Martin Roll is a world-renowned thought-leader on value creation through brand equity driven by tremendous global experience and insights. He facilitates business leaders and organizations to think bold for future strategies. By focusing on building and managing successful businesses through iconic brands, Martin Roll helps boardrooms to enhance shareholder value and create sustainable competitive advantage.
Martin Roll delivers the combined value of an experienced international business strategist and senior advisor to corporate boards and marketing executives of the world’s largest companies including many corporations in Asia. He brings more than 20 years of management experience. Martin Roll holds an MBA from INSEAD.
Martin Roll is not only a highly accomplished speaker and presenter but as well a talented and well trained moderator of panel discussions and roundtables. He is a valuable contributor to any senior management discussion on the subject of leadership, innovation, growth, organizational excellence and brand equity, its close link to management and how it drives outstanding performance through shareholder value.
He strides the industry-academia continuum and delivers superior value to his global audiences. Every year, he travels 500.000 miles on all continents and speaks at more than 100 global top-level conferences. He is a frequent guest lecturer at INSEAD, Nanyang Business School, CEIBS and several other global business schools.
Martin Roll is the author of the global bestseller Asian Brand Strategy, a very compelling book of frameworks for Asian branding and the winning formula for any boardroom. Asian Brand Strategy was named “Best Global Business Book” by Strategy+Business magazine.
He is a weekly business columnist with Forbes and several other global media.
Martin Roll is currently writing two new global management books. The first one will look at the important interface between branding, leadership and strategy, and the role of the CEO. The second will discuss the role and position of the Chief Marketing Officer in management, which is set to change dramatically in the future.
First of all, can you tell us something about your beginnings?
Martin: I grow up in a family of creative and creative talent, so the creative industry become part of my DNA from an early stage. My father is a famous Scandinavian designer, and my brother is emerging to become one – he maybe already has arrived there. He runs a famous design and communications-firm called Roll Company (www.rollcompany.com) which serves a prominent list of top-tier clients from Denmark and from global markets.
I was a free-lance professional photographer for many years, and I had my early career in advertising. Because of my understanding of creative talents – and their different way of thinking and expressing themselves – I did very well as I bridged seamlessly between the creative and clients.
I continued to grow and in 1999 went for an MBA from one of the top global business schools, INSEAD. I founded my own strategic management consultancy in 2000 with a base in Singapore after which I have built my global thought-leader brand across many industries and platforms.
What moment in your career is the one which made you a well-known global business expert?
Martin: I believe becoming a global expert is always work in progress as you need to reinvent yourself, work very hard, to aspire to become the best in your category. A major turning point was when Asian Brand Strategy, the book I wrote in 2005, came out globally and was named one of the best global business books in 2006. It really made a significant impact and took my brand to the next level.
As one of the best global marketing and branding advisor, do you have some rule which you rely on in every project?
Martin: I think it is important to be ambitious, work hard and to seek to make a difference to the world – in whatever field that you operate. I want to be an architect on my own life, so that means you have to envision where you like to go, how to get there, and to know when you have arrived.
I have always focused on 4 elements throughout my career: Trust, Integrity, Empowerment and Encouragement:
Trust because clients would only value my advice and insight if they trust me.
Integrity because I work mostly for family owners including very wealthy ones, chairmen and CEOs, executives and many other types of clients, and integrity is paramount as you deal with all their issues at hand and helping them steering their course and setting new directions and paradigms.
Empowerment because my insights and experiences should in the end empower my client to become better, faster, more innovative, more global in nature – all in all become more competitive.
Encouragement because clients need constantly to be energized, motivated and refueled with passion to make sure they can stay the course of what they are set to do – I help them very often in this area too as it is always nurturing to have outsiders to encourage them.
Today, you have a hundreds of global branding conferences and seminars. How does it feel when your words have such a strong meaning?
Martin: I stride to be one of the best global thought-leaders in the fields of strategy, leadership and brand/marketing. It is hard work and requires that you simply are fully up to date with latest research and developments in many important fields of management. I spend half my time as a global keynote speaker and seminar leader/moderator, and the second half as an advisor.
I am an advisor, mentor and facilitator to a selection of Asian family firms (among them some of the largest and most influential), Asian corporate firms and Fortune 500 firms among others.
I am covering almost all major industries, and am currently working as an advisor within cosmetics, luxury, hospitality, fashion retail, technology, pharmaceutical, retail, among others.
Clients are spread all over the world, and currently I see strong demand from the US and from Latin America. My Asian platform and emerging markets insights serve as a great advantage, and many clients and referring partners are expressing a growing need for new profiles across the US and Latin American speaking circuit.
I also enjoy teaching on the academic circuit. It keeps you updated and provides new insights and information about many important things as you interact and engage with both future leaders on the MBA track, and with senior leaders and company owners on the EMBA track. I am teaching MBA, EMBA and Executive level programs at Nanyang Business School (Singapore), INSEAD (Singapore) and CEIBS (Shanghai).
What do you think about Starbucks and their brand strategy?
Martin: Starbucks is a great brand, and they have showcased how a category and an entire industry can evolve through brands and branding. It can inspire many other companies on how to build a global franchise. Lately, Starbucks have had their challenges, but it is natural in an industry which is now maturing and where they are many new entrants trying to copy – and to be better than Starbucks. The solution ahead for Starbucks is to aim very high, aspire to become the best in class, and to provide ground-breaking innovation.
For those who don’t know, you are author of the global bestseller Asian Brand Strategy. Can you tell us why is branding in Asia so specific and what’s so interesting about Asian Market?
Martin: There is an evolution taking place across Asia where more and more companies are starting to realize than branding is a strategic issue which can drive competitive advantage and shareholder value. The Japanese spent some 30 years to create strong brands like SONY and TOYOTA, the Koreans started during the 1990s and created brands like Samsung, LG and Hyundai, and now other countries like fast-growing China are following suit.
Generally, the trend of branding on a strategic level has gained momentum during the last 3-5 years across the region. Asian boardrooms are very much aware of the financial power that strong brands can add to their corporations. The outstandings are how they can make this happen.
Many companies from emerging economies traditionally focused on asset-intensive industries. But it has been demonstrated that the most profitable emerging market companies focus on intangibles such as human capital, exploiting network effects, and creating synergies based on brands or reputation, rather than investing in tangible assets.
Asian boardrooms have traditionally been the playing fields for technology and finance professionals, and most directors either have technology, operations or finance backgrounds. Going ahead, these capabilities alone will not be sufficient for sustained growth and enhanced shareholder value. With branding taking the centerstage, it is extremely crucial that the boardroom represents brand capabilities and experiences to ensure that brand guardianship is practiced at the highest level.
Firstly, education and training of the boardroom directors can bring them up to a common understanding of the discipline, its opportunities and challenges.
Secondly, the company can elevate people with strong marketing and branding backgrounds to the board. Asian brands can indeed challenge the global players, but it requires a new mind-set, resources and capabilities.
The responsibility for the success of Asian firms moving forward depends on their management teams and long-terms strategies. Many companies are short-term focused these days and a differentiating factor to assess future competitiveness is how much the management team is dedicated to the long-term.
In my book Asian Brand Strategy, a study has shown that expectations of future performance are the main driver of shareholder returns. Across industries and stock exchanges, up to 80 percent of a company’s market value can be explained only by cash flow expectations beyond the next three years. These expectations are driven by growth judgments and long-term profitability. An examination of stock prices of leading consumer product companies illustrated that future growth accounts for 54% of the stocks’ total value.
Therefore, Asian managers and firms need to embrace this new paradigm, and view brands as assets, and branding as an important strategic managerial task.
What’s so unique about Singapore Airlines Brand?
Martin: Think about one of the strongest brands from Asia, and chances are that Singapore Airlines (SIA) and its long-serving, almost iconic Singapore Girl easily come to mind. SIA has consistently been one of the most profitable airlines globally, and has always had the reputation of a trendsetter and industry challenger.
The company has strong brand management driven primarily by the boardroom and top-management, and the healthy brand equity as the result of a dedicated, professional brand strategy throughout a diversified, global organization.
The Singapore Airlines brand has been instrumental for the airline from the early start. It serves as one of the leading brand cases from Asia for other established brands as well as any aspiring brands. The Singapore Airlines brand is unique in the sense that the boardroom takes dedicated leadership of the brand strategy unlike many other Asian companies.
Singapore Airlines decided on a fully branded product/service differentiation strategy from the very beginning. Innovation, best technology, genuine quality and excellent customer service were to become the major drivers of the brand.
The strong brand equity of Singapore Airlines is one of the most valuable assets for the company and its cash-rich balance sheet. Singapore Airlines is a leading business case from Asia demonstrating the importance of strategic branding, and they should serve as great inspiration for other Asian boardrooms trying to build and manage their own brands.
Singapore Airlines is among the top companies globally that is truly able to control the brand through every interaction and experience. SIA has become a hugely rewarded innovator and industry leader: A great way to fly.
What can we expect from the two new books that you are currently writing?
Martin: The first one will look at the important interface between branding, leadership and strategy, and the role of the CEO. The second will discuss the role and position of the Chief Marketing Officer in management, which is set to change dramatically in the future.
These two topics are very relevant, and at the top of the global management agenda. They are topics which major global firms are dealing with and sometimes struggle to get right. The two books will provide answers to the man challenges and should provide guidelines for the roadmap ahead.
You have written that a strong brand has various important dimensions. What are they?
- A brand drives shareholder value
- The brand is led by the boardroom and managed by brand marketers with an active buy-in from all stakeholders
- The brand is a fully integrated part of the entire organisation aligned around multiple touch points
- The brand can be valued in financial terms and must reside on the asset side of the balance sheet
- The brand can used as collateral for financial loans and can be bought and sold as an asset
- Customers are willing to pay a substantial and consistent price premium for the brand versus a competing product and service
- Customers associate themselves strongly with the brand, its attributes, values and personality, and they fully buy into the concept which is often characterized by a very emotional and intangible relationship (higher customer loyalty)
- Customers are loyal to the brand and would actively seek it and buy it despite several other reasonable and often cheaper options available (higher customer retention rate)
- A brand is a trademark and marquee (logo, shape, colour etc) which is fiercely and pro-actively protected by the company and its legal advisors