May 27, 2019

Written by Yamin Rahman


A shifting focus from production to consumerism has made human connectivity a crucial element in the present world of branding and marketing. In this era of digitalization, the convention of physical connection has declined at a significant rate which makes bridging human connection more challenging than ever. Providing sustainable persuasion for achieving excellence in marketing requires proper human connection to be established. It is a must for marketeers in a digital, connected world to bridge connection and stay updated with the clients.

With a view to shedding light on the substantive issues of Marketing and practical ways to integrate consumers into marketers’ plan, Bangladesh Brand Forum (BBF) organized the 8th edition of its flagship initiative BBF Seminar. The event, presented by Beximco and powered by American International University of Bangladesh (AIUB), in association with Dhaka Bank Limited was held on 27th April, 2019 at the Grand Ballroom of Le Meridien Dhaka.  The day also marked the 12th anniversary of Bangladesh Brand Forum’s inception. Around 300 corporate professionals were present in the seminar. The daylong seminar was followed by a grand celebration of the 12 years’ celebration of Bangladesh Brand Forum.

The theme for BBF Seminar 2019 was “Creating Human Connection in the Age of Digital”. A total of 23 speakers shared insights through 3 Keynote Sessions, 5 Panel Discussions, an Insight Session and a Breakout Session at the seminar.



The seminar was inaugurated by Mr. Shariful Islam, Founder and Managing Director of Bangladesh Brand Forum, who invited the honorable guests to the 8th iteration of the seminar. He started by emphasizing on the importance of human connection – “We look at the digital platform solution, not necessarily from the viewpoint of solving people’s problems and that’s where we miss out. In the Age of Digital, it is all about human connection.”  He added that the growth or profit should not be the main focus of the companies. Drawing a connection between company behavior & individual behavior, he mentioned that individuals shouldn’t also be driven merely by money or profit; rather ‘self-journey’ & ‘company-journey’ need to be merged for a fruitful outcome. He also urged everyone to start viewing things differently, to disrupt their own thought process when required in order to ensure a sound environment for all. He concluded his speech by introducing the curator of the seminar, Asif Iqbal to the audience. 

Asif Iqbal, Deputy Managing Director (FMCG), Meghna Group of Industries, started by stating Bangladesh Brand Forum as a platform to create some good things for the valued clients & customers. He also pointed out the BBF Seminar’s purpose as to preach learning that benefits marketing & corporate professionals in Bangladesh.




The very first keynote speaker of the seminar was Prem N. Shamdasani Ph.D., Associate Professor, Marketing, Academic Director (Executive MBA), National University of Singapore, who is alternatively known as Dr. Love. Apart from teaching graduates and EMBA courses, he is very much active in executive development & training and has worked with globally renowned companies like Caterpillar, J&J, L’Oréal, Gucci, McDonalds, Samsung, Micromax, Nokia, Sony, IBM, Microsoft, GSK, Deutsche Bank, HSBC, Barclays, KPMG, Suntory, Nestle and many others.

Prem started explaining Sustainable Marketing Leadership by tracing back to his research work as he mentioned that companies growing about 10 or 15 times a year are still losing money. Uber’s valuation is $100 billion but they’re making slow progress. It took Amazon 20 years to start making money. Back in 2000, Samsung was seen as a cheap Korean substitute for Japanese brands like – Sony, Panasonic and nobody wanted to pay a premium for Samsung back then. It used to be a second choice brand in Malaysia. It only had the highest ranking as a brand in South Korea and it accounted for 22% of South Korea’s GDP at that time. But nobody even paid a premium for Samsung outside South Korea 20 years ago. Samsung hardly bothered about creating a brand image or brand value as it was only concerned about selling cheaper compared to its Japanese competitors. In this context, Dr. Love asked some questions – “Where does ‘branding’ come in?”, “What are the strategies building brand leadership?”, “How would brand leadership lead us to sustainable & profitable growth?”

Prem stressed that, for sustainable & profitable growth, two challenges should be met by any enterprise: Regaining Market Share and Regaining Brand Leadership.

He raised an important question – “How do we, as a company pursue strategies to achieve sustainable market leadership?” He opted for a 3-prong solution –

Market Share Leadership: The strategies that need to be adopted in terms of Market Share are – Cost Leadership, Supply Chain Management, Strategic Outsourcing and Channel Partnership.

Brand Leadership: Strategies for building brand leadership refers to Product & Business Model Innovation, Design Leadership, Dominant Platform, Customer-centricity and Quality User Experience

Customer Intimacy: Customer intimacy refers to the stickiness, the ability to change mindset to see customers as collaborators and to co-create with the customers. Some aspects for generating effective customer intimacy are – Emotional Branding, Brand Community, Customer Service & Care and Experiential Marketing.



Brian Collins, CCO & Co-Founder of COLLINS and Ex-Chairman & CCO of Brand & Innovation, Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide, was the 2nd keynote speaker of the day. He is an American designer and educator whose work has been covered by The New York Times, Rolling Stone, Business Week and The Wall Street Journal. In the recent survey of creative leaders, COLLINS was declared one of 50 places people are keen to work for along with Nike, Disney, Tesla & NASA. Brian was the first graphic designer invited to speak at the World Economic Forum. Also, Fast Company named Brian American Master of design & he was honored with the Luminary Award at Nokia Bell Labs in 2018.

To begin with, Brian praised Dr Love’s ideas on Brand Leadership & Customer Intimacy. Brian showed image of his house and his neighborhoods’ back in 1950s, which he visualized as something ambushed by the future! Brian focused attention on a specially designed chair, which he also viewed as something from the future. He mentioned about Benjamin Thompson’s store in the middle of the Harvard Square and the thing that grabbed Brian’s attention the most this time was the chair he termed as ‘coconut chair’ because of its coconut like shape. Later on, Brian bought that chair which appeared to be futuristic to him. He found a connection of the chair to a sci-fi TV show named – ‘Lost in Space,’ as he saw a similar chair in that show. This led Brian to think that “Designers create the future.” Such a thought triggered him to become a designer.

Mr. Brian views creating design as doing business. Big corporations are buying design firms in droves. IBM invests $100 million to expand its design business. Brian used the term – “De$ign” to show the necessity of involving design with money, which would require expertise. Being experimental along with having expertise is necessary in order to merge discipline with passion. In Brian’s words – “Experimentation is the engine of all progress.”

Furthermore, Brian termed Steve Job’s ideas and designs as “insanely great.” But in San Francisco, the concept of minimum viable product took control. This minimum viable product concept became problematic. Pinterest, Google, Logitech, Uber led Apple’s “insanely great” ideas to be replaced by minimum viable product concept, making less room for creative designing ideas.

Brian traced back to the creator of that “futuristic” chair and found a creative couple behind its creation, who defined a designer as a good host anticipating the will of the guests. Brian stressed on the importance of brand advertising, as he said – “Everything a brand touches is actually an experience.” Advertising requires a clear understanding of the consumers’ needs. For instance, Brian talked about lip balms in the US and how only design modification of lip balms attracted a broad range of customers to use those.

It is not “rationality,” “efficiency” or “control” that makes a brand stand out but it is all about “curiosity,” “integration” & “serendipity.”



Thomas Barta, Author of No.1 Marketing Leadership Book – “The 12 Powers of a Marketing Leader”, Dean, McKinsey Leadership Program & Columnist for Forbes Marketing Week was the last keynote speaker of BBF Seminar 2019. Thomas has conducted the world’s largest study involving 68000+ assessments. He has also spoken to thousands of leaders at events for organizations like Amazon, Adobe, Google, Oracle etc. 

Thomas started with the example of Ken Kutaragi, former Chairman and Group CEO of Sony Computer Entertainment, who convinced SONY to get into business in the gaming industry and made gaming successful. Kutaragi invented PlayStation and became the change maker in the gaming industry. This is why Thomas said – “Great marketers are great change leaders.” However, it is not easy to become both at once because of the ‘skills gap’, ‘trust gap’ & ‘power gap’ that marketers face. Thomas stated that in most cases people in the company only care about the company’s success & about getting the work done; they hardly care about a marketer’s individual success. He discussed about a research analysis where it has been found that Change Leadership Skills contribute 55% to make a marketer successful. The first step towards Changing Leadership Skills should be to “Tackle Big Issues”. Thomas talked about prepaid phones meeting customer needs & how this approach is also beneficial to the company needs. In between customer needs & company needs lies a ‘value creation zone’ that enables marketers to acquire power.

Marketers should mind their language; they can talk about things like profit but not about market segmentation. As a marketer, one has to learn to “walk the halls” & leave the office.

Thomas spoke about Kleenex kitchen towel’s brand manager, who destroyed millions of company members during his 3 years’ reign by maintaining a high cost brand with no innovation. Job descriptions can become problematic at times, as that manager’s job description said him to grow the business. Job descriptions won’t have the answer to job success!

Thomas had a last tip for the emerging marketers – “Hit the head & the heart,” which refers to telling people stories that touch them. He quoted Napoleon – “A leader is a dealer in hope.” He identified the biggest power of marketers to be the ability to ‘inspire’ people.

Thomas concluded his speech with his favorite quote by George Adair – “All you ever wanted is on the other side of fear!”




The first panel discussion was held on the topic – “Driving Digital Transformation for Brands.” The moderator of the panel discussion was Zakia Zerin, Head of Digital Marketing eCommerce & Customer Engagement, Nestlé Bangladesh Ltd. Members of the panel discussion were – Solaiman Alam, Head of Digital, Grameenphone Ltd.; Nazmul Karim, Executive Vice President, Prime Bank Ltd. and Tanzeen Ferdous, Marketing Director (Home Care, Foods, & Refreshment), Unilever Bangladesh Ltd. The discussion started with the question that the moderator posed – “What is digital revolution & why?”

Despite the fact that everyone in the panel suggested some different ideas on how digital transformation needs to be driven for brands, all of the discussants agreed on placing ‘customer experience’ at the core of this digital transformation. Digital transformation ensures transparency & therefore it needs to be relevant. Customers are no longer attracted by Advertisements, rather they do care about what they are being served with. The data generated in digital interactions will only become fruitful when they are captured, processed & used to make meaningful decisions. Despite having technology, the most challenging part for brands remains generating ‘creativity’.



The second panel discussion was on – “Data – Creativity – Privacy – Value Creation – Where is the Sweet Spot?” The discussants of the panel were – Adnan Imtiaz Halim, CEO & Co-Founder, Sheba.zyz; Lutfi Chowdhury, Regional Head, ESKIMI South Asia; Shourav Islam, CEO & Founder, Unifox Digital Media.

All of the discussants stressed on the significance of value creation & none of them talked about a specific sweet spot, rather they identified the sweet spot to be somewhere in between the four parameters – data, creativity, privacy & value creation. It is largely important for consumer brands to analyze consumer behavior & search for patterns. Data that adds value should be prioritized while making decisions. Making decisions during value creation need to be structured with creativity where ‘privacy’ remains as the barrier to creativity.



The third panel discussion was entitled as – “Short Term-Long Term Debate in the era of NOW MOMENT.” The session was moderated by Khandoker Mahmudur Rahman Ph.D., Associate Professor & Director – BBA Program, United International University. The discussants were – Chandan Polekar, Country Head, Godrej Consumer Products Limited; Mizanur Rashid, CCO, bKash Ltd. and Harsh Chhaparia, Partner, McKinsey & Company.

Mizanur Rashid stressed on the two major points for start-up or online retail companies’ success – GMV (Gross Merchandise Volume) & Number of active customers. He identified the short term & long-term objectives as to continuously create base for customers, keeping in mind that funds are limited. On the other hand, Chandan Polekar mentioned short term aspect as how do people perceive a company’s role & the monetary aspects. He identified the long-term aspects as the experiences provided to the existing employees and the words of employee who’ve left the company. Harsh emphasized on making substantial resource allocation. In short, the panel defined short term strategies focusing on immediate sales & long term strategies emphasizing more on growth prospects.



The 4th panel discussion was held on – “What Do You Stand for Positioning/Purpose – Does it Matter?” Nazim Farhan Choudhury, Managing Director, Adcomm Ltd. moderated the session where the discussants were – Ashraf Bin Taj, President, Marketing Society of Bangladesh; Shahriar Amin, Head of Marketing, Beximco Communications Ltd. and Syed Tanzim Rezwan, Marketing Director, Reckitt Benckiser (Bangladesh) Ltd.

The discussants primarily focused on the fact that brands need to stand out in order to understand & satisfy the more involved customers. The core of Branding remains unchanged with the flow of time. People, Practical Propositions & Portability are the 3 Ps in terms of positioning in marketing. Moreover, brands need to sell the need of consumers with a sense of responsibility.



The very last panel discussion was on – “Why Brands Must Lead the Sustainability Battle?” which was moderated by Prof. Syed Saad Andaleeb, Ph.D., Former Vice Chancellor, BRAC University. The discussants of the panel were – Prem N. Shamdasani Ph.D., Associate Professor, Marketing, Academic Director (Executive MBA), National University of Singapore and Yasir Azman, CMO & Deputy CEO, Grameenphone Ltd.

Professor Andaleeb initiated the discussion by saying that sustainable brands represent multi-layered & contemplated “thinking”, and this “thinking” can be inspired by the quote – “Watch your thoughts for they become words. Watch your worlds for they become habits. Watch your habits for they become your character. And watch your character for it becomes your destiny.”

Dr. Love focused on how CSR has become an integral part of sustainability. He drew the example of strategy of L’oreal as a brand to illustrate the significance of CSR.

Yasir Azman proposed 3 keys or 3Ps for sustainable business – Financial risk & opportunity or Profit, Societal aspects or People and Environmental aspect or Planet. Maintaining confidentiality of the customers is another key that he added.

To put an end to the session, Professor Andaleeb raised a question – “Companies for People or People for Companies?” He introduced his ‘7P’ formula to attain sustainability in business – Purpose, Progress, People, Policies, Partnerships, Pennies & Passion.




Harsh Chhaparia, Partner, McKinsey & Company, conducted an insight session – “Strategy to Beat the Odds.” Harsh started with how most organizations are frustrated with forming ‘strategies’. He mentioned that one key yardstick of a company’s performance is ‘economic profit’.

Three things determine the performance of a company –

  •  Endowment: Refers to what does a company stand for, debt level, past investment, R & D etc.
  •  Trends: ‘Industrial’ & ‘Geographic’.
  •  Moves:  Mergers, acquisitions & developments, resource allocation, capital expenditure, productivity improvement and differentiation improvement.




The only breakout session of the day was conducted by Thomas Barta, Dean, McKinsey Leadership Program & Columnist for Forbes Marketing Week. Thomas pointed out some valuable tips for marketing leaders.

Digital marketing appears to be much easier than traditional marketing in terms of marketing practices. It becomes challenging for marketers to appease both their boss and colleagues, as they have to face power & trust gap. Marketers need to be influential in order to make their diligence pay off & they should always work on improving their skills. Thomas identified ‘leadership skill’ to be one of the key success factors for marketers. Marketers should be focused on expanding the value creation zone, as it is the zone where company interests & individual interests merge together. Broader the value creation zone, higher are the chances of success.



An introductory session on “Professional Academy of Sales” was held by Najmus Ahmed Albab, CEO of Lighthouse Bangladesh where he explained what actually Professional Academy of Sales is and how it would function. He said that the Professional Academy of Sales would work on building professionals who will acquire abilities to create a market for themselves & the organization in the future.



BBF Seminar 2019 is an initiative of Bangladesh Brand Forum. This year the seminar was presented by Beximco and powered by American International University-Bangladesh (AIUB); organized in association with Dhaka Bank Limited; Official Carrier – Turkish Airlines; Strategic Partners – Marketing Society of Bangladesh (MSB) and The Daily Star; Event Partner – Le Méridien, Dhaka; Digital Partner – Applied Business Initiatives; PR Partner – Backpage PR and Branding Partner – Terracotta.

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