The Gold award winner in Marketing at the 2017 Top 50 Professional & Career Women Awards, Fiona Juriansz Munasinghe is one of the leading female professionals of the Sri Lankan corporate world. She carries out her responsibilities at home, as well as at Hemas Manufacturing (Pvt) Ltd as Director of Marketing. 

“I began my career at Hemas Manufacturing as a Management Trainee 16 years ago. I quickly progressed to Assistant Brand Manager and then to Brand Manager, handling the second largest brand in the company within two years of joining the Company.

“From Hemas, which is a fast-paced local company that works with some much-loved local brands that take multinational brands head on, I moved to GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) Consumer Healthcare as Senior Brand Manager. Here, I handled Panadol, which was and is one of the most trusted and popular brands in the country. After a while my role expanded to handle the entire Analgesics portfolio, which was the largest contributor to the company’s bottom-line.

“After three plus years at GSK, I moved back to Hemas as a Marketing Manager to overlook the Oral Care, Laundry and Personal Wash categories. Skincare was added to my portfolio and after 3 years I was designated as General Manager Marketing. Effective from April 2018, I was promoted to Director – Marketing, overseeing the marketing functions at Hemas FMCG.”

Speaking of how she maintains a healthy balance between the personal and professional aspects of her life, Fiona explained, “I am fortunate that I work at a company that respects that people have multiple dimensions to their lives. When I work, I give it my 100%, and when I leave office, I try to avoid bringing work home with me whenever possible. When my children are up, I mentally try to switch off from work mode, and give them and my family my undivided attention. Any work that I do at home I do late in the night once the children are asleep or early morning before they wake up. I also try to maintain discipline in terms of scheduling to avoid long, late evening meetings that can unnecessarily interfere with my and team members’ personal lives and commitments outside of work. I have to keep telling myself that I can’t do everything and accept trusted help whenever possible. It’s not easy, and at times it means giving up professional commitments such as cocktails and other social events or leaving early, but this is a choice that I consciously make.”

When asked to describe the most educational moment in her career journey, Fiona responded, “It’s a tough question as every day has its challenges and learnings.  Moving from a local company to a multinational company with stringent standards and dealing with KOLs (Key Opinion Leaders) and multiple stakeholders was a big move that took me a while to adjust to.”

Describing the makings of an effective marketing team, Fiona stated, “Number one, I would say is consumer centricity; Marketers need to have a good feel for their consumers. Marketers must work with diverse stakeholders so having great communication and team working skills is a must. Being good project managers and being able to share credit is also important. Essentially good Marketers need to have a diverse skill set as they must work with consumers, multiple stakeholders as well as have a good understanding on their financials and how the business works to be effective.”

On the topic of the most productive steps a marketing professional can take when it comes to crisis management, Fiona advised, “I think the most important thing in any crisis is to be flexible. One has to have a good sense of the pulse of consumers and where consumer sentiment is going to settle going forward. I feel Marketers will be required to reevaluate demand based on changed consumer sentiments and understanding consumer sentiments and evaluating the best solutions to address the issues at hand. Marketers will also need to re-evaluate their marketing mix to cater to the changed context and quickly change gears. Strategy will need to be re-visited with the changed context in mind. Marketers will also need to relook at how they spend their marketing investments to get the best bang for their buck and redirected in line with the heightened priorities brought about by the crisis.”

“I think the lockdown period was a good forced trial of the use of digital for many people.  Some of the usage has understandably gone down vs the period when people were in lockdown with limited access to other people, entertainment and shops. With busier lives, there will be a growth, especially with the youth, in mobile phone usage for entertainment and engaging with others as well as increased online purchasing as infrastructure gets better (delivery, cash on delivery etc.). This will affect Marketers as this medium will require much more real time content, responsiveness and higher levels of experimenting.  Marketers will need to gear up to more content, faster response time and deal with consumer complaints that can potentially come into the public domain within a very short period,” said Fiona voicing her opinion on how the sudden growth in the use of digital by consumers will impact the future of Marketing. 

The younger generations, Millennials, Gen Z and Gen Alpha are more concerned about the sustainability of the products they use rather than exclusivity and price tags. This trend has the potential to make a significant impact on the Marketing industry, as Fiona confirmed. 

According to the Director – “This has significant implications for the Marketing industry.  However, this depends on the product category as many categories may be lower priority and more price sensitive – often the stated intent does not translate into actual purchase. Having said that, this is the wider direction where many products will go towards as the impact of stress on the environment actively affects our lives.  This is something that Marketers and product development teams need to proactively work on to continuously innovate in these lines. Brands that act proactively and with genuine intent can connect better with the sustainability concerned consumers (irrespective of age). I personally feel that manufacturers and all citizens of this planet have a responsibility to do their part to ensure we minimize our footprint on the planet.”