Author: Aftab Mahmud Khurshid

Public relations are increasingly becoming important in the world of business. It is an important element in supporting the power and value of an organization’s brand for all stakeholders. All the elements of the corporate brand, from the tone and personality, messaging and content, functional and emotional benefits, to its reputation; if fully leveraged with internal and external audiences can help raise corporate credibility. Enhancing the awareness of understanding and commitment to a brand through public relations is usually an essential part of any overall strategy of any sustainable brand.

Marketing gurus Al and Laura Ries said that public relations should not be secondary to advertising when it comes to building brands, because advertising creates awareness and PR builds Brands. In terms of authenticity, PR is the most effective and credible way to communicate. Public relations is more relevant now than ever. Unlike advertising, PR can give brand depth and personality. PR helps brands to tell their stories, where the brand is the story and PR is the storytelling. PR helps brands bring their stories to life in an authentic and genuine way. 

Social media and the digital space opened a new horizon of online-based PR. PR establishes thought leadership. In that case, content is king because it demonstrates thought leadership in the market. PR builds authentic relationships. By communicating a genuine story, a brand can build trustworthy and authentic relationships with their community, stakeholders, and the mass media.

That is why SMART PR goals need to be strategized which are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timed. In a saturated market, creativity still goes a long way. Then craft an interesting story and communicate them to stay in the market.

There are two areas that are key to the success of any business. One is Brand and another one is Communication; PR is also about image management, both by spreading the right information and managing any potential issues that could affect your business’s reputation.

To get the most from PR efforts, branding must be a part of PR strategy. People’s perception is perhaps the most significant factor in whether they do business with any company or not. Branding should communicate the company’s values which help people to start a relationship with a business due to shared values, which is possible through the right strategic PR.

A good first impression is crucial to building the brand-customer relationship. There is a view that proper branding mixed with good PR can result in both higher sales and customer loyalty for a product or service. That is why branding and public relations go hand in hand. 

*The writer is a marketing professional. He can be reached at aftab.go.brand@gmail.com

“Marketing is the art of creating genuine customer value. It is the art of helping your customers become better off. The marketer’s watchwords are quality, service, and value.” as said by Marketing Guru Philip Kotler.

Consumerism is increasing day by day, especially when it comes to mass marketing, and advertising is being pushed down consumers’ throats. It isn’t any different on social media either. Market trends keep shifting and a brand that has strong recall today can be history tomorrow. So, today CMOs and business owners need to bear this in mind and not take it for granted that only advertisement can lift your brand.

Consumerism is defined by MacMillan Dictionary (1985) as; “Consumerism is concerned with protecting consumers from all organizations with which there is exchanged relationship. It encompasses the set of activities of government, business, independent organizations and concerned consumers that are designed to protect the rights of consumers”.

Consumers develop relationships with diverse brands as partners. Brands are humanized in the minds of consumers and therefore, provide symbolic meanings, images, and social and cultural values, which is beyond the utilitarian benefits, especially when consumer – brand relationship issues come in; consumers are more cautious now.

Consumerism is a social and economic order that encourages the purchase of goods and services in ever-greater amounts and establishes consumer rights. When buying a brand, a consumer should consider a business’s reputation, the value of brand names, and the choices of store availability. Consumerism has been a tool for people to feel satisfied by purchasing and owning goods. Marketers can continuously find information about how brands can evolve in building and strengthening emotional bonds between brands and consumers. Businesses should be aware that, creating and maintaining emotional bonds is a continuous process. A consumer who is in love with a brand is more willing to be committed to that brand.

As we know, consumerism is a social phenomenon that empowers buyers and consumers, its effects are visible in the laws, regulations and also in marketing practices. It keeps a check on the companies and ensures that the consumers get quality products that are safe for them at the right price.

Now it is time for deep dive in. Intelligent business owners have embraced the concept of branding since commerce began thousands of years ago. Within the past few decades, the concept of branding has become a buzzword. Although the attention paid to the concept of branding has been positive, sometimes the misuse of the term has created confusion.

A brand is not a logo or an advertisement. Branding is not creating a new name or identity. A brand is a tangible product or service and the feelings that are associated with the product. Branding is carefully crafting what you offer and managing the feelings and expectations of your customers. But if that feeling gets hurt emotionally then it hurts consumers’ rights. For that very reason, buying behavior might change or get interrupted. Emotions have far more impact on our decision-making process than logic alone.

The value of understanding and managing a brand are numerous. Companies that manage their brand not only have greater positive word-of-mouth advertising, but they also enjoy greater customer loyalty and higher profitability. The return on branding is not just about generating positive feelings; the payoff is something that can be reflected in your bottom line.

As consumerism grows, it will require a shift in how consumers think about and engage with products or service consumption. It will also require a shift in the basic philosophy of many business leaders, some of whom might seem to be disowning the fact that any change will occur.

We all know branding begins with attitude and which is strategic thinking also. If a company is not focused on its basic vision, it is not maximizing its resources. There are two basic strategic components in branding. The first is brand vision and the other strategic component is brand position. If vision is the internal driving force, then positioning is the external driving force. It is how a company wants to be seen and valued by its customers.

THE VALUE OF UNDERSTANDING AND MANAGING A BRAND ARE NUMEROUS. COMPANIES THAT MANAGE THEIR BRAND NOT ONLY HAVE GREATER POSITIVE WORD-OF-MOUTH ADVERTISING, THEY ENJOY GREATER CUSTOMER LOYALTY AND HIGHER PROFITABILITY. THE RETURN ON BRANDING IS NOT JUST ABOUT GENERATING POSITIVE FEELINGS; THE PAYOFF IS SOMETHING THAT CAN BE REFLECTED IN YOUR BOTTOM LINE.

The foundation of any product or service is the features or processes that it provides. These represent the day-to-day deliverables of the product or service; they must be delivered to provide value. These represent the functional or emotional benefits that are being provided by a product or service.

The change in the perspective in consumerism is going to open a whole new arena of marketing opportunities for companies, retailers, financial institutions and anyone who wants to work to attract currency from the consumer.

To better understand and manage a brand, one needs to invest in professional help in the form of a marketing consultant or by hiring a professional strategic marketer and not by salespeople or only hiring an advertising agency. These exercises will help to align the staff and understand the brand development journey.

Consumerism is not just about selling the physical manufactured goods but also about the image or the branding of the product itself as well. Consumerism hasn’t yet reached its tipping point, but companies can take initiatives that will make the brands more than just a commodity and as products to stand out.

Now companies need to take care of consumer rights by becoming honest, and being reasonable, informed and involved. It’s their corporate responsibility that concerns environmental protection, workplace diversity, safety on the job, employee wellness, social responsibility, and business ethics.

So, what will make or break your brand depends on, how the brand is truly using all the corporate responsibility aspects. An ethical business decision is based on a sense of morality and rules of conduct. A socially responsible decision is based on an understanding of what is good for the environment, the needs of the community, the fair treatment of employees and consumers as a whole.
Companies are engaging the legal and compliance department to ensure the right and fair treatment of customers. Now businesses and marketers should take care of these aspects as good corporate citizens to create ethical brand perception, protect consumer rights and gain confidence. 

 

CDEMIA MEETS CORPORATE
Interestingly, organizations are recognizing that if they are to attract the best and brightest talent, they must create purpose-driven organizations aligned with values like meaningful work and social utility. Academia and industry can share a strong synergetic relationship here. Research work in universities is taken up by the industry and turned into products and services to market. Industry, on the other hand, looks to academia for solutions to their concerns. However, practically, we have seen there is a huge gap in academia about how markets work and the ability to analyze this independently.

Both industry and academia can benefit from long-term cooperation. Most importantly, society will help in social sciences, engineering, marketing, branding, communications, environmental sciences, artificial intelligence, and more that will vastly improve everyone’s life if the two work towards a similar goal. Colleges and universities teach us theoretical knowledge of markets and trends in the industry. But not very much practical experience is taught about marketing strategies to compete in competitive environments or to meet the demand.

Students think a degree is sufficient to get a job, sometimes unknowingly set up unrealistic expectations in terms of salary, timing, and mobility. Knowledge earned from a degree is not enough to survive in the corporate world nowadays.

The industry wants a robust work attitude, analytical, listening, and communication skills. It also looks for a team player who is motivated by a collaborative approach, dedicated, has a basic understanding of the business and its processes and an ability to learn and unlearn. This industry needs to learn a lot about modern market mechanisms, which are not in place in many organizations. So, freshers could learn from the organizations.

We learn in higher education, mostly theoretical knowledge tried and tested skills and methodologies to solve problems. However, in real corporate life comes with challenges every day, for which a work attitude needs to be cultivated. Theoretical knowledge gained cannot be applied to practical applications every time.

Also, for fresh graduates, expectations in terms of the work environment, salary, and job profile are not realistic. They face harsh situations at the workplace due to a lack of bad employer attitude and unorganized process orientation in many companies. In a few cases, there is no such job description at all.

Industry expert interaction should, therefore, be increased. More and more workshops and seminars should be planned. Professors should base their courses on practical necessities from industry experts.

It’s a worrying sign that a large number of graduates are produced every year without any employable skills! It brings to light the issue that students are getting degrees, but not being taught to think independently.

Our education system continues to be pulled down by conventional learning concepts and a shortage of faculties in many universities. Poor language skills and communication, body language, self-confidence, analytical ability, personal grooming are the effects of these inadequate facilities.

The industry and academia must have productive discussions about the areas where they can work for mutual benefit. To discuss the current need of the industry in terms of competent workforce and how academia can help them to inculcate the desired skill set.

The companies must also be transparent by conveying properly what their expectations are from marketing graduates. They need to create avenues for close academia and industry interaction through all the phases of modern technology in marketing. They must create a proper corporate culture and positive work environment so that fresh graduates and human talents can cope.

The industry has the highest expectations for newly hired MBAs. Let them hire people for knowledge and attitude and train them for their skills and give time. Corporates should bear in mind that for growth and development, they need to provide adequate time for learning and constant learning and updating their knowledge to match changing environments and market realities. These learning and development programs like induction training programs, refresher training programs need to be available in the workplace through which they are conversant in practical knowledge.
Due to these unrealistic expectations and poor work culture and environment, new BBA/MBA graduates get easily frustrated. If they cannot perform up to expectations, they start looking elsewhere. This leads to several newly hired employees to jump from one organization to another in hopes of getting the job that meets their expectations, even if that job is not available to recent graduates.

The recent slowdown in job creation in the private sector should be treated as a looming threat to the economy.

Academicians and corporates need to reinvent themselves in new ways on a systematic platform that creates value for prospective employees. They need their training and development infrastructure if needed customized modules. Students need to engage themselves with the corporate environment and need to understand the difference between job and career; they should involve extracurricular activities or various events with corporates.

Involvement of industry across the value chain, and not limited to the placement process to ensure employability, curriculum balance in business knowledge and skills, with leadership and soft skill development ,industry exposure through live projects, internships, and case studies on real business can be beneficial for both the employers and potential employees.

A NEW WORLD HAS COME
The Third Industrial Revolution was the digital revolution, which gave birth to the new knowledge economy. It has created thousands of new businesses and job opportunities and laid the foundation for sustainable economic globalization.

However, we are currently experiencing a Fourth Industrial Revolution, the most deep-seated concerning its predecessors. Previous industrial revolutions resulted in more significant social and economic disparity, so we need to make sure the same does not happen again. This Fourth Industrial Revolution (4thIR) is so different because we are developing the ability to design and engineer the world around us.

Bangladeshi corporates need to formulate policies in advance to face the challenges of the impending 4IR.

We think jobs will never reduce. Instead, 4IR will create more jobs for high-skilled workers.

Are we ready in terms of soft skills and a changed mindset in the corporate world for this? We need to formulate a strategy along with an implementation plan to connect the future. Those who seize this opportunity will see an ample of opportunities.

With the onset of the Fourth Industrial Revolution era, we need to consider knowledge, education, and skill development to be at the forefront of all skill development. In this context, enhancing the skill base of the young workforce to make it compatible with future demands is necessary. Currently, there is a huge skill shortage in the country when it comes to strategy, technology, and marketing analytics. We have put a lot of emphasis on skill development, exceptionally soft and technical skills, but we need to develop a proper ecosystem to foster such transformation.
It is high time for the authorities to take strict policies to transform this vast young population into human capital and to promote technology-driven marketing jobs. Otherwise, 4IR will be a curse instead of a blessing for us. Policy-makers, the public, and private sectors, trade organizations need to work together.

Every one of us must get ready and must move fast. We need to employ imagination, creativity, and strategic innovation without delay, where education is critical. Quality education ensures that the population has a high chance of success in today’s fast-changing environment.

Now the time has come to nurture an ecosystem that creates affordable and value-added products and services for ourselves and the world through Value Creation in Corporate Marketing & Industry-Academia Cooperation.

*THE WRITER is a marketing professional. He can be reached at

Brand cannot be built overnight, even when it’s in healthcare business. Developing a logo and a name is one thing but introducing the brand is a process of its own. It’s your organization’s personality, presence, reputation, vision, mission, values,capabilities, philosophy and style. In turn, patients form their impression of your organization based upon all these factors. Healthcare branding success depends on the following aspects that create a positive perception and then mold it into a compelling and unique brand.

BRAND IS EVERYTHING

Most entrepreneurs now recognize that healthcare branding is vital. At the same time, branding it often misunderstood. Brand is not merely your logo or even your brand identity. Brand is the sum of every touch points from where patients have experiences with your hospital, clinics, practice or healthcare organization. That includes everything from signage, the tone of voice, the customer care and total patient experience.

INTERNAL BRANDING

To become successful, brands need to socialize the brand internally before going public. Branding is really an inside-out process and strategic business science. The name, logo, message and positioning statements – the seeds of all brand elements need to be planted in all the stakeholders and staff. It also includes all the ways and means that you communicate with people who already know you including present and previous patients/customers.

EXPERIENTIAL MARKETING

Experiential marketing is a true immersive experience that involves engagement: touch, feel, social sharing. When you connect with the brand or product in a unique way, you’re actually engaged with and absorbed in that brand. When you have the chance to participate with a brand in a unique way, you will socially share and recommend it too. It touches the other senses, so you walk away with a strong recall because you engaged in a physical way. Experiential marketing has been the fastest-growing in brand building and advertising, because of its high trackable ROI, which is more effective than TV for ROI nowadays.

POWER MILLENNIALS

In this sharing economy millennials are willing to share their experiences on social media, engaging their friends and families with these brands as well. Millennials that participate or engage with a brand take pictures or video and post it online. While this demographic may have been overlooked by healthcare in the past, today’s millennials are looking for quality healthcare. Digital advertising,motion graphics are still the most popular way to reach millennials today.

COMMUNICATION IS CRUCIAL

Developing and communicating how and why you’re different is at the heart of branding.
How you communicate your branding message is at the very heart of marketing. In fact, marketing is the active, informed, strategic and measured communication of what makes you unique and important to those whom you most want to reach. Your message of unique value is expressed in your logo, brochure, videos bytes and throughout all the elements of your plan works as the ultimate impression creator in the customer minds.

CREATIVITY AND DESIGN

Designing creative and corporate messages can make a difference. Design drives the customers and customer drives the business. What’s important is that you showcase it in a visual way that makes it real to your audience. Total look and feel of the organizations; including photographs, interior and exterior design will create an impact.

REFERRAL MARKETING

Professional referral sources can’t be taken for granted. Doctor referrals do not happen by magic or simply because you are a good healthcare service organization. A reliable and continuing stream of referral is the lifeblood of any healthcare service providers. Success requires a strategic plan, along with monitoring and regularly following up with professional medical consultants.

ONLINE MARKETING

From websites to social media tools (FaceBook,Messenger,LinkedIn,Twitter etc. ), to patient portals and mobile apps, online marketing is one of the mainstream channels for marketing for advertising and public relations and creating buzz.

EXTERNAL MARKETING

Advertising in newspapers, radio, television, out of home can be an answer to healthcare needs. External Marketing produces a measurable return-on-investment in the long run and keeps the brand alive.

PUBLICITY & MEDIA RELATION

It is said that advertising creates awareness and publicity builds brands. A well-crafted plan for healthcare publicity and free press exposure, such as newspaper articles or broadcast interviews are strong mediums to create visibility. The end results look easy, and it can be a positive and powerful influence. But free publicity typically results from good timing, messaging, time and effort and above all building a good relationship with the media.

CSR is branding in disguise

In most cases healthcare business ignore the CSR aspect, but CSR can build strong social bonding factors and brand image indirectly. It may create a huge impact in the log run; as CSR is branding in disguise.
There’s no sure path to success in HealthCare marketing, but 3 things need to be addressed

IF ORGANIZATIONS REALLY WANT SUCCESS:
1) strong brand
2) right people
3) modern technology

A strong, meaningful differentiating brand for your healthcare business is part of your reputation and image. If there is no trust, there will be no confidence. Time has come to focus on Healthcare Branding Services. In order to do that, organizations need to be professional, recognizable and different. Relying on an advertising agency will not do, instead a strong marketing team needs to be behind conceptualizing, planning, organizing and directing all marketing activities strategically. Branding is about standing apart from the herd in a positive way. Brand is everything and branding is a continuous creative and strategic journey.

 

Branding is one of the most important aspects of any business, large or small, retail, B2C or B2B. Branding is a relatively new concept for the financial industry. They are slowly realizing that they need to manage their strategic assets too. Many financial service firms have historically perceived brand management as being relevant to consumer goods only.

Building a brand requires real understanding, knowledge, talent, correct creative skills, resources, and, of course, time. There is a common misconception that the product is the brand. However, it is the goodwill, the image of the company can create an impact on the whole products or brand which they may not realize. People have to realize that with experience comes expertise. The brand has a much larger and long term impact because it is not only the product but it is also the culture — values, principles, people, ethical, spiritual dimensions and also after-sales services of the organization. All these create credibility and loyalty.

Branding is reliant on eight important factors, and they are visionary organization, simple and focused leadership, caring organization, learning organization, customer-centric organization, quality organization, incubating organization, innovative and creative organization. Above all, a real brand built on honesty can be clearly perceived by the customer. The brand experience should be a true reflection of a company. There should be a sense of uniformity. That credential gives a brand real value, develop an image and creates impact. In the end, it helps to increase the bottom line: the profit.

Companies convey value through the brand name or the symbols they use. We need to be mindful to stress on the core value of a brand to create an impact on the consumer minds to become successful. The goal is to retain a long-standing market position. Branding for business is the lifetime achievement of a successful businessman. The yields can be enjoyed along with generations. Doing business can make you money, but building a brand can give name, fame, roll and protect your money, mind, and market. However, a brand must be truthful. That is, it must be based on reality. Everyone should know what the brand stands for, and everyone in the organization should have clear answers to these questions and be ready to play a part in shaping the consumers’ perception.

In order to make this happen, banks and financial institutions have to fully equip their team members to live and breathe their brand story. It’s never been more important to empower workers to represent brands in a way that portrays an understanding of the brand story. This is especially true for those directly in touch with consumers through conversation, email, phone, YouTube video, and Facebook post.

A bank or company can’t grow if the MD or the CEO doesn’t understand marketing. In multi-national or global companies there are two brand custodians – one is the CEO and the other is the head of marketing. Since the CEO is selling the brand image, he or she is responsible for its image. The head of marketing is responsible for feeding the CEO about the market mechanisms, product or service development, communications, customer insights, and market insight. Marketers work as growth driver which at the end of the day adds value to the business growth. If a company wants to be successful in the twenty-first century, then it has to put emphasis on corporate branding and then on getting the right human resource, marketing can give you the intellectual support, creative support, as well as market-related support. An effective brand strategy gives a major edge in increasingly competitive markets.

There is also employer branding and employee branding. If you do not have a good company image you won’t attract good employees. If you don’t have quality employees, then you won’t have quality structure or quality teams. A powerful brand is meant to change customer behavior, improve business economics, gain competitive advantage and provide a clear mandate for employees.
There is a significant opportunity for savvy banks to articulate and execute a brand strategy. Branding a company successfully is a rigorous process of developing the promise that an institution wants to convey to its customers, and executing a strategy that delivers on the promise. To make sure that the brand promise is achieved, a strong guardianship function is required. The best approach is to create a dedicated brand management in the bank, where the CEO is the CBO. Creating a strong brand management function as such, marketing takes a central role in guiding the corporate strategy by having the top management team and the CEO regularly updated about the brand strategy, customers and markets.

This is not in place in most of the organizations and sometimes brand gets task oriented and cannot play a proper role. The old saying applies here — commands from different commanders confuse soldiers. The brand is led by the boardroom and managed by brand marketers with an active buy-in. “Trying to convince a skeptical CEO about the value of branding is like trying to push water up the hill,” explained once Dan Roselli, brand and advertising executive for Bank of America. “Go to work at a company where the CEO already understands.,” he also stated. To brand or not to brand is no longer a question of marketing alone. The decision to launch a branding or re-branding program has evolved into a business often directly addressed by CEO-and-Board. They understand that the brand is, in fact, the institution. While marketing and advertising services illuminate branding, delivering the brand’s message across diverse media to intended audiences, a simple logo change is not enough. Bank branding really begins at the core of the organization and works its magic from the inside out. But in most cases, people think branding means only heavy advertising and publishing press releases. If a bank is perceived as no different from its competitors, it is in trouble. That is why we brand, to create the difference. In a crowded and confusing marketplace, a recognizable, meaningful brand has become today’s most valuable business asset.

Many financial services organizations, brokerage firms, and non-traditional financial services now understand the importance of brand building, specifically those outside the traditional banking industry aiming to attract financial services customers. But moving quickly to build a brand that communicates a powerful message to financial services consumers is critical.
Building a branded banking business is to understand the role of the brand in that particular business, including the leverage it can provide across markets and product categories. The critical part is positioning clarity, consistency, and relevance. Unfortunately, many of the local banks clearly do not know what a brand stands for and will be actively communicated to the target audience. In many cases, firms, from smaller banks to the biggest, cannot differentiate their product as per consumer needs.

The organization must be aligned with the people, products and services, physical network and service level required to communicate and reinforce the brand message, every time a customer comes in contact with the organization. The significant changes required may challenge the management of traditional financial services companies. There are a few reasons for which brand communications get marginalized — basically, everybody thinks they are an expert, communication works at a subconscious level, creativity is subjective, and marketing is seen as cost-centric, while not many tools of measurement are available. It needs top management support for success.

Branding is the science and art of corporate strategy. This balancing act may overcome the illusions of how ideal corporate brands can exist. Branding in financial services is undergoing substantial changes, owing to the dramatic increase in the competition following deregulation and the threat posed by new entrants or global banks with branding experience. Consumers actually want something from banks and financial organizations. There are ample opportunities if they get the packaging right and superior experiences. It is “one-stop-service,” or in digital platform “one-click” with a difference.

A brand represents an expectation, a level of quality and it is a measure of trust. It is more than a logo. In our country branding is widely misunderstood to be advertising or public relations (PR). These are tools or means of communication of brand building. It’s been found that many companies or organizations depend heavily on advertising agency and work as per owner’s directives; which becomes task oriented rather than real strategic role-playing. Many cases it is found the brand failure is basically caused by management failure.

Although some long-established banks and insurance companies still see their brand merely as an aid to awareness and recognition, the new entrants and are radically transforming themselves by placing the brand at the center of their corporate strategy. It is noteworthy that few financial service firms commit to actively and consistently managing their brands.
A powerful brand is differentiated and relevant to its target audience, a service brand can communicate its promise through advertising, but it must be built through action. Identifying and articulating a brand vision for any Bank is not easy because employees have to live it in front of the customer every day. Because the company’s employees are, in a sense, “always on the stage” they are the face of the bank.

Now the ‘experience’ economy has arrived. A brand experiences the feelings or expectations of customers that are evoked during every interaction at every touch point with people, products, service, process, technology, and branches that are like ‘shop” or ‘stores’. That is why banks might use their branches to create the right branded customer experience in the future.
For digital platform, that is the future. The decision makers are not very into the digital realm. The current young generation will be bank customers in the future. It will be another 10 to 16 years before they become decision makers. So, the digital platform needs to be developed. Marketing is ultimately a creative engineering and strategic business science. You have to engineer and re-engineer. You have to stay updated all the time. Otherwise, you become invisible to the consumer.

Data and analytics are important indeed, the story behind the data is also important. It’s marketing intelligence or business intelligence which bring changes through the data science and digital ecosystem. Social media is still the best way to reach Millennial. Specifically, the platforms used, the impact of friends and influencers, privacy concerns, and inbound marketing preferences. We should learn to use small data first before thinking about big data. Analyze small data first, get insight and make the strategy.

In addition to influencers, Millennials give ear to what friends and family say online and they are more likely to buy a product or service if a peer recommends it on social media. Financial service firms can transform this challenge into an opportunity to tailor a more comprehensive plan for growth. So, it is time to get banks to become more innovative. Start branding without breaking your bank.

The writer is a globally recognized business marketing professional and brand strategist. Instrumental in revamping corporate brand of Trust bank, involved in the rebranding process of City bank and planning process of AMEX card launching, led ‘Here for good’ brand transformation of Standard Chartered Consumer banking, strategized brand guidelines of Sure Cash, Developed brand marketing strategy of NRB bank. Can be reached: Aftab.go.brand @gmail.com

 

A business of compassion and care

Marketing, an important tool to raise profitability, is also now being employed by the healthcare sector. Healthcare marketing, in particular, is a very sensitive topic as it deals with trust and confidence of the entire ecosystem. As is the case with any product, a differentiated, relevant and inspiring brand makes every marketing effort more effective.

Globally, the marketing of healthcare and hospitals is gaining importance. In Bangladesh, however, it is still a relatively new concept. In the last three decades the healthcare industry has transformed drastically. The image that is portrayed by a hospital allows the company to build the idea of trust and confidence in potential patients, and the hospital’s ability to provide efficient medical services.

The perception of the local healthcare sector can be described as mildly positive at best. This is due to the lack of proper treatment and other related medical services in the country. Expert physicians are not always the answer, especially when supporting service providers such as nurses are in short supply or are unskilled. While we mostly blame public hospitals for their negligence, sometimes even private hospitals are not careful about service delivery. They neglect the service agenda, provide poor customer care, foster inefficient management style and build an overall toxic organizational culture.

The owners of health care businesses need to understand that marketing is not just about selling products and services, or focusing on building the hospital’s brand value in the eyes of the customer. It needs to consider the entire healthcare ecosystem at the local, regional, national and global level to create messages that fit each segment to build its overall image, reputation, trust and confidence. There is a need to hire professional marketing and public relation experts to help run the show. There is a need for professional marketers with diversified knowledge, the right skill set, and a broad understanding of brand, marketing, service, communications and media.

Organizations that are dependent on conventional Below-the-line (BTL) marketing activities face obstacles because these modern marketing tactics are widely used. Similarly, if the brand doesn’t have any trust and confidence in the people or if the brand preference is not created, then the BTL approach will not be successful.

ROLE OF THE CMO
In this era of omnichannels and digital media fragmentation, the role of a Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) for a healthcare centre is very challenging. The CMO is the perfect leader to drive business innovation because the nature of the business requires in-depth knowledge of the market and the competitive space. Creative inputs and staying updated about new technologies or business trends that may affect the business is also imperative. Simple, cost effective marketing tools can be used for hospitals to make it the preferred choice for patients by creating awareness about the brand.
A professional hospital CMO can help blend old industry practices as well as engage in disruptive thinking in order to make a breakthrough in the industry. The misconception about patient care, lack of service quality, media fragmentation and above all, the lack of belief in the hospital’s services, are the main bottle necks. Regardless of these challenges, today’s healthcare CMOs and marketers need to be more strategic, customer-centric, experience-driven and communicative in moving towards a leaner organization to allow the business to grow.

The healthcare system has been slow in meeting consumer demands in terms of marketing efforts. But we need to understand that patients are healthcare consumers too. It has been seen that healthcare is driven not by what the patient wants, but what the hospital or organization wants. And therein lies the problem.

GOING THE EXTRA MILE
The brand of the hospital should aim at designing a marketing scheme which promotes the idea that the organization goes above and beyond for their patients. This strategy becomes even more important in the age of digital and mobile advertising. Every business wants to see a return on investment and the healthcare sector is no different. That mind set that health care service providers don’t need marketing must change. The industry needs to invest in image building campaigns to drive interest and leads. A great place to start would be by training customer care staff or service equality teams to be passionate advocates for their area of word. Since they are the first point of contact for any patient, a positive interaction between the two will help attract more patients to the hospitals. As Maya Angelou rightly said, ‘They may forget your name, but they will never forget how you made them feel.’

BALANCING SUSTAINABILITY AND PROFITABILITY
A hospital’s marketing budget might be limited which can be a challenge for most CMO’s. However, they must find new ways to use these limited finances to their own advantage. The fragmentation of media may be frustrating, but it also presents ample opportunities to redirect budget and leverage one media against another to grow their marketing footprints.

Through strategic alliances, businesses can co-create mutual benefits which also means less of a strain on the budget. Now is the time for healthcare CMOs and CEOs to start thinking like entrepreneurs. This can only be done by encouraging a cultural shift in the organization.

Every employee of the organization are their very own spokesperson or brand ambassador. The HR head can extend their hand in making an employee’s work experience at a hospital beneficial and rewarding, which will encourage a positive generation of word-of-mouth.

Branding is not what you tell your customers, it is also what they tell others about you. Putting an emphasis on patient care guarantees that they will remember it for a long time.

If every member of the healthcare team understands their role in keeping the brand promise, then it will be easier to communicate the same to the patients. CEO’s can help communicate the brand position internally though internal marketing channels. Initiative needs to be taken to shift company culture to brand culture based on the core values of the hospital.

Nothing works better than word of mouth. Word of mouth (WoM) publicity is still the best way to market healthcare, especially hospitals. In today’s world WoM happens through online medium as well. The best way to attract new customers is to treat current ones like gold.

OFF THE BEATEN TRACK
Involvement in the traditional advertising methods is one of the major reasons that the healthcare industry is lagging behind. A one-time investment in total marketing services will boost digital presence within a stipulated time frame and can help the business to grow.

Media relations will support the brand in creating a positive image. As the saying goes, advertising builds awareness while public relations builds brands.

Organizations need to redesign their virtual marketing strategy to align it with their strategy. A responsive hospital website is a strong marketing tool for the community, and continuing to invest in this strategy will have a greater impact on consumer engagement, thereby increasing revenue.

A huge leap has been seen in the preference of digital marketing over traditional marketing. Content marketing builds trust and boosts traffic on the hospital’s websites and blogs. Content is always king, which also holds true for healthcare marketing.

Experiential marketing will definitely have some impact on customer behaviour and buying decisions. So while deciding on the website design, marketers should consider the user experiences, appeal and over all look and feel.

CREATE A POSITIONING STATEMENT
A positioning statement is a short, concise, honest, memorable statement that distinguishes your hospital from the competition. It sets a precedent for how internal teams should align with healthcare brand’s image. It should set the stage for all branding efforts moving forward if all employees live up to brand promise or mantra.

Healthcare organizations must aggressively market their business just to remain competitive. Marketing is needed to invest in new facilities, expand services or high-priced advertising campaigns and investing in the powerful strategy of brand building. All this should be done in an effort to get a stronger foothold of the market.

Every patient wants value for their money and it is the marketer’s responsibility to build a customer’s faith in a hospital. Only a clear marketing strategy which has been executed with discipline, high standards and professionalism can achieve success for a business.

*The writer is a Business Marketer and has been recognized as the ‘Most Influential Marketing Leader’ in 2015 World Marketing Congress. He can be reached at aftab.go.brand@gmail.com

“The magic formula that successful businesses have discovered is to treat customers like guests and employees like people.” – Tom Peters, Speaker, and Author
In this fast-moving digital era, social media has a great influence, especially on urban customers and millennials, without any doubt or delay, brands need to focus on reputation and customer experiences.

Digital transformation has changed the marketing landscape and the customers of the 21st century are getting information on a real-time basis; more than billions of people are now connected online every day. For this very reason, brands have become more approachable. This is now a part of the entire brand building process. 

Customers are always the key and central point of any business. By putting them first, companies can set their vision, mission, and goals to become a customer-centric organization. “When the customer comes first, the customer will last,” said Robert Half, Founder of the Robert Half International.

At the end of the day, it’s the customers who help generate revenue and the employees are the driving force behind it. As Richard Branson, Chairman of Virgin Group once said, “Clients do not come first. Employees come first. If you take care of your employees, they will take care of the clients.” For better products and services, companies require talented employees as well.
How consumers think and feel about your organization is a reflection of how you treat them. If you disappoint them with a product or service quality, you’ll create a negative perception and risk becoming a substandard brand in their eyes. In this context, analytics has the ability to improve sales and help neutralize customer dissatisfaction.

Brands have to analyze all customer touchpoints to reinforce their positioning and to deliver a memorable experience.  Consumers have high expectations and businesses need to aim to convert visitors, patients, and the general audience into loyal customers with every interaction. To bring this change about, internal branding is a critical success factor for customer experience management. Getting the brand and customer experience to be a positive one is truly a team effort. Everyone involved, starting from CEOs to call-center agents should understand the process inside and out. Service industries are now on the rise and include finance, airlines, travel, entertainment, sports, education, and hospitals. To build relations and capture and retain customers, proper attention to details is required. “A brand for a company is like a reputation for a person. You earn reputation by trying to do hard things well,” said Jeff Bezos, Founder, Amazon. In this fast-changing context of the market economy, we all have to understand that customer experience is the new brand. 

 

*The writer is a Business Marketer and recognized as ‘most influential marketing leaders’ in 2015 world marketing congress. Served renowned Local and Multinational Companies. He can be reached at aftab.go.brand@gmail.com

Nurturing home grown CEOs is still a far-fetched dream. Here is what we can do about that

As ironic as it may sound, despite having an abundance of people in our pool the local high-end job market in many cases is filled by the expats recently. Is it a comedy of errors like Shakespearian classics? It is a folly created by combined sins of policy implementation and management practice which we have been pursuing over the decades. It is a gap between the market demand and our lack of capability to meet that need. It is a dichotomy.

I am trying to dissect this heart burning gap that creates a hole in our body politic. I am a bit critical to analyses this gap and trying earnestly to find out the real missing link. Why does it happen? Why are we lagging behind even our neighboring countries in this race?

We live in the age of digitization. We are living in a global village. We are far from the race, and we do not have much time to lag behind. The policy of wait and see will lead us more far back.

Let us delve into it.
Through my professional experiences, I have witnessed that even successful entrepreneur sometimes do not know how to pick the right person. Sometimes even headhunters are not well-knowledged about professional talents available in the market.

It is the missing link we are discussing. I must say there are lots of talents in Bangladesh. But we have a mindset or mentality that expats are more professional and fit for the job. To some extent that is right because, regarding professionalism and technical know-hows, they are much better than us. But if our people can learn those things they can catch up very easily and quickly. With that point of view, I must say we have a noteworthy talent pool. Miserably, we are not nurturing and grooming them properly. That is happening due to our narrow mindset, lack of succession plan, and senior management role or leadership plan in companies. There are many large companies which do not have any particular job descriptions or role profile or even the need assessment of the skillsets requiring for specific job or function. They think they will hire someone and he/she can perform automatically. but that’s not the case. Now in and around the organization, it requires multi-skilled people and some of them have to be specialized. Some are thinkers and planners, while some are performers or doers, and some do routine jobs.

Three categories of people are needed in a company. Somebody have to think and strategize the plan. Somebody has to play and score. To succeed, a company needs the right HR mix.
We live in the age of digitization. We are living in a global village. We are far from the race, and we do not have much time to lag behind. The policy of wait and see will lead us backwards.
Strangely enough, almost half of our population are youth; they will be our next leaders, policymakers, and entrepreneurs. So we need to read their minds and prepare our roadmap taking them in the right direction. The youth force is posing an endless opportunity for us. We have to empower our next generation by honoring their unique skills. They are entirely different from the peoples of two decades back. They are not the babies of Stone Age, but of Digital Age. We have to understand what makes them successful or they will be derailed. The millennial generation is very tech savvy. They wanted to find everything at their fingertips. In reality, there is a need of touch and feel otherwise they will be techno based only, and human factor will be missing. Logic is that for leadership there has to be some human aspects or combination of both. We cannot avoid technology, modernization, urbanization, digitation as well as globalization. I am talking about the Internet of Things (IoT). We have to accept these things and apply them strategically.

A lot of companies are copying models instead of strategizing their vision, mission, the requirement as well as; they do not have any value proposition.

Some companies have it only to write in their annual report. But it is not found in their practices. The companies have to live by the brand values. Why are the Multi-National companies ruling over the world? They follow their vision, mission and brand values. Corporate branding, like a human being, has its own DNA. Positive brand culture shapes the future of a corporation. If you go by the traditional culture, your company will not grow after ten years.

The essential factor is to consider the empowerment of netizens. We have to have some time-bound commitment and sincere efforts to develop our skills, e.g., leadership skills, professional skills, managerial skills and thinking skills above all human ability. In most cases, our thinking and leadership skills are missing. We only try to manage things. But the requirement is to improve through a holistic approach. In most of the cases our local companies do not have any Key Performance Index (KPI) and Policy & Processes (P&P) and quality human resources.

Indeed, we have successful CEOs but future CEOs must attain trust and loyalty as a person and should have dynamic and strategic long-term vision. Excitement shall be there, but it should satisfy their work environment; they need to excite people by motivation. There should be performing work environment, respectful employee relation and coexist with diversified people.

It is a globalized world, so we have to set up our mindset as a global manager. You have to share and transfer your thought to other persons and prepare people for implementing your dream. If you are not hiring right people, then they cannot match with your vision. You have to hire right human resources also otherwise will be negative. A company cannot grow with negative people; only passionate performers can shift a company from the conglomerate, which requires a platform to perform, and allows them to play a role rather than giving task oriented unproductive job.

We have to understand what makes them successful or they will be derailed. The millennial generation is very tech savvy. They wanted to find everything at their fingertips. In reality, there is a need of touch and feel otherwise they will be techno based only, and human factor will be missing. 

Narrow mindset coupled with lack of knowledge, sycophancy, and nepotism form a vicious cycle. To break it individuals should come forward proactively. If we go through the case study of successful people, then we see that they are patient, timely, vision-oriented, committed, dynamic and modern in thinking level. They are trying to develop themselves every day. Nevertheless, the case is not the same for us. After finishing academic courses, we think that we know everything. But the real learning starts after passing the academic course. We are not trying to upgrade ourselves.

The way forward is that everybody has to develop individually. They have to decide to have a vision, and go there; only then does it becomes a collective vision. The company should understand that besides hiring, it has a responsibility to provide training and development and give proper environment so that those resources can be used in the long run.

Last but not least, we have to be futuristic and shall count what will happen in future. Now the service sector is emerging. In the physical sector, there is an option of copy the products but not the services. In character, services are unique. Any kind of services from tourism to banking everything is unique. It may be tangible or intangible. The road to success is to create a small difference through your service branding.

Finally, it is time to recognize openly and build a relationship through collaborative efforts and inspire the future generation to grab future possibilities and minimize the missing link.

THE WRITER IS  an internationally recognized brand marketing professional