Marketing Futures is an initiative formed to shape the marketers of tomorrow. The concept aims to bringing in international expertise, experience and examples of today and tomorrow’s marketing communications to smart marketers in Bangladesh. Focusing on marketing communications and its adoption of technologies, digital tools and integrated planning and storytelling, Marketing Futures has set out to become a platform which will provide training, workshops, seminars, brand consultancy and social learnings in Bangladesh.
The platform will be headed by Co-Founder and Chairman, Dave McCaughan; with Partners, Zulfiqar Ahmed, Muneer Ahmed, Taslim Ahmed and Co-Founder and Partner, Faiyaz Ahmed.
ICE Business Times caught up with the two Co-Founders of Marketing Futures to hear about their vision for future marketers of Bangladesh.
Dave McCaughan is based in Bangkok and has spent the last three decades working across the Asia Pacific, leading strategy planning in senior management roles with McCann, one of the world’s largest advertising and communication companies before partnering with Marketing Futures in 2017.
Faiyaz Ahmed is communication professional with an experience of more than 20 years of expertise in local and international markets like Japan and Indonesia with McCann World Group. He is specialized in the areas of consumer insight, brand management and integrated marketing communication process.
What kind of vision does Marketing Futures have for Bangladesh?
Dave McCaughan – I have been visiting Bangladesh every couple of years over the past two decades now. I’ve observed a lot of change, and one of the things that I expected is that the market will grow dramatically, with that we will be seeing a lot of foreign brands coming into Bangladesh. At the same time, there’s the growth of local brands who are thinking about exporting. So, as Bangladesh becomes a more mature marketplace, it’s going to have to compete in all sorts of ways in terms of the professionalism of brand strategy and so on. Hence, what we see in the future is that potential for growth and not just a place where companies are coming and working but producing quality work for both the foreign and local firms in order to be more competitive.
Faiyaz Ahmed – Bangladesh has seen remarkably steady GDP growth of +6% over the past few years, and we’re now observing that local companies have started setting up shop outside Bangladesh which shows that they are reaching that international standard. However, to see more of this, both technological development and human skill development are important. That is what we are attempting; skill development of the people, the technology, and the communication that is required to deal with the brands. We want to build them up to that international standard at Marketing Futures.
Dave McCaughan – I have been working across all of Asia for the last 20 years, and spent a lot of time in all the major Asian countries. One of the things I’ve learned is that people in business; Brand Managers, Marketing Directors, have very narrow mindsets. For example, it always surprises me how they do not know what’s happening in their category in other countries. Using an example from the toothpaste category, how many people know what the highest selling toothpaste in Asia is? It’s Darlie, which most people have never heard of. It’s the dominant brand in China, owned by Colgate but run as a separate brand. Although not many people know of it, the brand has a lot of great stories to learn from. My point is that, instead of looking to the US or Europe, we need to know about successful brands in our neighboring countries with similar marketing environments.
What kind of skill gaps have you found in the marketing sector in Bangladesh?
Faiyaz Ahmed – One skill gap I see is that the people in marketing are struggling when it comes to strategy. Strategy is something that relies on research; getting proper and authentic research done in Bangladesh right now is a significant challenge. Moreover, understanding people and their insights is another issue. Understanding that insight and developing a strategy based on that is something we need to address. On the other hand, communication skills need to grow as well. Bangladesh is communicating and engaging in business activities with other parts of the world. Hence, communication is one of the biggest things that will help us connect with people outside Bangladesh. We are out there; we are growing. For that growth to be sustainable, we need improvements in these departments.
Dave McCaughan – The key to this is discipline. One of the disciplines that seem to be underutilized here is market research. For research to be conducted properly, some questions need to be addressed -What’s the role of market research? What are the expectations? How to brief it? How to understand and implement it?
Considering the youthful population dynamics of Bangladesh, what kind of marketing strategies would be the most effective here?
Dave McCaughan – One of the great myths about marketing to young people, that has been true since modern marketing started in the 1930’s and 1940’s, is the belief that with the youth it’s all about the trending stuff. If they did, they wouldn’t all be dressing similar; they wouldn’t be following the same music trends; they wouldn’t all be on Facebook. However, Facebook has been a splendid tool to understand the lack of rebellion amongst young people. If you make a random selection of Facebook pages here in Dhaka or across Bangladesh amongst maybe 19-year-olds, you’re going to find way more similarities than differences in terms of their content. What young people want to do is to rebel into conformity. What they’re looking for is security, friendship, and brands which will help them find a path towards easy socialization. Therefore, you have to look for strategies that address these issues.
On the other hand, if you’re watching a marketplace like Bangladesh from the perspective of a 19 or 20-year-old; you obviously see a lot of change. For a 19-year-old, it means that change is absolutely normal. So that alters how you articulate your strategies in a way that would get young people interested.
Faiyaz Ahmed – We need to figure out their core desires and design strategies around them. The youth sometimes suffer from a lack of identity. So what brands can do here, is provide them with an identity, there by fulfilling one of their core desires. Another thing is that the youth of Bangladesh are being exposed to the world through the emergence of technology and social media; they are getting more know ledged and rational about their buying behavior so marketing communication strategies needs to tell the youth how a specific brand or product can fulfill their emotional and rational need, a brand which can communicate with a balance of both will stand out.
“What medium really matters in people’s lives?” Dave, you’ve asked this question at previous talks you’ve held. Can you please tell us about the implications of this question?
Dave McCaughan – Dhaka ranks second in terms of highest Facebook usage in the world after Bangkok. Does that necessarily mean that it’s the most important medium to people? Is it the one that matters the most? There is a difference between usage and what matters the most. For example, let’s consider that you could have Facebook, television or some form of written medium. You can only have one for the rest of your lives, which one are you going to choose? If you had an option between music, photographs and your writing ability, which one would you choose? These are goofy examples but what I mean is that marketers have to identify within the plethora of availability, with a limited number of options at their disposal, which medium matters the most to their target audience. This should be the single most important question in marketer’s lexicon, but it’s often the one they don’t ask.
What are the key issues that marketing companies need to understand about a developing market like Bangladesh?
Dave McCaughan – Despite what people think, everything’s been done before. The first thing you have to remember when dealing with a developing market, there have been 100 other countries which have developed before. What are the lessons they have learned and what development process did they go through? For example, changes in family structures, the changing role of education and the media accessibility and so on. When I asked Faiyaz who the top 5 celebrities are here, I was surprised to know they were all cricketers, local movie stars or celebrities from India. This shows you that the influence from the USA to here is quite small. However, globally they make the assumption that young people are leaning towards America. A particular beverage brand in America asked me to do focus groups in Asian countries where I would ask the question, ‘if you could’ve been born in any other country, except your own, what would your choice be?’ The Americans assumed that everyone would say America, but only 15% did. Most people said, ‘we like American stuff, but we do not want to be American.’
Faiyaz Ahmed – It’s all about understanding the consumers and what popular cultural influences are taking places. We need to utilize the factors and symbols which are influential at the RIGHT MOMENT for the RIGHT PEOPLE in order to turn them into consumers.