On 4 May 2020, J C Sum, author of “Evolve, Adapt of Collapse: Bottom Line Marketing in a Digitally Evolving World”, was a guest on the radio show Money Mind on CNA938.
J C leads a team of marketers at Evolve & Adapt, to help businesses on strategic marketing consulting, digital marketing training and SEO services.
He spoke with hosts Stanley Leong and Chew Wui Lynn on various topics from his book.
Below is a short excerpt from the interview:
Here are some of the highlights from the full interview.
ON THE PERVASIVENESS OF BUSINESSES NOT EVOLVING & ADAPTING
“I think it’s varying degrees based on the business. A lot of traditional offline businesses didn’t have that digital presence or the communication channels or the processes online.
We had, of course, digital companies who are very savvy. Some who are a bit savvier might have multichannel set up in terms of communications for the customers, but the operations or internal communications were not set up.
And finally, there was a gap between traditional and digital marketing for a lot of these companies.”
ON THE IMPORTANCE OF DIGITAL MARKETING
“I think digital marketing is a necessity for today’s world, but it is really a hybrid strategy that I am calling for that should guide the business in today’s digital hybrid economy.”
ON THE TIMELINESS OF HIS BOOK
“That is right. It is quite timely, though not what I wanted. In fact, I finished writing the book probably about in January 2020, and that’s when the pandemic really was just starting.
And that’s why in my final chapter, I talked about external forces that affect businesses that need to evolve, adapt. That’s when I realised I need to put it in, to squeeze in that element of the pandemic.
But really what this whole pandemic has shown is the need for businesses to evolve and adapt. And this is a great time. I mean, it’s an unfortunate time, but it’s a great time.
Necessity is the mother of invention. It is a great time for companies to learn and to train the staff as well.”
ON THE MAIN REASONS THAT HOLD BUSINESSES BACK FROM EVOLVING AND ADAPTING
“I think it’s a combination of reasons. Education would form a big part, especially for, let’s say senior management who may not be as digitally savvy.
So, they might hear the buzzword, or they think of the buzzword “digital marketing”. And they might think it’s confined to maybe running paid ads or display ads, search ads. But there’s so much more as digital marketing is a whole discipline of marketing.
So, there is, I think, one component of just not knowing where to start, and the other could be fear as well.”
ON THE RELEVANCE OF THE 4Ps OF MARKETING
“The 4Ps were created in the 1960s. So we’re talking about product, price, promotion and place. All marketing and business students learn this.
But since this framework was created in the 1960s, it’s definitely not as relevant today because it wasn’t designed for today’s multichannel world.
So you just take, for example, “place”, which really reflects the real estate of a business at that time. Right now, with the Internet, what is “place”? “Place” is everywhere and anywhere. Both the physical space and your online space as well.
Some might argue it might be semantics, and we’re just talking about words here. Still, there definitely needs to be a more comprehensive model that will cover both traditional and visual marketing when businesses think about their marketing.
The 4 Ps have their place when you think about, let’s say, a product, right? Because a product could be a physical product, but now we have digital products, informational products, products that can be downloaded.
So, this has changed in how marketers have to think about their business strategy.
Price, of course, remains. But now, pricing is also much more sophisticated with bundling deals as well as offline, online prices.
And promotion, of course, refers to marketing communication.
Everything has changed. The traditional 4Ps definitely form a foundation, and I still think they’re relevant in terms of learning and we can use it as a basic model for today’s market, but a different model is required.”
ON HOW THE DIGITAL WORLD HAS CHANGED A BUSINESS’ RELATIONSHIP WITH ITS CUSTOMERS
“I think it’s really got to do with how customers’ behaviour has changed in this world because the whole buying habits have changed.
So, in my book, I listed seven different reasons, but I’ll just talk about three here.
For example, the digital world has changed the ease of research. Now, every time we want to buy something, we’re always checking our phones for reviews, looking at blogs, even when we have to go to a physical store, right? We look at a bunch of stuff then we take out our phones, and we’ll check for reviews before we even buy it.
Then there are multichannel communications where we can talk to the company or the brand directly, whether it’s on social media, emailing them, writing comments on their website.
People can complain about them, and the companies have to react very fast.
All this has basically changed customers’ expectations. People expect things fast. They want things convenient, and they want to be able to get it online or offline if they want to.
Besides the customer’s ease of research, the multichannel communications and customers’ expectations, I think another thing that’s really created is the abundance of choice.
Because before, we’re going to a physical shop, and basically, the variety you see in front of you would be the choices you have to buy something. But now, with the Internet and the ability to buy from global markets at the click of a mouse or a touch of a screen basically, you have so much choice now.
So for businesses, if you thought you’re a local business, your local business is now global because you are competing with a global market.
ON THE CONCEPT OF VALUE AND FOUR TYPES OF VALUE
Note: The four types of value discussed were functional, investment, social and psychological value.
“When we think about value, most people think about money. As in, how much is it?
But there’s a difference between value and price. So, price is what you pay for. Value is what you get.
There are four types of value. Functional and investment value are very clear. Functional is utility; what you get out of that product or service. Investment is, do you get any returns after some time for purchasing something?
Social and psychological. So, my degree is actually in sociology.
These social factors include – how a particular product or service makes you feel in society, how you fit in, it could be to fit in with your peers. It can also give you some social standing.
And psychological relates to the individual, also called identity value. How you feel after buying something.
So, for businesses, what they need to do is to try to create as much value as possible for customers to get them a reason to invest in their product or service.
ON THE CONCEPT OF POSITIONING IN MARKETING
“Positioning strategy was developed by Jack Trout & Al Ries back in 1989, and it’s about the concept of creating a position in the minds of the audience. It’s about perception.
Just think of the minds of consumers as a ladder with many rungs. What you want to do is try to position your business at the top of that rung. It’s brand recall.
So when someone says, “hamburger, fried chicken or smartphone,” different brands come to mind. And that’s what we call a very strong position. You want to create a position for your brand so that they are at the top in their mind.
Now, of course, I have talked about B2C businesses. That’s business to consumer. But even for B2B businesses, you want to be segmented.
You want to create a frame of reference for them so that when they think of that particular product or segment in that niche, they think of you.”
ON HOW BUSINESSES CAN PRODUCE OPPORTUNITIES IN THE CURRENT CHALLENGING TIMES
“No doubt it’s a challenging time for many industries. But, we are trying to get the positive of any negative.
This is a great time for businesses to learn how they can adapt for this digital or hybrid economy, which is that tight rope, balancing between the physical world and the online world.
So, senior management has to learn first, and they have to think very big picture how the businesses can be better-adapted. Think to train the staff to be able to work digitally or online.
I joke that the most commonly asked question in April 2020 was: Can you hear me? Because everyone was trying to log on to Zoom because no one could log on for team meetings.
Businesses basically want to get everything in place, regardless of the pandemic. So they are better prepared for the new economy. And if anything unfortunate happens down the road, they are ready.
And, they all can start by reading my book.”