyond” what you ever thought was possible. Beyond your boundaries and comfort zones, making use of the robust Brand Excellence platform.
Following last year’s revamp of SLIM Brand Excellence, how do you plan to continue the mission of the event?
Last year we undertook a complete revamp of the program, beginning with the Blueprint, to reflect modern thinking. New categories were also introduced and there was an increase in focus on the SME sector. The entire identity of Brand Excellence (BE) was changed with a modern twist according to an ancient Sri Lankan concept - “Sakwala Chakraya”, teleporting Sri Lanka to the world. Taking up the same message this year, we are emphasizing the importance of taking Sri Lankan brands global through our campaign theme. As the national body of marketing, the Sri Lanka Institute of Marketing (SLIM) takes pride in supporting such endeavors through the Brand Excellence platform for 2019 as well.
What initiatives have you and your team taken to ensure that this year’s event stands out from those of the previous years?
Like all the other years SLIM has worked on taking this program status even higher by introducing new elements to make the Brand Excellence platform a value adding one to the fraternity. We have focused on introducing a more comprehensive judging panel this year, under the leadership of Mr. Tilan Wijesekera, the Deputy General Manager of Retail Banking at Seylan Bank PLC. The jury will comprise an eminent panel made up of well-rounded professionals who will judge the brands and their performances. In addition to the specialties from Advertising, Market Research and Corporate Marketers, this year we are also focusing on Brand Marketers with special financial acumen and to top it up Entrepreneurial Marketers who have built some of the best Sri Lankan global brands. We are also working in partnership with many other organizations and institutions in order to promote more SME and Export Brand participation. Many Brand Excellence winners will also share their experiences via multiple awareness forums in order to promote the benefits and values that can be harnessed for brands through this platform this year.
What sectors will receive specific attention this year and why?
As mentioned earlier, in line with the mandate of SLIM, as the national body of marketing in the country we always aspire to promote and facilitate the country’s SME sector to make use of our national event platforms to transform their brands and marketing thinking.
In line with the President of SLIM, Suranjith Swaris’ focus on this year as a ‘Year of Transformation’ we will also put special emphasis on homegrown local brands and export brands in order to serve as a ladder, guiding deserving brands, brand custodians and entrepreneurs into the national spotlight and eventually the global sphere.
The reason behind the categories in focus is very clear, when you look at the economic landscape of Sri Lanka. The Government of Sri Lanka recognizes SMEs as the backbone of the economy, as it accounts for more than 75% of the total number of enterprises, provides 45% of the employment and contributes to 52% of the Gross Domestic Production (GDP). Therefore, driving value through SME branding will have a significant contribution towards our national economy.
Knowing the importance of building export brands to uplift the Sri Lankan economy, we need to ensure that we overcome the gap caused by targeted export promotional support, which focuses only on a few enterprises and markets due to limited resources. The insufficientlyfocused and coordinated promotion of Sri Lankan brands and enterprise support in trade promotion activities curtails the development of sustainable demand for Sri Lankan products. Hence, the platform focuses on promoting more export brands to be a part of the platform to receive its benefits.
What is the current status of the program?
We have made immense progress on this year’s program. We held a media conference on the 20thof June to kick start the program, which will have many milestones to reach at the ultimate night, which we call the Gala Awards night where the top brands in the country will receive accolades. We are now calling for entries for the program and I urge all brands in the country, especially the brands in the highlighted categories of SME, Local and Export brands to step forward to make use of this unique brand platform, which is the country’s only national event that recognizes the achievements of brands and brand marketers. We have a series of workshops targeting SME brands within the next few weeks in many parts of the island in order to promote and create awareness about this endeavor.
What kind of response do you anticipate from the industry this year?
We have always seen a very positive response to the call of SLIM, in building great brands together with SLIM Brand Excellence and this year too we anticipate a very positive response amidst the challenging market context.
The participation at the press conference by almost all of our media partners is our main strength when it comes to taking this message to the larger stakeholders out there, and the new member participation at the workshops also gives us the indication of the interest this program has been able to create among the larger corporate world.
These early indications have been a boost to our confidence and we are looking forward to receiving the same response in regard to the number of entries and the excitement built until the final awards night.