March, 6, 2019
As Sri Lanka steps-up to middle income status, Sri Lankans are stepping up to new opportunities and challenges. Based on their experience in working with brands and interacting with consumers on a regular basis, Dilini Jayasuriya - Executive Director of Breakthrough Business Intelligence (Pvt) Ltd. and Abhishek Hariharan - Associate Vice President & Head of Planning of MullenLowe Sri Lanka spell out some of these interesting changes that will impact your brand.
Well-established segmentation norms of education, occupation or lifestyle markers are losing their potency. Easy finance schemes, trade -in offers and accessible prices mean that so-called ‘premium’ products & services are now a whole lot more accessible. Trips abroad, high-end electronics and appliances are just some of the categories that are seeing changes in their usership profile. Brands need to be mindful about this change in the axes of segmentation and its impact communication and brand building activities.
The big city is no longer the only place to pursue ambition and chase opportunity. Sri Lankans are not finding it necessary to shift their base to a bigger city to make it big. Earlier people sought out opportunity, now thanks to inclusive growth and the rise of technology opportunity seeks people. Brands will have to account for this when it comes to planning their distribution, positioning and media strategy.
Women are now increasingly contributing to the family finances through their own incomes and part-time jobs. They have started to take a stand on all things financial. There is a clear segregation in the monetary assets. Couples now choose whose money they will spend when. This increase in women’s spending their own money for big ticket family purchases means they will emerge as decision makers in many more categories.
The development of many Fin-Tech organizations bringing loans to your fingertips offering micro loans to mobile based insurance highlighting technology and convenience. These loans provide a solution to the youngsters’ FOMO (fear of missing out). This means that there will be an increasing number of consumers who have access to easy credit to fund their desired lifestyle. However, there may be certain regulatory issues that could crop up.
Social media is helping novice online shoppers deal with apprehensions about trust and quality that conventional eCommerce poses. Digitally savvy entrepreneurs are using social media as a nearly zero-cost direct sales and consumer engagement channel. The presence of a human touch on social media means that social commerce may emerge as a more trusted alternative to eCommerce.
As purse strings tighten, consumers tend to reduce experimentation on unknown brands. We see more consumers placing their trust in the house brands of their preferred retail outlets. Retail brands have already won the trust of the shopper and now can look to cash in on it by offering products that are low in price, but not necessarily lower in quality and value as perceived by the consumer.
Even well-established Brands are increasingly vulnerable to losing their image & equity they have built up over years. A few vocal dissidents or a post on social media can undo years of effort and investment. Brands will find that the traditional ideals of trust and heritage may not be enough to meet the high expectations of consumers.
With economic difficulties, racial tensions and political uncertainty all being a staple of the news headlines – it isn’t surprising that Sri Lankans’ inherent sense of optimism and national pride may get replaced with a sense of frustration that has been building up over the better part of the past year. Brands can help alleviate this sense of frustration, by bringing forward stories that rekindle Sri Lankans’ faith and optimism.
Consumers no longer blindly believe that foreign is better. The changing macro-economic scenario and emergent sense of pride mean that the conscious consumer may choose to buy local for the feel-good factor. We will see a rise in the emergence of brands that talk about their local roots and connections.
Looking lean and fit is the way to be and more consumers are starting to realize the benefits of a good healthy lifestyle. But being healthy for its own sake isn’t enough. ‘Gym-fies’ that show off muscles, bragging about your 10K running time or showing off your healthy breakfast on Instagram time are fast becoming commonplace. What’s the point of healthy habits if you can’t brag about it?
With English being the go to language online, traditional languages around the world are starting to feel the pressure and Sri Lanka is no exception to this. Hashtags and emojis are developing into a universally language of their own. We also see that the neat distinction between English, Sinhala and Tamil is blurring and the emergence of mash-up language in brand communication
Whether it’s cup of coffee, an everyday purchase or even a visit to the bank – everything is expected to be an experience today. Increasing competition has made differentiation nearly impossible. From movie halls to retail stores to shopping malls, brands are trying to stand out by creating unique experiences that engage the senses in a surprising manner. And of course, bonus points for it being Instagram - worthy.
About the Authors: Dilini Jayasuriya is the Executive Director Breakthrough Business Intelligence (Pvt) Ltd. Abhishek Hariharan is Associate Vice President & Head of Planning at MullenLowe Sri Lanka. They can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com respectively.
About Breakthrough Business Intelligence: Breakthrough Business Intelligence, a boutique marketing research agency, committed to providing insightful partnership that drive bottom line results for clients. Breakthrough has been instrumental in providing strategic direction for some of the leading brands in the country, while helping local brands to expand into the regional markets, through their operations in Bangladesh and Maldives.
About MullenLowe Sri Lanka: Established as LDB Lintas in 1993, and thereafter referred to as Lowe LDB, MullenLowe Sri Lanka has a vibrant creative legacy. It came to be known as MullenLowe as a result of a merger with US based network Mullen in 2015. A majority of MullenLowe’s business comes from global FMCG giant Unilever. In addition, it works with some of the country’s leading brands in carbonated soft drinks, banking and finance, insurance, biscuits, milk foods, sanitary napkins, lubricants, foods, FinTech, personal care and beauty products, mobile communications, data and consumer electronics. The company dominates the top 10 most advertised categories by 80% and the top 20 most advertised categories by 50% making it by far, one of the most influential brand communications company in the country. MullenLowe Sri Lanka is currently the reigning Effie Agency of The Year and was recently recognized by Campaign Asia as “Creative Agency of the Year” in the (Rest of) South of Asia Category.
Photo caption: Dilini-Jayasuriya (left) and Abhishek Hariharan