What’s the biggest marketing hoax in our country today? Superbrands Sri Lanka.
At the launch of the annual in 2007, one of the press articles read: The description of the cover picture is so apt – “a young Sri Lankan face appears, surprising us from behind a traditional exorcist’s mask… because brands in Sri Lanka are all about the blending and juxtaposing of the contemporary with the traditional; the modern with the ancient; the young, bright, optimistic present day with old customs and beliefs…”
What rubbish! The picture is so apt – because the mask hides the true façade of this biggest marketing scam of the century.
One should not get confused with the original British (and now very much international) version, which is a far cry from Superbrands Sri Lanka. I’m familiar with Superbrands overaseas, since some of the brands under my creative portfolio – such as Panadol, bp, Duracell and Kodak to name a few – were, in fact, true Superbrands in those countries at the time.
Why do I call the local Superbrands Sri Lanka the biggest marketing scam, a shame? Here are 10 good reasons:
- In the UK (where Superbrands was born in 1995) and elsewhere in the world, Superbrands are chosen by the general public.
In Sri Lanka, Superbrands are chosen by a handful of people, without public participation.
- In the UK and the rest of the world, brands do not pay or apply to be considered.
In Sri Lanka, Superbrands would approach prospective clients “with a proposal” and the status is given in exchange for a certain fee. No payment, no status.
- Superbrands are identified, scored, shortlisted and chosen from a compilation of brands coming from from the market, sector reports to blogs, by the general public and a voluntary council of experts under the supervision and administration of a professional body.
In Sri Lanka, Superbrands are directly linked to the organisers, council members, their families, friends and their connections. Its like Ali Baba and the forty thieves, literally.
- Council members with any connection to a shortlisted brand are not allowed to evaluate or score for the brand.
If this rule is applied here, half the Superbrands would be knocked off the list. Would Dilmah still be there without Mr Malik Fernando, Singer Plus without Mr Hemaka Amarasuriya and ODEL without Ms Otara Gunawardena, I wonder.
- Superbrands are chosen annually.
In Sri Lanka, Superbrands is lifetime title (or rather interpreted that way) and its printed on the SKU’s, including biscuit packs. The only thing annual it seems, is the payment.
- Superbrands is a recognition, a salutation – not a title.
In Sri Lanka, its a title; not a salutation.
- Being a Superbrand does not give you the right to command a premium.
The initial advertising campaign to raise awareness conveyed that Superbrands could command a premium.
- Only the Superbrands “Membership” (which is by invitation) is charged a fee, and there are perks and benefits such as events and networking in return.
In Sri Lanka, money talks. No money, no talk.
- When considering brands, both the experts and consumers are asked to bear in mind the definition of a Superbrand: “A Superbrand has established the finest reputation in its field. It offers customers significant emotional and tangible advantages over other brands, which (consciously or sub-consciously) customers want and recognise.” And all Superbrands must represent quality, reliability, and distinction.
The only qualification required in Sri Lanka to be a Superbrand is the money, and willingness to part with it.
- One of the best tools for an outsider to peek in to a country’s best brand mix is the Superbrands Annual.
Superbrands Sri Lanka can only baffle and misguide a reader – the most of the true “super” brands are nowhere near the book.
The initial annual had 33 Superbrands, and they were all local brands. Did you ever wonder why the multinational FMCG’s are reluctant to appear in the list – given the international credibility Superbrands enjoy worldwide? Did you ever question how and why Suntel is a Superbrand and Dialog is not? Heritance is a Superbrand and Hilton is not? Clogard is a Superbrand and Signal is not?
Now we know why some of the real “super” brands in the minds of the consumer such as Anchor, Nokia, Dialog, The Daily News, Hilton, Lipton, S-lon, Milo, Nescafé, Toyota, Cargills, Keells, Signal, SLT etc. are not in this book.
They are not there, perhaps because the marketing managers and the brand managers who nourish and develop these brands are not idiots. They are nobody’s suckers. I do have a huge respect for those brands who are the real “super” brands with a backbone to stay away from scams like this, even though the scams are run by some very influential people in the industry.
The current Superbrands Sri Lanka does more harm than any good to the local advertising and marketing industry. Its biased, deceptive and unreliable – composed with discrimination and alienation in mind; and sadly, there is a panel of well-respected names entangled in this, endorsing this shameful scam. These panel members should either resign from the council or set this scam straight if they ever want to maintain their individual, respectful image.
Superbrands is a wonderful concept. Its painful to watch that being abused, bastardised and sold like a prostitute by the people who are supposed to be the pillars of the ad+mark community. I’m sure a good marketer – I mean a “good” marketer – could find a better way to make a living, than pimping-out a beautiful concept.
The consumer is not a moron, David Ogilvy once said. Its a pity that the educated, well-informed Superbrands Council Members from the ad+mark community seem to think otherwise.Source of Methodology: Superbrands UK