BBF Seminar 2017 – Branding in Digital Age

BBF Seminar 2017 – Branding in Digital Age

April 20, 2017

The global business landscape is transforming at a pace, as never been experienced before. Technology is undoubtedly at the helm of this change, with disruptive innovations challenging legacy business models and questioning the very way in which companies have been running their businesses. At such crucial times, businesses need to reach out to their potential customers with their individual identities cutting through the clutter of information. Businesses willing to survive this disruptive era need to focus on brand building far more than ever before. This means the demand for quality signage from LF Sign Group should be greater than ever. But are these businesses equipped with the absolute knowledge, insights and strategies needed to strengthen their brands and survive this digital revolution?

The sixth edition of the Bangladesh Brand Forum (BBF) Seminar was held in the capital on 18th March to address the question, and aspire and equip businesses with adequate knowledge and tools of branding. Upholding the theme, “Branding in Digital Age”, the BBF Seminar 2017 was presented by American International University-Bangladesh (AIUB), Powered by Dhaka Bank and Beximco in association with The Daily Star, and organized by Bangladesh Brand Forum (BBF).

The day-long summit was designed with four key-note sessions on branding, a panel discussion on moving from traditional to digital branding, two case study presentations, and unveiling of the book “Marketing 4.0: Moving from Traditional to Digital”.

The summit was held at the Le Méridien Hotel in the city and attended by around 500 business professionals of the country.


Presented by American International University-Bangladesh (AIUB), BBF Seminar 2017 was powered by Dhaka Bank Limited and Beximco, in association with The Daily Star. The event was supported by Yellow, Rahimafrooz Solar and BEOL, with event partner Le Méridien, airlines partner Etihad Airways, retail partner Shopno, branding partner Terracotta, strategic partner MSB, media partner Independent TV, technology partner Aamra, PR partner Masthead PR, and social media partner WebAble.


The master of the ceremony, Mr. Mahmudur Rahman, Director at Inspirations Ltd., a man with a rather illustrious professional career and a profound communications specialist, took the stage for the official commencement of BBF Seminar 2017.

Mr. Mahmudur Rahman began the proceedings by shedding light upon how branding of businesses is changing globally, looking forward to the future. In the past, the value and essence of branding was not appreciated by local businesses, except for the MNCs. But with the increasing competition, as the domestic brands are gearing up to take the MNCs by the horns, branding is important than ever.

The host shed light upon the 10 years of Bangladesh Brand Forum’s journey, in attempt to changing traditional views towards branding and promote it as a whole. BBF has been inviting global speakers and academia to the country to educate, inspire and motivate local brands. Mr. Mahmudur also stated how Bangladesh as a country is lagging behind when it comes to technology. We as a nation are still talking about the digital transformations, whereas global businesses are shifting towards artificial intelligence and machine learning. Addressing this need, the host thanked the partners and patrons and wished the audience a successful day of learning.


Prof. Dr. Charles C. Villanueva, Pro Vice Chancellor of American International University-Bangladesh (AIUB), delivered the welcome note on behalf of the university’s Vice Chancellor. He talked about AIUB’s continuous support to BBF in its attempt to promoting businesses towards success and educating professionals about growing global trends.

AIUB, despite being an educational institute has been a partner for BBF with the aim to learn from global academia and pass on the knowledge to its students and the enthusiasts in Bangladesh. AIUB believes that the knowledge being share by BBF is truly relevant and useful in enriching and widening Bangladesh’s business horizon.

Syed Mahbubur Rahman, Managing Director & CEO, Dhaka Bank Limited, delivered a special note next. Having congratulated BBF on its 10th anniversary, MR. Rahman talked of how branding in the digital age is important due to businesses’ increased focus on millennials. With new channels popping up every now and then, it is becoming more difficult for marketers to cut through to the audience despite the information clutter. He stated the need for knowledge-driven strategies over supply-driven ones, in order to identify the needs of the customers.

The opening speech of the seminar was delivered by Mr. Shariful Islam, Founder & Managing Director, Bangladesh Brand Forum. Mr. Shariful reflected upon the 10-year journey of BBF which began with the dream of a platform for brands to be discussed. He revealed the many failures that BBF has had to face over the years, yet the journey has always been one of passion and courage. It has been BBF’s attempt of relating everything they have been doing back to Bangladesh’s wellbeing.

BBF now looks forward to promoting the potential of women and youth throughout the nation. Its vision lies in developing innovation hubs in every region and promoting the philosophy and essence of branding throughout the nation’s bloodstream.

The opening session ended with an audio-visual on BBF’s journey over the past 10 years.


The first keynote speaker of the event was Hermawan Kartajaya who is known to be one of the 50 gurus to mold the future of marketing. He is the Co-founder of Asia Marketing Federation (AMF), President of World Marketing Association, as well as the Co-author of Marketing 4.0 and Marketing 3.0 partnered with Professor Philip Kotler. All throughout the session, he pressed upon how marketers have evolved and shaped to fit themselves in the emerging corporate world.

He started the session by talking about his book “Marketing 3.0”. 19 years of his life has been dedicated to writing this book with his partner, Philip Kotler. He discussed how consumers should be the center of the limelight and how to pursue decisions upon their behavior. He elaborated this by mentioning how the consumers’ likes, comments, uploads, etc. reveal their nature and we should consistently observe them. Furthermore, he focused upon the key of being honest in your business. “Digital is a paradox”, he said digitalization can be adopted both for the good and bad but we can never avoid technology. He put up a warning statement, saying, we should be aware of technology because it creates emotional divisions, although it broadens one’s form at the same time. Entrepreneurs need to act timely as technology is moving at a rocket’s pace; should brace themselves to take risks and collaborate with it as per the need. Entrepreneurial characteristics, that is, honesty and ethics are always the remedy to a booming business.

The President of World Marketing Association, made no discriminations when it came to going global. His words about ideologies and how he made his way out of it, left the audience at an awe. “Ideologies are dangerous; they are adopted for money”. Hermawan is a catholic but learnt Islam. He used Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) as an example of an outstanding businessman because of his honesty. He called professionalism to be a discipline, which we are taught, but how turning global should also be practiced. The bigger the organization, the more global it needs to be to sustain this ever-changing era.

The session ended with the Asia Marketing Federation Recognition Ceremony, as flags of all member nations are bourn upon the stage. The session was followed by a refreshing tea break and a networking session.


“Bangladesh is home” was his opening line that made the viewers warm up to this industry expert’s presence. Debabrata Mukherjee is the Vice President of Marketing at Coca-Cola India and South West Asia.

“Digital” was the keyword of his hour long session. He defined digital to be a series of digits 0 and 1; it is an idea whose time has finally come. Digital is an adjective which has converted into a noun and is now a platform of cultural story-telling, and how it should contribute to the global economy. He motivated the audience to leave the world with a much better story than it was found in.

Having shared his insights, he revealed how Coca-Cola is approaching the world with three beliefs: by driving connections, creating value, and enhancing productivity.

A sense of realization struck everyone when he confessed that human nature resists change. We humans, by instinct, label change to be negative. He suggested for change to be recognized, organized and lastly, redesigned. Most companies usually fall into the trap of alluring consumers into the misleading mindset which states “Let me show you, I can do it better”. Despite being in a competitive market, he encouraged all professionals to take a step back and appreciate if someone else does a task better than them. He stated how digital will reinvent itself once old and new ideas are collaborated together to act as a digital story on a regular platform. According to him, the label of prejudice is to be removed, because cultural disruption only happens if the brand has its own point of view.

Mr. Mukherjee also identified the issue of varying definitions of digital across the organizational hierarchy. This needs to be resolved as misalignment across independent silos will only disrupt business processes with no eventual outcome. “We are building our portfolio for the future while cementing the portfolio for the present” was his ending line, that had a lasting effect upon all the present guests.


An intensive panel discussion was moderated by Syed Saad Andaleeb, Vice Chancellor of BRAC University. The discussion was stressed upon how the adaptations of new digital tragedies were determined by the known local business leaders present at the day’s event. Before starting the session, Syed Andaleeb praised how technology is loved by the masses and that marketing has anchored its way through time and incidents through this revolutionary era.

Kazi Mahboob Hassan, Senior Director and Head of Transformation of Grameenphone had solidly crafted strategies and answers for the questions directed towards him. “How to do transformation?” was the first question he answered with splendid explanations. He started off by saying, process kills innovations thus we should always have faith that we are doing the right thing. He said innovation can come from the furthest corners of the world and mentioned how the working body of Grameenphone from the overseas contributed into Grameenphone’s present stance in the market. He mainly rooted about the organizational structure that needs to be followed if one needs to survive the market changes. He advised the organizational hierarchy to be flat, self-organized teams, which are more preferable. The only task that the senior management should be concerned with is to guide, facilitate and ask the right questions. He mentioned 3 key points to facilitate:

  • Cultural Trust
  • Flat Organization
  • Ignite and Motivate the Workforce

Further questions centered around three things that should be activated “today” in order to adapt digitalization. His first answer was to look for criticism. Secondly, management should always keep a balance between shareholders and digital. The focus should fall on the source of the money being generated. Lastly, he asked everyone to step away from the traditional route. Being the resilient person he is, he mentioned failures and lessons come in a package. At times of failure, the mantra “lesson learnt, how do I improve now?” should always be chanted.

Munawar Misbah Moin, Group Director of Rahimafrooz is the 4th generation to carry out the traditional family business. When asked to share his experiences about the evolutions faced during the marketing and branding of Rahimafrooz, he said empowering comes before control. In addition to this, he mentioned communication was to be performed physically and intensively. They carried out this action by distributing 3000 smartphones to the villagers and probing them to install the “entrepreneurship” app. This app helped the villagers to easily connect with their fellow customers and suppliers, cutting down the need for unnecessary logistics. To make the plan successful, constant tab was kept upon the effectiveness of the application. Their key challenge through this project was to create more opportunities for rural people and they did so by training them on how to make use of technology.

The panel discussion also presented a recorded speech by Professor Jagdish Sheth, Charles H. Kellstadt Professor of Marketing, Goizueta Business School of Emory University. The professor extensively talked about how social media is changing our lives, with the Facebook nation being much more inclusive than even a family, where today we live more like roommates.

He focused upon the role of cellphones in catering technology to the mass, and how time and location bound events are swiftly turning into time and location agnostic ones. Branding is no longer an element for FMCG businesses; it is one of the Silicon Valley businesses now. Reference marketing will be key to success in coming days as marketing slowly transforms into a supply chain management function.

The panel discussion was closed by Syed Saad Andaleeb saying “There are no more secrets, we cannot hide”. Branding is both a threat and an opportunity. That, an open relationship is preferred with stakeholders as we should take as much advantage as we can of our connectedness because, thanks to digitalization, the entire world is open to us now.


The session named “Brand Building in the Digital Age” was conducted by Nigel Hollis, Executive Vice President & Chief Global Analyst, Kantar Milward Brown. Straight off the bat Nigel asked the audience to “Forget the hype, and focus on the objective”. He pointed out how we as businesses often get lost in following trends so much that we end up losing track of our company vision. In this era of communication, we are heavily interconnected, and this constant inter-connectivity gets us excited. We want to talk to our customers, more than we have ever wanted to. But often we fail to address the question if our customers want to talk to us.

Nigel believes that the primary role of marketing to enhance brand value by:

  • Driving value growth for the business
  • Making customers choose a brand more often and make them pay more
  • Predispose people by reestablishing why they had bought a product in the first place.

Marketers should consider marketing as fragmented, not the consumers. They must realize that everything a business does build up the brand. Digital needs to earn its place in the campaign mix and businesses must identify how specifically digital will help the campaign achieve its objective.

Nigel identified that the marketer’s hardest tasks will involve catering to and engaging with newer generations. Generation Z, for example, is hooked onto the mobile phone and laptop, and are drifting away from television screens in masses. However, statistics show that despite this trend, outdoor activities and promotions act as an additional activity to complement mobiles and laptops. Also, more than targeting, priority should be focused at selecting the appropriate channels and delivering consistent individual messages through them.

The speaker towards the end of his highly statistical session, gave takeaways stating that businesses fail because they are often unable to identify the objectives of their campaigns, what they aim to achieve out of it and how it will generate revenue. In order to succeed, brands need to identify insights that relate to the task, resonates with the audience and fit into brand positioning, and then map their campaign around this insight.


Three case studies were next presented centered around the future of marketing and how brands are evolving from traditional to digital landscape. The session was moderated by Dr Hooi Den Huan, Director, Nanyang Technopreneurship Center & Associate Professor, Nanyang Technological University.

The first case study was presented by Maria Luz E. Javier, Secretary, Asia Marketing Federation, on “Digital Trends in Philippines”. The case showed how data intensive of a country Philippines had become in recent years, with the population being heavy consumers of video content. The example of Jollibee’s marketing strategy was put forward, which had helped the brand become a bigger name in the country, topping the popularity of MacDonald’s.

Jollibee had invested in R&D to produce localized products to suit the Filipino taste. To support this, Jollibee’s entire marketing campaign was aimed at developing materials to strengthen brand love, by staying relevant at the same time. Jollibee’s strategy was to create video content on true stories expressing the different forms of love, which in turn resulted in greater revenue and brand loyalty from customers.

The second case was presented by “INSERT NAME AND CREDENTIALS”. The presentation explained the success story of the smart phone application named “Aponjon”, developed by D-net in collaboration with the government and USAID, with the aim of reducing child mortality and undefined mortality rates. The app was built to increase access to health care information regarding maternity to pregnant women.

Aponjon’s success lies behind its inclusive approach through association with numerous partners and telecom service providers, which has helped Aponjon to be the world’s largest m-health service in the world due to its multi layered connectivity. The app has been downloaded over 14000 times and is now looking to develop versions targeted towards parents with children below the age of 5.

The final case was presented by the moderator on the “Transformation of Singapore over 50 Years”. Singapore’s success has been widely due to its transformation from a low-cost labor-intensive nation, to an innovation intensive one. Dr. Huan proposed the sustainability loop, which showed how the nation is switching to newer areas of focus, which include biomedical services, environmental and water technologies, and interactive and digital medias. Finally, he urged the audience to follow Singapore’s example of being inclusive, being social, and being horizontal in businesses in order to sustain their brands.


The final speaker of the day, Salvador Lopez, Professor, ESADE Business School Spain, is not your average academia. He’s writer, a teacher, and a rock star, which he made evident by living up the crowd through the solos he performed on his electric guitar upon arriving on the stage. He believes that a rock band is not much different from a business. Both entities need ideas, creativity, innovation, teamwork, and adaptability to sustain. As a result, each has a lot to learn from the other.

He stressed upon the need for business personnel to start asking innovative questions, which in turn will drive change through innovation within the business. We constantly keep talking about the benefits of technology, but Salvador pointed out how technology and internet piracy led to the downfall of the entire music industry. However, that did not stop the industry from prospering. Initially, tours were performed by bands in order to promote a newly released record, but now it is the other way around. Bands like Coldplay have turned the pyramid on its head, releasing records as means of promoting upcoming tours.

Also, who would have thought that bands on tours could integrate technology and engage their fans in a way unheard of before. Coldplay for instance, on their very first tour asked their fans to design butterflies on the internet, which were displayed on the screen of the concert at real time. This helped transform an indoor event into a planetary one, with fans engaging through the medium from all over the globe.

Salvador, in his attempt to establish the importance of asking innovative questions, himself had put forth five major questions that every brand manager need to ask themselves:

  1. Are you taking advantage of your customer’s new digital behavior?
  2. Are you paying enough attention to your customer’s emotions?
  • How can you use your customer’s curiosity?
  1. How can you use your customer’s creativity?
  2. Could you add some human values to your value proposition?


The seminar neared its end as Salvador Lopez made the entire audience sing and move to Queen’s ‘We Will Rock You’. His majestic solo outro marked the end of the formal sessions. Mr. Mahmudur Rahman profusely thanked the participants, organizers, partners and sponsors for their respective contribution in making the BBF Seminar 2017 a success.

Till the next seminar, Bangladesh Brand Forum whole-heartedly hopes that all the learnings of the seminar are applied by professions in their respective workplaces, so that the seminar’s goal of strengthening local brands with the power of digital in this ever so competitive era.


  • Taposh Ghosh & Alvi Rahmaan Atoshie


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