Dhiren Amin, Chief Marketing Officer at NTUC Income, will be Chairing the 2022 WARC Awards for Asian Strategy. Here he talks to WARC about what strategy means to him, why authentic purpose needs strong foundations, and what he’s hoping to see in this year’s entries.
What are your priorities as a marketer at the moment?
Irrespective of which category you work for, marketing has some unique challenges today. The first is that, in most industries, we’re experiencing an increase in material costs, whether it's raw material costs, logistics costs or even just costs of selling. In light of this, marketers have to the responsibility of further justifying the value of their brand and the products that it sells.
Secondly, we are witnessing a significant shift towards using digital and e-commerce as sales channels. While it seems like it has been around forever, the truth is that compared to more traditional brick-and-mortar means of selling, digital commerce is still nascent. It is the marketer’s responsibility to drive the success of digital commerce as a strong sales channel for their organisation’s success, while becoming well versed with its machinations.
The third challenge, or rather opportunity, is around driving sustainability, which is about how businesses can be built in a way that that adds value to consumers, to the corporation, and to society or the environment.
Last year’s WARC Awards for Asian Strategy's Grand Prix winner was Cadbury Celebrations, with a purpose-led campaign. What’s your take on brand purpose?
I think purpose needs to have a purpose. I look at brands as individuals and not every human being has a purpose at all stages in their life. Just like that, not all brands can have a purpose at all stages of their existence.
There is a cycle that brands need to go through, and that starts by proving they are valuable to consumers for what they deliver as a product. A great example is Lifebuoy: its whole purpose is built on a foundation of being extremely effective against germs. They were then successfully able stretch that into being the torchbearer for good sanitation to save lives
So, to me, purpose depends on a variety of factors: the life cycle of the brand, the maturity of the category it plays in, its commercial objectives and the product it sells. Lastly, strong purposes have to build sustainable and profitable businesses. Because if a business is not sustainable and profitable, it cannot sustain the purpose that it gets behind.
How do you define strategy?
I think strategy is the brand’s ‘how’. It’s what happens when you're crystal clear about what your brand’s commercial objectives are and how they translate into innovation, communication and distribution.
So, strategy is clarity in thinking and precision in execution, from the setting of the problem to the execution and being able to measure its impact. And if you define strategy as that, a business that doesn't have it, doesn't have a business.
Do you have an example of a campaign that particularly impressed you for its strategic thinking?
Again, Cadbury Celebrations’ Grand Prix winning campaign from last year comes to mind, Not Just a Cadbury Ad. Their challenge was that the majority of their sales come around Diwali and offline channels, so if during COVID people didn’t go to stores, their biggest sales occasion would have seen the biggest commercial loss of the year. Hence the idea of getting consumers to go back to the stores they love to buy their local Diwali produce because it increases the probability of them buying Cadbury Celebrations. That’s strategy: it’s seamless, it reads like a story.
What are you hoping to see from this year's entries?
Most people struggle to define a strong, sharp business challenge. Not a marketing challenge, a business one: marketing is a tool that drives business. I'm hoping to see strong business challenge definitions that drive the discovery of uniquely crafted ideas or innovations, which are then executed through to perfection. And perfection is not about doing many things: it's about doing a few things really well. For me, that’s what WARC is about: it’s about strategy and strategy is about businesses.
What is one thing you really don't like to see in an award paper?
People should refrain from retrofitting cases. Having been on a WARC jury in the past, judges are very smart people: they can smell when you have retrofitted a case to justify what is a unique creative idea, innovation or communication.
Why do you think the WARC Awards for Asian Strategy are important?
For marketers like us, these Awards are a strong external benchmark for effectiveness. As a marketing community, we are about driving business results and we can see the results being driven within our categories and within our sphere of influence. But it's important to know what's best in class outside of that, for inspiration on how to improve our ability to drive effective business.
The WARC Awards for Asian Strategy provide us with an external benchmark to aspire to as marketers. We are in the business of commercial crafting and these Awards are a legitimate and solid benchmark of measuring that as a profession.