The Ground Maker of Wavemaker – Namalie Herath, CEO of Wavemaker Sri Lanka

Namalie Herath, the Chief Executive Officer of Wavemaker – Sri Lanka, began her career in advertising and media under the guidance of, marketing guru and strategist, Nimal Gunawardena. Since then, her journey has been enriched with learnings, knowledge, new skills, challenges, and opportunities that have aided her professional growth. She embarked on her professional journey by joining J. Walter Thompson.

Apart from her role as the CEO, she is a family-oriented person. She describes herself as a “strong advocate of work-life balance,” which has allowed her to excel in all of her roles as a wife, mother, homemaker, and career professional.

According to Namalie, the Communication industry has evolved and is continuing to evolve and innovate in order to meet the behavioral and attitudinal changes that are occurring in consumers. “This transformation began 20 years ago and has progressed at an unprecedented rate in the last decade, with technology serving as a catalyst. This transformation is currently accelerating as we learn to live with a global pandemic. Some of the planned initiatives that were to be implemented in the future are being implemented overnight because it is deemed necessary. Technology has increased the availability and affordability of information, entertainment, social connections, and a variety of other services. Traditional forms of communication are still prevalent, relevant, and influential, and will serve as a complement to new emerging media.”

An effective communicator, according to Namalie, is “someone who is able to deliver with clarity by articulating the proposition in a compelling manner.” A communicator must be well-versed in the language of the audience, as well as a good listener and open-minded.”

Explaining the most pressing challenges present in the Communications industry at the moment and to be faced in the years to come, Namalie stated, “We are rapidly approaching an era of technology, data, analytics, and artificial intelligence (AI) in making informed decisions. In everything we do, we must be current and relevant. The necessary skill sets must be developed. Consumer beliefs and behaviors are rapidly changing. Companies must invest in deep consumer insights to keep up with and influence these changes.

‘Black Swan’ events like these are moments of truth for brands (and marketers) in terms of their purpose, values, and commitments, but also of their agility, creativity, and spirit. We don’t know when it will happen, but it will happen quickly, releasing pent-up demand. Long-term shifts, both attitudinal and behavioral, create new needs, priorities, and competitive opportunities. Marketers who can turn a crisis into an opportunity are those who consider and address the effects in the short, medium, and long term. In good times, fortune favors the prepared, agile, and decisive; in bad times, it is even more so.”

Speaking about emerging global trends for which Sri Lanka should prepare, an industry expert stated that Sri Lanka has already adopted many global trends and will need to continue improving and embracing digital transformation in every aspect, the way we do and think to be more efficient and effective.

Moreover, she believes that there will be a change in the way work is being done in the Communication industry, such as the changes in the typical office infrastructure and cultures and the emergence of more open offices and hot seat concepts. As many organizations will be adopting hybrid models with Working From Home, she thinks that there will be an increase in women in the workforce and there will be an emergence of the importance of talent skill sets focused on Technology, Data, Analytics, and AI. While the ecosystem of Banking and Retail industries are transforming to digital, emerging online forms, she identifies more integration of IoT in our lives and in businesses as another big shift. Finally, she indicated “the practices of mental and physical wellbeing are taking different shapes with people being more conscious, aware of themselves and appreciating small things in life.”

Although 2020 was a challenging year reporting degrowth, Namalie believes that it also opened many opportunities for brands, Marketers, and Advertisers to rethink and innovate. “Brands leveraged disrupted trends to communicate with the audience in the right tonality, context, and empathy while swiftly responding and pivoting businesses to ensure a seamless service. Purpose-driven marketing (Cause Marketing) taking center stage with some brands who stepped up their marketing efforts to proactively support society in different ways. While as a medium a significant growth was seen in digital, OOH and cinema media were severely impacted.”

Next, she shared her insights about the nature of the consumer demand in the new normal. “In the new normal, the priority for the consumers is to ‘stay safe’ that shaped the attitudes and habits of consumers opening new dimensions to cater to their needs and wants. As the world is now stepping into the next normal, consumers are practicing to ‘stay safe’ and trying to live life as normal as possible. As we step into the next normal, it is yet to see how much that was adopted in new normal conditions will stay. However, the outlook of the consumer, how they perceive life in general will be more pragmatic than what it was in pre-pandemic at least in the next couple of years.

“With a surge in E-commerce or consumers opting to shop at outlets closest to home and lowering discretionary spends shopping and consumption habits changed. In the next normal, consumers will adopt some of these practices while moving to experience more in-store experiences. In this context, she suggests brands understand the consumer journey through data and analytics.  She finds forms of information seeking, and entertainment is being shifted. Such as movement of new segments of audiences to Television medium during the lockdown, the surge in Digital media consumption with Online print consumption, YouTube, social media, and increased number of subscriptions for demand platforms and online gaming is a clear paradigm shift and much of it is here to stay.”

Furthermore, she stated, “Travel and tourism are hugely curtailed with the pandemic, will experience a pent-up demand, once borders open. Initially, domestic tourism will experience a demand as we are currently experiencing. Use of travel/commuting will be with caution to minimize social contacts.

Besides, she emphasized that consumption habits and securing services will revolve around the trust in the brands they consume and to be safe and adhering to the principles of health and hygiene guidelines in the next normal.

On a final note, Namalie shares the opportunities she perceives for the organization. “We believe in Growth for ourselves, Growth for our people, Growth for our client partners, and Growth for our business. In this journey what is most important is to be relevant in the current day and age, be agile to adapt to change, and be future-focused. In meeting these the organization offers and inculcates knowledge-based culture, adoption of best practices to safeguard all stakeholders, open and an inclusive culture.”

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