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Exclusive with Ludmila Zueva, Marketing Director at Philips: Marketing insights on Asia Pacific


This year in Q4, our company’s focus has been Asia Pacific and Asian markets. How does marketing work in Asia and what things to consider when working with Asian clients?

We were lucky to have got an excellent interviewee for this particular topic, Ludmila Zueva who is a Marketing Director at Philips. Ludmila has been working in the marketing field for over 20 years. Spent half of her career at P&G as a Brand Manager and now she is taking care of Philips Asia Pacific region for over 11 years.

We asked Ludmila to gain insight on professional marketing in Asia. Ludmila shared her knowledge and her experiences in this interview.

As you have strong expertise in doing marketing in Asia, can you share your professional insights on how different is marketing in Asia from the other regions?

ASEAN consumers are very unique in their attitudes and habits. They are extremely digital and mobile focused yet rather conservative in the way they shop and run the household. There are still a lot of value spaces for businesses to grow through consumer penetration. It's not a gradual upgrade from one product to a new one, but a real leap forward, from daily home cleaning brooming routine to sturdy vacuum stick.

Importantly, as trends come and go, the challenge for marketing is to keep up with the pace and be ready to scale up activities. Customer support is critical for fast delivery which sometimes must be done in just a few weeks of time. When we talk about how to accelerate proposition adoption in ASEAN, the "mobile-first" is the motto for communication planning and conversion. Also in countries with the highest growth potential like Indonesia, Philippines, Vietnam, mass communications with bold claims and high TV weights advertising still make a lot of sense and have proven to unlock million dollars blue oceans.

What was your biggest struggle to learn and adapt when you started to work on Asia's region?

For me, the biggest challenge was to manage to drive international brands in a very diverse region, keeping activations in line with global positioning, yet being true to local consumer needs. What worked for my team and me was that for each sizable consumer group, we had to communicate deep consumer understanding into the relevant claim in line with global positioning.

A good illustrative example is ASEAN mosaic of garment care category. In ASEAN, there is quite a strong demand for durable dry iron which ceased to exist in Europe already. Also, in ASEAN there is a super high-end segment of pressurized steam generators which has been growing with 3X pace supported by strong consumption growth of the advanced models with the retail price above $500.

We focused on women involved in ironing field and managed to validate and synchronize them with global positioning on the overall garment care platform. The superior end result of crease removal with emotional payoff of being in control of the family and for each product subcategory we have tailored tangible bites on how product delivers and then depending on the market needs deploy communication toolkits for online and offline touch points to reach the consumer. Philips leadership in market share across the region and in each product segment is the best proof that we have done the job right.

You have previously worked at P&G and now Philips. What are your best takeaways from marketing learnings from these two companies?

At P&G, I have learned that the best you can do for brand's sustainable growth is to never compromise proposition validation and needed marketing support to drive sufficient awareness and ultimately, sales. I firmly believe that it is better not to invest at all than to allow mediocre marketing plan. At P&G, data-driven decision making was one of the fundamental principles of marketing operations even well before the data revolution we are all embracing nowadays.

As a marketer, you need to ensure that the proposition resonates with the target group. Also, you need to prove using data that these consumers represent a sizable group and that they are reachable through your marketing communication. Adtech tools are supposed to enable data-based decisions better than ever before yet that now we are all learning how to interpret all measurable parameters and make ultra-relevant yet straightforward conclusions such as: "do I invent enough", "how exactly it will drive my brand’s metrics" and "what sales uplift I can forecast".

What is your favorite marketing technique when promoting a big brand?

Honestly, I have more than one technique in my marketing urgent aid toolkit, but if we talk about doing work for big and well-established brands, I would say "creative rendering of brand pedigree and heritage" is my favorite technique. In the last several years, we all vastly enjoyed very impactful campaigns from iconic brands like Johnny Walker literally visualizing brand's history, nostalgic for generation X Intel tribute to 80/90s. As a matter of fact, I couldn't help but post on my Instagram Coca-Cola's re-touched posters and glass bottles from 50s. Noticeably, in the current crazily cluttered marketplace of new things, anchoring with the brand’s history for sure helps to call out for consumers brand affection and loyalty.

When it comes to marketing, it consists of organic and paid methods, such as advertising and public relations. In your opinion, how public relations is important for a company to manage a brand's image?

In my view, public relations for consumer products have been already re-invented into opinion leaders and influencers marketing when agnostic to the vehicle which can be a glossy press or instagram account with a large number of followers where brands want to have genuine stories and feedback about their propositions benefits based on expert knowledge or personal experience.

Until recently, the key challenge for brand's people was around the reach of the content generated with the influencers and forever fresh questions that marketers are torturing PR agencies with such as how can we measure sales uplift from PR activities. However, here in ASEAN and also in China the question on how big brands can fully leverage KOL through influencers marketing had been answered with real-time feed of the influencers' reviews on major online retailers like Lazada, Alibaba and Shopee. In this case, all the boxes of effective marketing are ticked – the feedback is authentic and persuasive, the format of communication is engaging and relevant, and sales impact is trackable. At Philips, we have tried brand and e-commerce platform partnerships in several countries with promising results on shoppers views and conversion boost.

As a professional marketer, what could you recommend for early-stage startups and SMEs to look at when reaching out to global markets, different regions, and simply aiming for things outside the box?

Regarding "out of the box” solution and "next big thing" definition, the best methodology I can recommend is co-creation workshop with core SME team and external subject experts. When you start from measurable goals and desired state of things and then gradually expedite solution brainstorming, critical thinking and activity mapping, bridges current state to the future. The key success factor is to do a pre-work on relevant data points, keep the team engaged during the event and most importantly after the action plan is agreed, regular cadence of status meetings should be established for the next 3-6 months.