Tuesday, July 3, 2012

It all starts in the mind

Pinoy ‘smugness’ blamed for failure to break through global markets,” screams Business Mirror, 7th Jun 2012. “We’re so much limiting ourselves to our environment. We never extend ourselves, never reach out . . . Local brands are shackled within the confines of the Philippines’s retail borders . . . The Philippines appear to easily accept not winning at all. And yet Filipinos are looked up to as the best ‘creatives’ in the industry . . . Amid [global economic uncertainties], companies still need to grow and survive and, hence, greater innovative ideas in marketing are required . . . Brands in Asia today are becoming really very aggressive and we can’t be left behind again.”

It all starts in the mind. And if we like to look inward and backward we undermine our ability to create a vision and pursue self-improvement – and development. And given that our cacique system and structure in fact rewards us – i.e., in an underdeveloped economy to be a big fish in a small pond is not uncommon – why even wish to undo the status quo?

Marketing is not simply a narrow slice of society and the economy. The convergence of marketing and technology has created the largest enterprise in Apple, for example; and, more importantly, brought efficiency and productivity to the 21st century. The partnership has created today's environment and culture of innovation. But it appears Juan de la Cruz has missed the connection? We believe that we are intellectually superior yet missed the imperative of innovation – and its impact on competitiveness? What the marketing community is talking about – that our brands are being shackled within the confines of the Philippine’s retail borders – is not simply about brands. It is about innovation and competitiveness. It is about national pride and nationhood. And it is about the heart of education. “Education [is meant to have] prepared [us] for the future life – given [us] command of ourselves; [we] had been trained to have the full and ready use of all [our] capacities.” [John Dewey; On education, Wikipedia.]

Edison is acknowledged as the father of modern-day R&D in America. “I want to see a phonograph in every American home.” He was Jobs and/or Gates before they were Jobs and/or Gates. Our challenge is indeed about nationhood which we have finally understood required investment and technology? But our parochial bias has created our cacique system and structure, and thus our inability to attract foreign direct investments. We have a bigger problem than our smugness re local brands! We must recognize that in an interconnected world the resulting bigger market creates the invitation for stepped up competition. And to appreciate the challenge, we have to start with the end in view!

It is more than marketing local brands beyond our shores through our creative skills. In tourism, for example, it means more that a slogan and billboards and TV commercials. It is about understanding the 21st century way of life and developing the corresponding products. And in tourism the visitor’s actual experience must meet her expectations of convenience and thus the imperative of infrastructure. Edison understood that the consumer would seek leisure time and for which he developed the corresponding product represented by the phonograph. And Gates understood that the fast-paced 21st century life demanded efficiency and productivity (i.e., a computer in every home) and for which he developed the corresponding product represented by the software; while Jobs did it via the hardware.

Competitiveness is not confined to hi-tech products. But the principle of understanding the demands of the 21st century lifestyle and developing the corresponding products is universal – and it can be expressed in different ways. It can be as simple as day-to-day consumer products. To bring innovation and product development down to the practical and tangible level, for example, the writer’s Eastern European friends have R&D working physically next to marketing and the sales force; given that the latter two groups spend inordinate amounts of time with customers and consumers – in more than a score of countries – seeking to understand what the 21st century lifestyle is about.

The bottom line: industry must be founded on man’s ever changing wants; not on political patronage, rent-seeking and local dominance – which feed injustice and undermine good governance. And worse, perpetuate our cacique culture that can generate only a “meager economic output” – and thus elevated poverty – compared to an open economy.

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