Compiled by Lourdes Abeyeratne


Gamika De Silva emphasises the need to pursue every avenue of innovation

Q: What is your take of brand building in Sri Lanka?

A: In my experience, brand building forms the core of any organisation, be it a small business or large corporate. The brand must run in its DNA and people must live it. Brands go far beyond logos, reputation and colours, and relate to a company’s purpose i.e. its reason for existing, which must be carved into everything it does.

In Sri Lanka, there are corporates that practise this well with many aligning with global brands. Several local businesses have organically or scientifically implemented such practices, strengthening their brands and continuing to enjoy success.

Q: Have branding strategies kept pace with technological innovation?

A: Yes and no some have progressed by leaps and bounds, adapting to customers utilising technology.

We often mistake innovation for technological advances but it can emerge from many angles be it the product, process, packaging, communications and so on. There are many examples of brands moving to disrupt by understanding consumers deeply. Brands that succeed in this space have researched and gained a better understanding of consumer sentiment rather than merely developing products.

In Sri Lanka, many brands have a long way to go but some have adapted because competition and the market are such that they’ve been compelled to explore these spaces.

There is a competitive advantage for brands that innovate because with the everchanging landscape, competition can emerge from anywhere. So there’s a need to continuously engage and keep pace with changes especially in consumer behaviour.

Some local brands tend to avoid going beyond their comfort zones. However, we must continue challenging ourselves to facilitate access to new markets especially in the digital era. Businesses may be local but they must think global.

Q: How do you view the role of digital marketing?

A: There is no distinction between traditional and digital marketing; it’s marketing in the digital era. Marketers have access to an abundance of data, which is where digital thinking must be employed. Brand managers can analyze consumer sentiment by tracking real-time online data, which could offer a competitive edge.

Consumers are more powerful, becoming influencers for brands due to their access to information. The challenge for marketers is thinking beyond the four ‘Ps’ – they must not focus on products or services but the value delivered; so rather than campaigns, they should aim to initiate conversations with customers.

There has been a paradigm shift over the years – so instead of segmentation, we must understand consumers’ like-minded thought processes, which can transcend age groups and the like. Customers in Colombo may have similar mindsets to those in rural areas so marketers must look at sentiments, emotions and how people connect with each other.

But there’s work to be done to prepare infrastructure. For example, financial services institutions cannot become digital banks overnight; this is a gradual process that requires commitment through various investments.

Q: And how should marketers approach branding to address evolving consumer behaviours?

A: Marketers must be research driven, which can be as simple as observing customers in a marketplace. Many companies have access to customer feedback that provides insights into their feelings towards products.

Thereafter, the brand process can be built. Marketers must understand the purpose of the brand as once this is addressed, the rest becomes easier. Moreover, they work out how to make customers fans of their brands.

Brand building should address the brand intent – the process where it is defined as a person; and clearly articulate its position, which is key to positioning brands in consumers’ minds.

Research can help brands ensure they remain relevant. Segments evolve over time and we must understand customers’ deeper sentiments while employing processes to convert such lessons into action.

Infrastructure must be in place to support this because consumer sentiment and preferences are evolving at a more rapid pace with increased access to information. A major challenge is determining the right channel mix to communicate with consumers while being able to adjust strategies as needed.

Marketers must be open to change, adventurous and brave. They must keep their ears to the ground, let customers talk, listen to them and absorb this information – and change accordingly. An unwillingness to do so will lead to brands falling behind competitors.

The interviewee is the Head of Marketing & Sales at Seylan Bank