This interview is part of the Marketer’s Toolkit 2020. Download the summary report here.
In this exclusive interview for WARC’s annual Marketer’s Toolkit release, Olivier Bockenmeyer – Head of Corporate Marketing, South East Asia - Oceania, Samsung – speaks to WARC’s Gabey Goh about the importance of clarity and action with brand purpose, the risk of relying only on digital and how notions of privacy differ across markets.
WARC: Brand purpose, and how an organisation articulates and lives up to it, is now a big topic of discussion. How is Samsung navigating this?
Bockenmeyer: We can see that consumers and people, and especially the younger generation are more involved in these topics. So, the importance of having a clear perspective on the matter is growing.
And to me, big companies – we’re at a stage where we’re between worlds. A time of great crisis, but also a time of great opportunities. People expect companies that have access to resources, to take a stance on that conversation: “What’s your stance on the bigger issues? On the citizenship, sustainability, your purpose?”
The younger generation will force this conversation. Or they will just go elsewhere if you do not have a clear response on those topics. They won’t be necessarily thinking in terms of, “Oh, what’s your brand purpose?”.
It’s really about what are you tangibly doing? How you walk the talk. And that will probably enough to inform them whether this is a brand they want to associate with and want to continue giving their money to, or not.
And in the case of Samsung, before it was called different things like CSR, or citizenship. But it has always been at the core of the company because I guess as an Asian company, we have always had a more collective perspective. You start with the community at heart. So, there’s always that sense, it’s not just about having a successful business, but it’s also about giving back to the community, supporting the community. And if you look at Samsung in Korea, for example, clearly there’s an investment. You do not just have a responsibility towards your employee or people, but also towards the nation. And try to support the nation, so the bigger group and the bigger community.
WARC: How does this translate globally for Samsung?
Bockenmeyer: The question for Samsung that has always done a fair amount of activities in each of the market, is how can we unify these activities that were often managed at a local level in a fragmented way? Grouped together so that there’s more weight and more impact. This is the conversation taking place now. So, it starts concretely at a global strategy level. How can we define some key themes that are going to inform all our initiatives? And how can we, going forward, structure in a more consistent manner all our initiatives behind those key themes?
WARC: Balancing investment between long-term brand building and short-term performance-driven campaigns is a challenge faced by all marketers. How does the team at Samsung manage this?
Bockenmeyer: This is one of the key challenges we must deal with now. Because on one hand there is a clear recognition that brand is important, brand building is important. And Samsung has the ambition to be a top global brand and we’ve invested over the last 5, 10, 15 years consistently to try to build that brand, so it is still there.
However, we also must acknowledge that we are at a stage where the markets are increasingly competitive. It’s hard to know how best to reconcile the two. And for us, I would say, this is an ongoing battle in how you balance that out. And this is a very difficult exercise that is challenging for me and for my colleagues in other countries as well. I wouldn’t say that we’ve cracked it, but we try our best to manage it and deal with it.
What’s important is first to keep the brand message top-of-mind and to have a consistent approach when it comes to the brand message. To have, as much as possible, one narrative, so we’re fully aligned with the global brand positioning and brand purpose that we’ve got. And it’s about how can we express it in the most relevant way at the local level. We want to avoid duplication of messages as much as possible. And to try to also converge the resources that might be limited behind one message as much as possible.
I don’t think it’s constructive to have a battle, almost brand versus performance or short-term sales, because both are equally needed. It’s just that the way they operate is in slightly different stages, and slightly different dimensions.
And sometimes it’s just reframing that conversation, saying: “Yes. It can be very tempting to focus on the next week, or the next month, or the next quarter. And, yes, it could bring more short-term sales, but then you will always have consequences that will come later.”
I expect the brand conversation to be more important in the next two to five years. And I really believe increasingly we’ll have that focus on the brand, as top of the agenda.
WARC: As a global brand with multiple product lines and markets, how does the team stay aligned and reconcile global initiatives with local market needs?
Bockenmeyer: On the brand, it’s making sure that people are very clear on the guidelines. What is the strategy and what do we stand for? And to keep refreshing and cascading that regularly. Then we’ve got the measurement about the brand and monitoring in terms of spend as well.
Then the rest is really about communication. We tend to have at least two times a year, a regional re-group where we both share our respective plans. What’s coming from global, what’s coming from regional? What’s happening in each of the market? Share best practices. Share our challenges. And that’s also a way to keep the conversation going. And the reality is things evolve and change so fast that it’s not good to be dogmatic and say: “Oh, we’ve cracked the formula, and this is the perfect mix,” or, “This is how you should deploy it.”
We know that especially in this region where the markets are so different. And the resources that each market have are so different. You really need almost a bespoke approach. Bigger markets like Australia might afford dedicated brand campaigns. Some smaller markets, they might not be able to do that. But then it doesn’t necessarily mean that you don’t moderate that brand conversation. Just that you do it in a different way which is suited to the market and suited to the resources that we’ve got.
WARC: How do you ensure that you have the right media mix in a region like Southeast Asia with its diverse media environments?
Bockenmeyer: One thing is clear, we still have markets where traditional media like TV is still a great way to get awareness. Out of home can still be very relevant in some places. Increasingly digital can be also good to get awareness.
Of course, the trend is more digital, the reality is that this part of the world is a digital-first, mobile-first market which also suits our product categories. So obviously, we spend a lot and we explore. I would say we’re still at the beginning of the journey, and we haven’t cracked the magic formula.
Within digital one of the questions is still about measurement. What’s the right level of spend? Do we spend too much? Do we spend not enough? And how do we get better guidance from our media partners as to where we stand?
It’s harder to get accurate measure as to what’s the actual level of spend and to get a competitive perspective. Digital itself is maturing as well. The way we would spend on or approach digital will also change. I would say things are changing on an almost monthly basis.
WARC: You said the trend is towards digital, do you see that as a good thing?
Bockenmeyer: One of the risks I would say with digital, one of the temptations, is to go fully digital. Not because you believe fully in digital, but because you don’t have enough money to maintain traditional media.
We want to make sure that we’ve got a healthy approach to digital and not suddenly go: “Okay. I’m going to go fully digital, but also I’m going to slash the budget,” or, “I slash the budget and because I couldn’t afford TV anymore, I’m going digital”. And this a move we are sometimes observing, especially at a time where there is more pressure also on budgets. So, for either smaller categories or smaller markets, there is a bit of that risk.
WARC: What’s your take on the level of concern around issues such as data and privacy in this part of the world?
Bockenmeyer: I don’t know. I think it’s a good question. I think there’s probably a different attitude towards data, and privacy, and what you do with it, obviously. And part of it might be related also to a different cultural context. When you share your data, do you feel at risk or do you feel safe?
And we know that it’s a grey area in this part of the world. Again, we’ve got a more communal perspective. Sharing is not necessarily perceived to be a bad thing. On the contrary, it can be good. It’s also there are many countries where the notion of privacy is defined a bit differently. When you’re raised in places or in families, let’s say, where everybody sleeps in the same room. It’s very different from countries or places where every kid from age seven sleeps in a different room. I mean, these are all details. But all of that can contribute to also different perceptions about the issue.
When you look at China with the principle of constant monitoring or social credit. Is that a bad thing that makes you freak out? Or is it something positive? Because you say, “No. Because more monitoring can enable the government or people to identify people who might be a danger to the group, or who are outcast. And as a good citizen, I don’t mind transparency. And I don’t mind, I mean, being monitored because I have nothing to hide.” So, I would say it’s a complex topic that is probably just beginning.
WARC: How are you approaching the ambition of delivering more relevant messaging to consumers at the right time and context?
Bockenmeyer: To me, I believe that marketing is segmenting. You need to better understand the fact that you’ve got different groups of people with really different needs, different motivations. And that understanding them makes just better marketing and just makes sense.
Having your strategic intent, having your clear messaging is important and brings value. That can then be further amplified by programmatic. But first, you need to add that targeting, that segmenting. And, of course, it needs to be done in a tactful way, so it’s not done in a creepy way, or random way that loses the human touch.
To me, marketing is a conversation between a brand and people. And it’s how to make sure that that conversation makes sense. And it’s also knowing when to stop.
The journey is hard, but how do we collectively and ultimately deliver value to people, and to consumer without feeling too intrusive or too creepy. And to me what’s important is increasing the level of transparency as to what gets collected. And giving the option to people to opt out if they want to. And what in the data trail that you’ve left, can you leverage to get your message out?
WARC: What would you say is the top priority or challenge to be tackled in the next 12 months for you and the team at Samsung?
Bockenmeyer: The brand and the consumer experience. Especially in the mobile category, increasingly it’s about loyalty. There’re more brands, the category is maturing, and the market is now heavily penetrated.
And because we’re also the biggest brand with the largest footprint. We’re one brand who’s got the most to lose as well. So consumer retention and consumer loyalty is also a key focus area for us. In terms of, especially post-purchase, or how do we on-board people? How do we maintain communication with people once they bought a product from us? And how can we ensure that when the time comes to consider their next purchase, they’d rather stay with us than consider another brand.