Introvert Who Fell in Love With an Extrovert’s Job – Chathurika Fonseka, Product Group Manager of Reckitt Benckiser SL

Chathurika Fonseka, the Product Group Manager: Hygiene Category at Reckitt Benckiser Sri Lanka began her fascinating career by loving the concept of owning a company or in fact, wanting to be accountable for one or few consumer brands that we interact with regularly. This thought popped into her mind when she used to enjoy scrutinising on-self supermarket products as a child. She described herself as “an introvert who fell in love with an extrovert’s job.” That simple yet single minded ambition was what made her become a Marketer and unto this day she  enjoys the  task of doing a quick field visit when entering a supermarket 

She said that she experiences childlike happiness on being able to work with some impressive brands, with wonderful legacies and stories to share. She relished being involved in creative thinking as well as digging into the minds of consumers to tap into their psyche to unravel new ideas and plans that will shape the futures of those products. She is passionate towards making a positive contribution towards society and feels that brands have a large role in contributing towards this effort as well . She believed that passion and love for what people do will be the greatest asset one can have towards achieving success, and no one is too old to learn and improve on their talents and capabilities. When speaking about disruptive marketing, She says, “the most common interpretation of disruptive marketing can be identified as breaking the existing patterns in the way you do your business or your shop floor to shelf journey, however, she  prefers to simply call it listening to one’s consumer.” In that light this should not be a new phenomenon in marketing but something all businesses should have had practiced from the inception. In addition she said, “It was about changing anything within your business model that will enable you to stay relevant and ahead of competition while being a catalyst for change within the industry you operate in. Disruptive marketing can be practiced in any different spheres within your business from the product/service offering to your distribution and sales processes to your communication and advertising. What matters at the end is that you understand the success factors and related actions that will benefit your product or service offering, while standing out from the crowd and jolting the consumer mindset with an out of the box proposition.”

She claims that there should be no rules in venturing into this pathway, but definitely a few guidelines that would enable a successful transition from where an organization was to where  it wished to be, by implementing the identified changes. The core embodiment of disruptive marketing is about taking risks and moving away from the norm and standing out of the crowd. Therefore, restricting oneself with rules may hinder your creative thinking and reaping the maximum benefits one can achieve through a brave, ground breaking manoeuvre. As she said earlier, one cannot venture into a disruptive marketing strategy without putting in some measurable work to understand the consumer. It is by listening to them that they will be able understand where the changes need to take place. Her explanation for consumer satisfaction was, “ultimately everything we do is directed at the end consumer and therefore, it is their voice that should guide the changes we hope to implement. However, while understanding your customer and catering to their ever-changing needs are important, businesses need to be attentive of the nuances within your specific industry that may or may not be compatible with the changes you were about to implement. Therefore, the relevance to both the business/category you are operating in and the relevance to the consumer is a key factor in determining the success of a disruptive marketing strategy.”

When deciding on a disruptive marketing strategy that is consumer lead, relevant and cut through, one will need to be bold and take a stand on your proposition until it is bought in by the consumers. She further explains that tonality and the confidence with which one makes the pitch to the consumers will also play a part in determining the success of your campaign or proposition. Having said it was important to understand not only their current value systems and thoughts but also their future aspirations and goals. The key success factor in disruptive marketing also lies in the ability to understand and predict the future behaviors of our consumers as this will determine the adaptability of the change you will be proposing to them. Also, one cannot practice disruptive marketing without breaking away from the existing practices within the industry as the first mover advantage is a key to the success of a disruptive marketing strategy. Often you will be imitated by your competition, however you would have already reaped most of the benefit by then.

However, this change needs to be clearly relatable to the consumer, as an impractical idea may also run the risk of being rejected. Therefore, one needs to be mindful that not all disruptive ideas will hold true unless it’s clearly linked to the needs/wants of your target audience and is accepted by them. While being in line with consumer thinking, lifestyle or aspirations it is very important that you stand out of the norm. as I said earlier it could be a business model, a revamp of a product/service offering or proposition or merely a disruptive clutter breaking communication campaign. It needs to be unique, new and pique the interest of your target audience while being powerful enough to bring about a behavioral change in their purchase habits. Sometimes it can be as simple as adapting a new platform for communication which you haven’t explored before or adapting a different tonality or approach to your traditional communication style. In this ever-changing world with new technological advancements and social and economic  changes consumer mindset and lifestyles are highly volatile and therefore one needs to adapt your brand accordingly.

While market share and sales figures were the most tangible way of judging the success of such an adaptation, the early signs will be witnessed through the immediate consumer response. A disruptive marketing activity will most often send the end consumer through a journey that will result in a series of emotions and actions. A successful campaign or a business model will generate an initial reaction from the consumer, either negative or positive. A positive reaction will mean that the consumer perception of your product offering will be heightened which will in turn create a positive buzz amongst your target consumers. In the current day where all individuals take to social to express their views the first indications of success will be witnessed through their expressions on the personal social platforms. This perceptual change will thereby translate to an attitudinal change and finally move to adaptation and Promotion. The most successful of disruptive strategies will see a positive behavioral change in its target audience along with adoption, which will create a trend amongst the thoughts and behaviors of people.

She sensed that the current day youth are in an ideal setting to create many disruptive platforms and ideas. Given that we operated in an extremely volatile environment quick thoughts coupled with breakthrough out of the box executions have now become a standard practice. They are also exposed to better technology and have access to information and resources at a much faster pace than before. The current macro and micro economic settings have also made everything we do so much more competitive and therefore the practice of being unique and stepping away from the clutter has become a way of life. Therefore, she is confident that the right attitude and thinking is already existent within the local talent. What needs to happen is that these resources are utilised in the correct way by organisations, by supporting new thinking and encouraging risk taking decision making and creating a more positive environment within which they can freely express and execute their new disruptive thinking.

She felt that marketers need to anticipate or are already experiencing shifts in the way consumers operate post COVID-19. There were many aspects be it economic, cultural land value driven as well as lifestyle shifts that brands will have to anticipate and prepare accordingly. Certain changes are already visible, and can be rest assured that those changes will stick even after the pandemic is over. There will be shifts in brand loyalty, as the trialing of new products was taking place at a faster pace than before due unavailability of a product resulting from surge in demand or production capacity limitations due to covid regulations or not being available in the right sales platform or channel. Thereafter the sensitive consumer may choose to remain loyal to brands that satisfied their requirements when their regular product of choice wasn’t available. The greater focus on hygiene and sanitisation will prove to be a winner for certain categories as peoples’ focus on their monthly spends will shift from recreational activities and entertainment to homecare and hygiene. Messaging and communication that highlight health and sanitation will hold greater attention now than they did before the pandemic. While a “laboratory tested” statement will bring greater advantage to a brand communication, marketers will face the dilemma of tying to link their product/service offering to the above shift in the consumer mood. The next big shift or opportunity will be in e-commerce. The FMCG industry has not seen much progress in e-commerce in Sri Lanka unlike its counterpart electronics. However, she feels that we may witness a significant number of converts from physical shopping to online shopping even post pandemic.

Therefore, brands will have to anticipate this behavioral change in consumers and prepare a GTM strategy whilst also strengthening their digital presence in their existing consumer base. As inadequate visibility or partnerships online will amount to the same as not having adequate shelf presence in store. Secondly, consumers will look to economise at every given opportunity therefore price will play a very important role when making a purchase decision. Further to that, the economic implications will continue to challenge  marketers in the time to come. With pay cuts and job losses, whilst trying to mitigate the financial damage done during the numerous lockdowns, most consumers will be experiencing tight purse strings for a relatively long period of time. On one side purchase baskets will once again focus on including only the essentials. Therefore, brands will have to work harder to ensure that they stay relevant in the lives of their existing consumer base. Secondly, consumers will look to economise at every given opportunity therefore price will play a very vital role when making a purchase decision. Hence, brands that relied on their equity and heritage to charge a premium will have to relook at their pricing strategy in order ensure that loyal consumers don’t switch to competition on purely a pricing decision.

Speaking of the current day, she feels that the sky was the limit for the modern-day young female. She believes that if one is competent in one’s relevant field and is passionate and driven, there is nothing that cannot be achieved. Always take the opportunity to demonstrate your capabilities and skills which will naturally enable you to find your way towards success in the corporate world. she. She says, “What matters is that you demonstrate your passion and knowledge with confidence and are relentless in achieving success in tasks that you set your mind to. You need to be undeterred by external forces, whatever they may be. 

Be relentless: in the pursuit of success, don’t stop until your goals are met. Check yourself on a regular basis. You are your best critique. Make setbacks your greatest assets and use them as reminders as to why one should work harder. Set time bound, achievable but challenging goals for oneself and don’t relax until one is satisfied with his/her achievements and then challenge oneself a little bit further. 

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