Byravee Iyer
Feb 12, 2014

Philips boosts digital approach to drive home brand promise

ASIA-PACIFIC - Campaign takes an exclusive look inside the company's APAC CMO transition, from Arent Jan Hesselink to Damien Cummings.

L-R: Arent Jan Hesselink, Damien Cummings
L-R: Arent Jan Hesselink, Damien Cummings

Barely two weeks into the job, Damien Cummings has his task cut out. The newly appointed CMO of Philips in Asia is looking to drive more digital communication to take Philips through to the next phase of its brand promise: 'Innovation and you'.

Philips has been in a state of transformation for some time now. After parting ways with its tottering electronics business, the company decided to focus on healthcare and lighting, especially in emerging markets. The challenge for Philips was that it was known more for its televisions than anything else. Cummings' predecessor, Arent Jan Hesselink, focused on changing the perception of Philips from a company that sells products to one that creates solutions.

Philips realigned its brand identity across products and geographies and needed to communicate that to consumers. In line with that, Hesselink launched a new experimental approach to marketing. As a part of the ‘Meaningful innovation’ campaign, Philips initiated crowd-sourcing projects online to find out what consumers really needed. Their concerns were then taken to urban planners, government bodies and municipalities to determine how projects could be implemented. The campaign fared exceptionally well, and preference went up by double digits. Philips even climbed up in Campaign’s Asia's Top 1000 Brands ranking last year.

As Hesselink departs to take on a global role, the company needed someone to integrate marketing and communication across digital platforms, a key priority for Philips in the region. “Right now digital is too siloed at the country and division level, and our focus is to integrate that,” Hesselink said. “We were looking at someone who could drive that and build it up, and that’s exactly what Damien will bring.”

Cummings' key priority is to align marketing with the company’s ambitious growth plans. Hesselink admits that although Philips' businesses are strong, it is not necessarily aligned with its growth plans. In Indonesia for instance, the company has a huge lighting business but relatively limited healthcare operations. “It is important to build our brand towards the healthcare market and its various stakeholders,” he pointed out.

It’s not about going on Facebook and creating a new page, Cummings said about his social-media strategy. Instead, it’s about engaging influencers across select communities, such as parenting and motherhood. “We want to find advocates and engage them at scale, and you will see us do a lot more work with companies like LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and Google,” he said.

Social media is a big term, Cummings said when asked how he would demonstrate ROI. Facebook and Twitter are good customer-service tools and can lead to cost savings and customer satisfaction. Content marketing is about driving leads, and social media can amplify that message. Eventually, social CRM tools will help the company identify advocates, he said.

Philips operates in three core segments: healthcare solutions, lighting solutions, and personal health and well-being solutions. Healthcare contributes about 40 per cent of revenue, while lighting accounts for 35 per cent. In Asia, a majority of business in healthcare and lighting comes from B2B customers.

Marketing will be tightly aligned to that. There won’t be a massive shakeup of marketing plans in the consumer-lifestyle segment, although Cummings is keen to expand search marketing to promote brands. While its lighting and healthcare business is doing fairly good B2B work, Cummings is interested in focusing on below-the-line engagement with stakeholders and more B2C communication. Government bodies are also an important part of the marketing plan.

Often, Philips has struggled with weaving its brand messages across different business units and countries. “It’s true not everything is as integrated as it can be,” Hesselink admitted, noting that Philips is a large company. “Those are precisely the changes we are driving and trying to implement the brand message across every single touchpoint.”

For his part, Cummings said Philips can do more to communicate its innovation philosophy.  “We’re all about innovation, whether it is medical technology or LED lighting display," he said. "That is what we’re focused on.”

Hesselink and Cummings are currently working together during the transition period. Hesselink expects to take on his new role at the global headquarters in Amsterdam in April. Cummings has come in looking at everything as a blank canvas, and he needs to maintain that as long as he can, Hesselink advised. “We need people with a lot of experience in certain fields to shake us up, and I’ll help and challenge him where I can,” Hesselink said.

Cummings counts himself lucky to have Hesselink working beside him for the next couple of months. “So often in a senior role there’s no transition and you have to figure things out yourself,” he said.


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