Evolving With Customers

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The country’s largest conglomerates are facing gargantuan organizational challenges brought about by the digital revolution, and is further amplified by the global pandemic that has redefined ways of doing business not just in the Philippines, but also around the world.

This paradigm shift that is transforming businesses, economies, and societies requires a different form and level of management and leadership styles. Today, more than ever, business performance requires organizational leaders who can maintain legacy, balance stability, and promote dynamism.

What we are facing today is the ever-changing and evolving business environment where customers, partners, and regulators express differing and varying needs and wants; investors demanding expansive growth; and competitors exercising continuous one-upmanship to cater to vigilant and discriminating consumers.

We are also facing heightened digitalization and democratization of information, which result in increasing demands for transparency and authenticity, and which in turn, push enterprises to engage in multi-channel and multi-directional collaboration and engagement.

Given these challenges, organizations need to design business systems and programs that can evolve and adapt quickly to new challenges and opportunities. Indeed, it has become imperative for Filipino firms to become agile organizations that can mobilize quickly, are nimble enough, and are empowered to act.

In other words, local businesses must respond to current and future challenges like a living organism – not static or a mechanical one.

To succeed in a digital world, corporate mindsets need to evolve as well. They need to reimagine business practices to become intensely customer-focused – that which does not just meet, but surpass the diverse needs and demands of stakeholders across the entire customer life cycle.

One conglomerate that fits the bill of an evolving and agile organization is the SM Group – a proudly Filipino company with interests in shopping mall development and management, retail, real estate development, banking, and tourism.

In the most recent National Retail Conference and Expo by the Philippine Retailers Association, I was particularly struck by the presentation of Ms. Cathy Ileto, the vice president for corporate communications of SM Retail, about the bold and responsive initiatives of SM to current challenges facing the retail sector in the Philippines.

Her statement that stresses, “For a homegrown brand like us, keeping up with the changing times is our way forward” succinctly points out how SM is an excellent model for agility.

For a large enterprise, the safest thing to do is just keep on doing the way things are – following the adage “don’t fix what ain’t broke.” And yet, the SM Group went ahead and underwent one of the most difficult activities to do in the life of an organization – a brand refresh.

The SM Group, proud of its history, developed and implemented its brand refresh with a theme – “continuing our legacy, evolving our brand.”

Why did they do that? Ms. Ileto sums up the company’s rationale: “We evolve with our customers.”

To help in this brand refresh, the SM Group tapped a global leader in brand design- Pentagram.

A collaborative effort, the refreshed brand identities remained simple yet dynamic and consistent.

SM’s masterband logo was made more flexible for application to various platforms. There is now a distinct blue color that is specifically designed for SM only – the SM Electric Blue, which Ms. Ileto described as “young and energetic while being friendly and approachable. ” Interestingly, the design studio in partnership with the SM Group, has created a bespoke brand typeface – Henry Sans, which is named after the Sy patriarch – Henry Sy Sr.

“We are very glad to have collaborated with SM in the brand refresh program. The process of translating the richness of SM’s legacy into the dynamism of their forward looking brand was an unforgettable journey for us,” Domenic Lippa, Pentagram director said.

If you visit various SM malls and establishments, you can now see the new refreshed brand being applied to wayfindings, tagboards, environmental posters, eco bags, and others.

One of the biggest projects where the new brand values are being applied is in SM Green Finds, which is part of the omnibus campaign, SM Green Movement. The movement is a multi-year campaign that aims to make sustainability as accessible to all by nurturing an ecosystem of stakeholders that are empowered to live green in the easiest way possible. Under the SM Green Movement, there are three main pillars – Green Planet, Green Culture, and Green Living.?

SM Green Finds is SM Retail’s campaign under the Green Living component of the SM Green Movement campaign.

SM Retail launched the SM Green Finds initiative to make green living easy for customers by working with suppliers to offer products that are eco-friendly, made from natural ingredients and support local communities.

“With the vision of enabling Filipinos to live sustainably in the easiest way, the Green Movement is an initiative that we hope will inspire people to change their lifestyles for a better future and for a greener home. We are with them as they choose to live greener, Ms. Ileto said.

Looking at all these initiatives, the SM Group has clearly solidified its North Star – or dare I say a greener North Star – a shared purpose and vision that enables all stakeholders to develop deeper affinity with the SM brand.

Indeed, when an agile organization such as the SM Group combines a deeply embedded North Star with empowered leadership at all levels, value creation is achieved from seized opportunities. When people across the SM Group proactively keep their ears to the ground to acutely respond to changes in customer preferences and the overall business environment, they create a shared responsibility to deliver results.

When leaders in the SM Group seek stakeholder feedback and input in several ways or use tools like customer journey maps to identify fresh opportunities to serve customers better, they can help shape, pilot, launch, and iterate initiatives and business models that do not just redound benefits to the enterprise, but to customers alike.

Truly, when companies and brand evolve with people who matter, they achieve brand love. And SM, “whose got it all for you,” indeed, has attained the status of a brand loved.

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