Brands Must Have Physical and Mental Connections with Their Consumers to Survive-Wulff-Caesar

Chris Wulff-Caesar, Marketing Director of FrieslandCampina Sub-Sahara Cluster.

Marketing Director of FrieslandCampina Sub-Sahara Cluster, Chris Wulff-Caesar, is an experienced marketing strategist with over two decades of excellent professionalism demonstrated in the fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) segment. He is also a fellow of the National Institute of Marketing of Nigeria (NIMN). In this interview with Brand Communicator, Chris shares valuable insights in marketing management, innovativeness, and strategic planning. He also shares ideas in talent management and how brands can locate and interact with their consumers to make maximum impact.

Effect of going hybrid on brand and customer experience

Brands exist because consumers exist. Brands need to be where the consumers are. Brands need to be the ones who are fashioning out the way for consumers to get the best out of life. A brand does not necessarily engage in an activity if they have no insights on consumers’ interest. It is important that brands understand the space (both mental and physical) that consumers are in at all times. This understanding will facilitate better connections and engagement with consumers. This is especially true with physical activities and events.  If the consumer spends most of his/her time in the digital realm and therefore not eager to go for that event/activity at a given time and place, what business does a brand have in going ahead with the event even if it is in the brand’s scheduled calendar? So, if consumers are more online and in the digital space, brands better be where their consumers are because that’s where you will get their attention and subsequent connection. Remember, that brands are built out of multiple but consistent mental images of little and large aspects around the personality, values and benefit of the brand. Yes, we would all love to go back to when concepts like social distancing and limited social interaction didn’t exist or connote a risk in catching an infection, but the world is moving in a different direction at the moment and brands need to embrace that very quickly to survive.

Key areas of improvement for better IMC industry

Each player in the IMC Industry, from the regulator, media practitioners, media owners, to advertisers and even consumers has a role in making sure that the practice of marketing and integrated marketing is at a world-class level where excellence sort after and prevails at all times. I have been practicing marketing in Nigeria for the past 9 years and have seen improvements and a clear ambition to achieve the desired levels of excellence. What I also see is that there seems to be a lot more collaboration and engagement across all the stakeholders in IMC mentioned previously. I have personally been involved with ADVAN because I am and I represent an advertiser; I have had an engagement with APCON, AAAN, under the leadership and I see a lot of changes coming through. I also see a lot of enthusiasm about how the marketing environment needs to operate. We can’t afford to be doing the same work over and over again. On regulators, we must try to work with all of them to avoid duplication of regulatory activities. We’ve got to find and streamline ways to fast-track the way we get things done within the current codes and governance procedures because the Nigerian marketing environment does not live in isolation as we are actually competing with the rest of the world. Thus, our ecosystem must have a way of ensuring that only the best comes out very quickly and that all practitioners are living with the right codes and are looking for a better way to improve the ecosystem. We also need to hold each other accountable as that is the only way we would raise excellence, remove duplication, and be able to compete better with the rest of the world.

Industry growth and talent grooming

I have never managed an agency before so what I say will be fairly narrow. I do think we have a good amount of creative talent in this country. What we need to work out is how do we institutionalize to make sure that we get more out of the talent we have?. How do we make it more like a manufacturing line of talent through the various aspects of the integrated marketing industry?

Award platforms in the industry and standard of awards in the industry

Awards are good. They are usually borne out of recognition by your peers, partners and industry watchers in a particular field. For awards to be more meaningful, it has to be backed up by everybody who is going to be participating in that award. That is, if a reputable awards program is underway, it is believed that the organizers have done all their due diligence, they’re using the right metrics, the assessment is fair and verifiable so that whoever is getting the award is deemed to definitely deserve it.

We also have to get to the point where we don’t have a proliferation of awards, but rather we all support creating a set of awards with credibility and magnitude that everybody looks forward to. If you take the global movie industry, for example, they have the OSCARS (which I’m not saying doesn’t have issues), but everybody recognizes that this is the pinnacle of achievement in the industry. I think as an industry and marketing environment in Nigeria, we’ve got to continue to work with all the award platforms to continue to raise the bar on aspiration, transparency and credibility of every award.

Digital engagement vs physical engagements in terms of conversion rates and delivering ROI

Every engagement exists within an eco-system and I don’t think that one interaction with your target audience or consumer supersedes another because it always depends on the context. During the lockdown, it was very clear that we were in an environment where you cannot have any physical engagement. During this period, digital engagement for most companies and brands and businesses really transformed. We continue to see an uptake in the utilization of the digital space pretty much for everything related to running a business (not just for audience engagements). We have seen a significant rise in e-commerce even on social media platforms. Working digitally from anywhere has become a way of life now, to the extent that some global companies are battling to get their employees back into designated work buildings. 

This is the same when it comes to the marketing ecosystem. For some of us in FMCG, it is important to have a link between the physical and digital space at all times. Even if you achieve physical retail distribution of your product, you have to link this back into the digital space; to where your core consumers and customers will find you to buy by simply clicking on their device and have it delivered to them. So, both the physical and mental availability of the brand are all heavily linked with the proper utilization of the digital ecosystem. In my view, this is very effective especially in reaching a wider audience but it doesn’t negate the importance of traditional media for some of our audience who are yet to fully embrace digital engagement and solutions.

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