Interview with: Vivek Kumar, Director, Membership, National Trades Union Congress & Chairman, Asia-Pacific Advisory Board, Global CMO Council
“Martin Luther King, Jr. had a unique challenge. On the one hand was a community that was feeling unfairly treated, on the
other there was status quo that was resistant to change. He wanted the community to move forward without creating any
animosity or fault lines that would be detrimental to the country,” said Vivek Kumar, Director, Membership, National Trades
Union Congress & Chairman, Asia-Pacific Advisory Board, Global CMO Council.
The Chairman at the marcus evans CMO Asia Summit 2014 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, 26 - 27 May, Kumar elaborated:
“The way Martin Luther King, Jr. prepared the community and led the one-year Montgomery bus boycott without any violence
provides valuable lessons for all Chief Marketing Officers (CMOs). He ensured that people understood his passion for the
cause, yet he did not make it about the community winning those rights alone. It was about America continuing to be a great
country. He created engagement capital that effectively led to change and a power shift.”
To explain how brands can build engagement capital, Kumar gave the example of Shell’s Rotella brand for truck lubricants. To
win over the market, Shell decided to launch the Rotella SuperRigs contest where truckers would showcase their vehicles. For
many years now, truckers in the US have been driving across the country to take part in the challenge.
“It is critical that marketers are able to foster this kind of relationship,” Kumar advised. “There is an interesting Pivot Point
Customer study by the CMO Council which tracked 54 million transactions at a supermarket chain across 1,364 brands. It found
that 80 percent of profitability for a brand was generated from an average of just 2.5 percent of shoppers. This changes the
paradigm of how CMOs should think. They need to find the pivot point customers that are critical to the brand’s profitability and
build engagement capital that is strong enough for the brand to be sustainably profitable.”
It was not the Rotella brand that was special per se, but Shell’s understanding of its customers, Kumar pointed out. Marketers
must get the insight right and find what moves people, to create a programme that leverages it. For many truckers, their
vehicle was a source of livelihood and pride.
NTUC’s effort at building a community has also been successful. The unionisation rate has been in decline in most countries, yet
enrolment numbers in Singapore are on the rise. Kumar attributes that to NTUC’s focus on forming communities for members
who are at different stages of life and understanding the needs of each group.
In his previous position at Shell Retail, Vivek and his team put together a campaign that won the Golden Dragon for Asia’s Most
Innovative Campaign. “The challenge was to make people interested in petrol. How could we? Given the choice, few want to buy
petrol,” he said. So the team started with that insight, accepted it was a pain point rather than a pleasure point, and focused on
helping customers save on their petrol bills.
“We developed a community of drivers who wanted to save on petrol. People found it hard to believe a petrol company would
want people to save on fuel! We started the FuelSave Challenge by building a ladder of credibility and a ladder of engagement.
We provided driving and fuel saving tips, had a celebrity to try them out, went around the country to get people to take part in
the challenge, and organised national and regional championships where all the country winners competed against each other.
People finally began believing that they could really save on fuel if they drove the right way. That is how we built engagement
capital on a product that few wished to buy, yet the campaign was ultimately a success,” he concluded.
Building Engagement Capital:
Vivek Kumar, the Chairman at the marcus evans CMO Asia Summit 2014, on
building engagement capital that is strong enough for the brand to be sustainably
Interview with: Vivek Kumar, Director, Membership, National Trades Union
Congress & Chairman, Asia-Pacific Advisory Board, Global CMO Council
What CMOs Can Learn From Martin Luther King, Jr.
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