in Malaysia by

Pizza Hut CMO Jean Ler on why the basics of a brand or consumer never change

It has been truly fascinating to observe how marketing has evolved over the past 10 years, especially with such astonishing acceleration in digital in the past five years. It has created a fear in marketers of the risk of being left behind or being swamped in all the technical knowledge of digital.

Today, marketers and agencies are incorporating digital solutions to solve every brand and marketing issue. Yes, it is really exciting looking at the unlimited space and possibilities that marketers and agencies are able to play in! However, the proliferation of digital platforms, touch-points, creative and execution variations is leading towards fragmentation. When brands are busy chasing after the fragmented choices and behaviours of consumers, the risk is that marketing campaigns are becoming more fragmented and less integrated, and brands are diluted without consistency in communications.

In the midst of all this, there are two fundamental things that are easily forgotten by many marketers today – consumer insights and what the brand is about. By observation, this is no longer a discussion point by many digital marketers that jumped onto the new-age bandwagon. While we all are excited about the new age of digital and technologies, let’s take a step back from the big data, data analytics, automated marketing, social platforms and content, artificial intelligence and various tools of tracking and measurement.

Fundamentally, the objectives of marketing never change. They are always about influencing and changing how consumers see, think, feel and act. And the objectives of communications are all about reaching and engaging consumers effectively. Most of the data analytics, if not all, are targeted to reach consumers by understanding their behaviours – where they go, what they do and prefer, when they do, but missing out the “why”.

How effective a brand can engage its consumers depends on how much it knows about them and how much it can touch and leave a mark on them. This is consumer insight. This is the why. In fact, to a certain extent, these are human truths when delved deep enough. Such truths about the needs and wants of consumers stay true for long time. Marketing campaigns built on consumer insights and human truths are meaningful, impactful and long lasting, and in many cases, they are media-neutral across touch-points and platforms.

Another challenge is when a brand only wants to behave and speak to appease its target consumers, especially the Millennials. Often, when marketers are eager to know how to bring them into their brands, it is easy to lose sight of what the brand stands for, and the attitudes and purpose a brand advocates for. Especially for highly interactive social platforms, a brand needs to say more and show more. It becomes tricky how well marketers and agencies know the brands they manage, and therefore, making sure they know what to say and what not to say.

Consistency in brand communication executions helps a brand build a clear brand personality and imageries, and makes it easier for consumers to recognise and recall. Keeping all these basics intact, marketers and agencies should continue having fun exploring the frontiers of digital as far as their imaginations can go, enabled by data and tools, instead of being bogged down by them. To me, artificial intelligence is the most interesting development in technologies that could get us to the closest understanding of human truths in needs and wants, with possibly high accuracy of behavioural predictions. Will there be a day that we gasp: “The machine knows me better than I know myself?!”

In summary, hold tight onto the brand and marketing basics and continue to have fun learning and evolving with all the enablers available.

Jean Ler, chief marketing officer, Pizza Hut Restaurants. The article first appeared in A+M’s The Futurist print edition.