The Magical Marketing Formula Is So Simple

In Peru, for example, keep your eye on the *Chopers.

Hocking your wares as easy as...
Hocking your wares as easy as...
Carlos Escaffi

LIMA – Having read countless theories of marketing and attended seminars by some of the gurus of the trade, I have finally found the defining formula for our line of work that relies above all on its simplicity: matching common sense with market knowledge.

What do we really mean by marketing? Many of us will have heard the concepts debated, studied the lingo and acronyms. We focus on the shopper (or Choper as we keep saying in Peru), the four Ps, which have become the five Cs, or was it six; we talk about market penetration, CRM (customer relationship management), "top-of-mind awareness," and so on.

Then we wind up discovering that the smartest marketing person in the room is a woman who did not get around to graduating university, but instead mastered the art of understanding both her market and clients. When we speak of clients, of course, that also includes those inside the firm who must buy into your marketing strategy.

Nobody in the world of marketing wants to receive calls from sales chiefs telling us they missed their targets because we didn't sufficiently identify or communicate the selling point.

Unfortunately in Peru, the business world is caught in a vicious circle of our own making: an addiction to using price discounts as the only way to hook potential customers.

Every day we expect discounts, even in taxis, or freebies in shops where we’ve bought something. Yet marketing is not just promotions, price cuts and gifts, and requires both more administration and imagination.

You may ask, how can I compete when rivals in the marketplace have more attractive prices? I would be tempted to answer, did you never read a Blue Ocean handbook? Why enter into a price war or emulate the competition in displays or publicity? The blessed choper is tired of seeing the same old promotions.

Just two categories

As difficult as it is to leave the comfort and safety of traditional patterns, you should seek to present something different, find innovative approaches, try something new, break the mould. That is the only way to stand out.

Apple may be the best contemporary example to cite, having managed to divide smart phones into two categories: iPhone and everything else.

Returning to the common sense I mentioned: The other day I was in my "Green Bank" (let's call it that) to pay some taxes, and was pleasantly surprised to find they had changed their customer reception service. Now there was a high-tech machine where you inserted your details and your name appeared on a high-tech screen (beneath 50 other names). This had replaced long lines, the special lines for VIP or "premium" clients and the disorder that can surprise you, usually when you are about to reach the counter. Now you wait your turn on a sofa and there are coffee machines.

My point is that the super high-tech system claimed to be more "personal" when we know perfectly well we are all code numbers in a system. I then went to the "Orange Bank" to make other payments and there, the line was stretching out of the branch (as customers waited under Lima's cold drizzle), for lack of space inside (though the bank was clearly empty inside).

In conclusion, the customer neither wants this nor that. A bank customer wants to spend the least time possible there, which requires a little common sense. If they knew a little of what we the Chopers want, they could save themselves the high-tech machines and employ staff with more common sense. That's marketing.

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How Thailand's Lèse-Majesté Law Is Used To Stifle All Protest

Once meant to protect the royal family, the century-old law has become a tool for the military-led government in Bangkok to stamp out all dissent. A new report outlines the abuses.

Pro-Democracy protest at The Criminal Court in Bangkok, Thailand

"We need to reform the institution of the monarchy in Thailand. It is the root of the problem." Those words, from Thai student activist Juthatip Sirikan, are a clear expression of the growing youth-led movement that is challenging the legitimacy of the government and demanding deep political changes in the Southeast Asian nation. Yet those very same words could also send Sirikan to jail.

Thailand's Criminal Code 'Lèse-Majesté' Article 112 imposes jail terms for defaming, insulting, or threatening the monarchy, with sentences of three to 15 years. This law has been present in Thai politics since 1908, though applied sparingly, only when direct verbal or written attacks against members of the royal family.

But after the May 2014 military coup d'état, Thailand experienced the first wave of lèse-majesté arrests, prosecutions, and detentions of at least 127 individuals arrested in a much wider interpretation of the law.

The recent report 'Second Wave: The Return of Lèse-Majesté in Thailand', documents how the Thai government has "used and abused Article 112 of the Criminal Code to target pro-democracy activists and protesters in relation to their online political expression and participation in peaceful pro-democracy demonstrations."

Criticism of any 'royal project'

The investigation shows 124 individuals, including at least eight minors, have been charged with lèse-majesté between November 2020 and August 2021. Nineteen of them served jail time. The new wave of charges is cited as a response to the rising pro-democracy protests across Thailand over the past year.

Juthatip Sirikan explains that the law is now being applied in such a broad way that people are not allowed to question government budgets and expenditure if they have any relationship with the royal family, which stifles criticism of the most basic government decision-making since there are an estimated 5,000 ongoing "royal" projects. "Article 112 of lèse-majesté could be the key (factor) in Thailand's political problems" the young activist argues.

In 2020 the Move Forward opposition party questioned royal spending paid by government departments, including nearly 3 billion baht (89,874,174 USD) from the Defense Ministry and Thai police for royal security, and 7 billion baht budgeted for royal development projects, as well as 38 planes and helicopters for the monarchy. Previously, on June 16, 2018, it was revealed that Thailand's Crown Property Bureau transferred its entire portfolio to the new King Maha Vajiralongkorn.

photo of graffiti of 112 crossed out on sidewalk

Protestors In Bangkok Call For Political Prisoner Release

Peerapon Boonyakiat/SOPA Images via ZUMA Wire

Freedom of speech at stake

"Article 112 shuts down all freedom of speech in this country", says Sirikan. "Even the political parties fear to touch the subject, so it blocks most things. This country cannot move anywhere if we still have this law."

The student activist herself was charged with lèse-majesté in September 2020, after simply citing a list of public documents that refer to royal family expenditure. Sirikan comes from a family that has faced the consequences of decades of political repression. Her grandfather, Tiang Sirikhan was a journalist and politician who openly protested against Thailand's involvement in World War II. He was accused of being a Communist and abducted in 1952. According to Sirikhan's family, he was killed by the state.

The new report was conducted by The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), Thai Lawyer for Human Rights (TLHR), and Internet Law Reform Dialogue (iLaw). It accuses Thai authorities of an increasingly broad interpretation of Article 112, to the point of "absurdity," including charges against people for criticizing the government's COVID-19 vaccine management, wearing crop tops, insulting the previous monarch, or quoting a United Nations statement about Article 112.

Activist in front of democracy monument in Thailand.

Shift to social media

While in the past the Article was only used against people who spoke about the royals, it's now being used as an alibi for more general political repression — which has also spurred more open campaigning to abolish it. Sirikan recounts recent cases of police charging people for spreading paint near the picture of the king during a protest, or even just for having a picture of the king as phone wallpaper.

The more than a century-old law is now largely playing out online, where much of today's protest takes place in Thailand. Sirikan says people are willing to go further on social media to expose information such as how the king intervenes in politics and the monarchy's accumulation of wealth, information the mainstream media rarely reports on them.

Not surprisingly, however, social media is heavily monitored and the military is involved in Intelligence operations and cyber attacks against human rights defenders and critics of any kind. In October 2020, Twitter took down 926 accounts, linked to the army and the government, which promoted themselves and attacked political opposition, and this June, Google removed two Maps with pictures, names, and addresses, of more than 400 people who were accused of insulting the Thai monarchy. "They are trying to control the internet as well," Sirikan says. "They are trying to censor every content that they find a threat".

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