The big Shiv in Marketing is happening

27 September 2017

We speak to Shiv Sahgal, Marketing Director of Unilever Malaysia, about disruption, shopper behavior, opportunities for Malaysian marketers, missing the bus and more…

What excites you about the Malaysian marketing scene?

The Malaysian market is a great training ground and is very unique in South East Asia. It can be categorized as more Developed than Developing, and that brings its own challenges. Then there are distinct ethnicities within the market – all sizeable with very different consumer and shopper behaviour, with different cultural touch points and traditions. This not only forces marketers to make choices and be more strategic in their thinking, but teaches us that being sharper with a narrow focus is far more beneficial than going broad-based, settling for the lowest common denominator and as a result appealing to no one.

From a trade perspective, E commerce is at an infancy stage... convenience stores are under-indexed in their contribution. We are going to witness a lot of changes in this sector.  

What are the opportunities you see for marketers? 

I see a lot of opportunities. The pace of change has never been so fast.. and today it is the slowest we will witness if we look ahead in the future. This is happening across segments. Given the more developed nature of the market, high digital penetration, change will come first to Malaysia than other parts of SEA. This will change the shopper journey and path to purchase for consumers and will make some current touch points redundant while creating new ones. The beauty is that this will be an ever evolving scenario. Hence this can never be a one-time job, but will be constantly work in progress.

What are the main challenges marketers have about what advertising and media agencies offer today? 

The biggest challenge for both agencies and marketers is to keep pace with changing consumer behavior thanks to the disruption caused by technology. The path to purchase is being invented and reinvented every few years. The way consumers seek out and consume content is very different. There is a huge process of de-learning and re-learning that is required for all professionals across the spectrum. Things come to head when one or more parties want to continue to work in the way they have in the past. If you are working the same way this year, as you did the previous year, you are going to miss the bus. 

Is ‘Brand Purpose’ the new mantra in marketing?

The essence of brand purpose is not new. Smart marketers and successful businesses have known for a long time that companies and brands need to be relevant in the societies they operate in. What has changed is that this is now a lot more mainstream than before. Earlier companies would have a CSR program, at a corporate level, often done to give the Chairman some talking points during the shareholders’ meeting. Over the past decade and a half, this became more authentic. Recently this is becoming an integral part of the brand. Going forward, it could even be the most important part of building a brand. The reasons being…  

1. There is a lot more awareness about the environment and the social situation and a sense of urgency around doing something about it. The impact of our actions on our planet are far more visible and the link is very tangible… the benefits of action are also very perceptible and tangible.

2. The consumers are getting a lot more demanding from all stakeholders in what should be their role in improving lives and making an impact. 

3. There is an increased social consciousness amongst stakeholders across the board and a creeping sense of urgency given the situation. 

4. All this has led an increased demand for authenticity by the consumers – from all the stakeholders.. be it the government, companies or even their friends and peers.                                                                                         

What advice would you give young marketing professionals? 

The only advice is that we all need to be ready for a ‘software upgrade’ every year – even every 6 months in the near future will not be inconceivable! We need to be experts in de-learning and re-learning.. and we need to get comfortable with disruption. The smarter ones will disrupt themselves before they get disrupted. 

Shiv is Marketing Director at Unilever Malaysia with oversight and P&L responsibilities for Foods & Refreshments (beverages & ice cream). With more than 14 years of FMCG experience, he has worked across the region including India, Indonesia and Singapore. Before Malaysia he was in Unilever Singapore as Marketing Operations Director for South East Asia & Australasia. 

He will be speaking the 6th Malaysian CMO Conference on October 16:



Let’s cut to the chase: the Digital Revolution is fuelled by how marketing helps monetise it. 

There is no such thing as a free lunch. That’s why game-changing inspiration can always be found 

on the front lines of the marketing and media playbook. There’s never been a more exciting time to 

be in marketing: e-commerce, personalisation, big data, brand safety, walled gardens and more. 

This Conference will show marketers how to take ownership of this future, and how to dance their way through this digital turf war where everyone has an opinion. 

Whatever your take on the future… Marketing is the new Sexy!

Date: 16 October, 2017

Venue: Grand Ballroom, Sime Darby Convention Centre Jalan Bukit Kiara, Kuala Lumpur. 

Time: 8.30am - 5.30pm 


Contact: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Download event PDF here.



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