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16 Feb, 2015

Superficial to spiritual: Buddhist monk to keynote at brand-building conference in Bangkok

Bangkok – Possibly for the first time in Asia, a Buddhist monk is to deliver the keynote speech at an upcoming conference on building brands. The Venerable Dr. Anilman Dhammasākiyō Phra Shakyavongsvisuddhi will officiate at the opening of the ‘Sustainable Brands ’15 Bangkok’ to be held March 18-19 on the innovative theme, “Reimagine, Redesign, Rebirth.

Set to elevate the science and concepts of building brands to a more sublime level, the Nepalese-born monk, known for delivering down-to-earth lectures in fluent, humour-laced English, will be talking on the Buddhist Way to Building Brands. One of his past lectures was reported in Travel Impact Newswire here: https://www.travel-impact-newswire.com/2012/08/exclusive-thai-salesmonk-urges-visits-to-buddhist-sites-in-pakistan/.

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Dr Sirikul Laukaikul (left) with Mr Krishna Boonyachai, Chief Relationship Officer, Thailand Management Association.

He will then participate in a final closing session on the theme of “Rebirth: How To Build The Blessing Brands”. The session is billed as an East Meets West Dialog between Venerable Dr. Phra Shakyavongsvisuddhi and Ms. KoAnn Vikoren Skrzyniarz, Founder and CEO Sustainable Life Media.

Although the conference is a collaborative effort with the U.S.-based “Sustainable Brands®”, community of brand innovators and strategists, it is designed to help branding gurus look beyond the superficial Key Performance Indicators of driving short-term growth and help inculcate a deeper, more meaningful perspective into the process of running a business.

According to conference initiator Dr. Sirikul (Nui) Laukaikul, Brand Strategist & Sustainability Advisor, The BrandBeing Consultant Co.,Ltd, “The conference is designed to motivate marketing practitioners and brand managers to take the issue of sustainability seriously. Today, marketing KPI is more concerned with consumption. That’s their job. But sustainability is more than just consumerism, it involves all stakeholders. If the marketing professionals are convinced and believe they can do some good to change society for the better, that would be my expected outcome (from the conference).”

She said the event’s multi-purpose agenda is designed to “strike a balance between local and global,” promote Thai King Bhumibhol’s concept of a Sufficiency Economy, help Thai brands achieve more global prominence and perhaps most important, prove to branding gurus, especially from the West, that Asian wisdom, heritage and tradition can give new meaning to the pursuit of profit.

About 500 brand and marketing managers are expected at the event, organised by the Thailand Management Association (TMA) in collaboration with Thailand Convention & Exhibition Bureau (TCEB). Thai Minister of Tourism and Sports Mrs Kobkarn Wattanavrangkul is to speak on Thailand as a Sustainable Tourism destination. Other prominent tourism-related speakers include Mr. Sonu Shivdasani, CEO and Founder, Six Senses Resorts and Spas, Mr. Chatchai Kosavisutte, President of the Kosa Hotel, and representatives of the Jim Thompson Art Centre.

Dr Sirikul said she first attended a Sustainability Brands conference in San Diego a few years ago after reading about it in a Harvard Business School publication. She came away motivated and inspired with the four days of speeches, discussions and workshops. She returned a year later with some of her clients to another conference in London, and again the following year at a conference in Istanbul.

When the organisers announced they would be holding future conferences in Brazil and Argentina, she asked herself, “Why not Thailand?” Initially, the organisers were a bit skeptical about the extent of the demand. After some additional input about the benefits, the conference was confirmed for Bangkok.

She said the participants would enjoy getting some alternative perspectives on the importance of holistic thinking and the Buddhist concept of moderation. Asked why the people of Asia fail to tap into their own indigenous heritage, culture and wisdom to address local problems, she faulted both the education system and the global media onslaught.

“We don’t teach our new generation enough about history, legacy and Asian wisdom. The generation today is bombarded by the global media. They don’t have time to digest it and think about what they are told. The media is the fourth estate of the society. It is their duty to (improve the quality) of the message, to build a better society. The media in Thailand — you hardly see any news that educates and cultivates. People are becoming more like robots. They are acting the same and thinking the same and they call it globalisation.

“I came to work this morning on the BTS (the Bangkok Skytrain mass transit system). Everyone was busy with their smartphones. At home, people hardly interact. They never talk to each other. Even with my kids. I remember one day when my son was 18. We were sitting next to each other, and I got a SMS from him asking if we could go out for some Japanese food. I asked him why didn’t he just turn to me and ask. He said he saw my phone online, and messaged me. I just laughed.”

Changing mindsets, especially amongst the young generation, will be a major focus of the event, especially King Bhumibhol’s Sufficiency Economy. Two sessions will feature presentations by Ms. Pimpan Diskul na Ayudhya, Director, Knowledge and Learning Center of the Mae Fah Luang Foundation which manages many of the King’s Royal Projects as well as runs the Doi Tung brand of locally-made products, ranging from coffee produced by hilltribes to fashion items and herbal treatments.

Designed “as a practical tool to effectively manage capitalism,” and create both sustainable businesses and socially sustainable development, the Sufficiency Economy philosophy has been stressed in the King’s royal remarks over the past three decades. However, it is only in recent years that its value and long-term wisdom have entered mainstream thinking, in the wake of repeated social, economic, political and environmental crises hitting Thailand.

Says the event brochure, “It emphasizes appropriate conduct by people at all levels, including encouraging people to consider their impact on others as well as the planet. The Sufficiency Economy, therefore, enhances the nation’s ability to modernize without defying globalization, providing a means to respond to negative outcomes caused by rapid economic transitions…More importantly, the main goal of the Sufficiency Economy is to measure economic development – not just using GDP, but also by taking into account the reduction of social inequality and poverty.”

The official press release describes it as a “Signature Event” designed “to kick-start a revolution, or at least a reform, in business practices in Thailand and to gear towards becoming the sustainability centre for ASEAN.”

Mr. Visit Tantisunthorn, Chairman of TMA, said, “All of us at TMA firmly believe that it will be extremely beneficial for the country to host this international event as it will boost up business spirit of the nation by pairing sustainability with marketing – each bringing a unique perspective but sharing common passion in shifting the world to a sustainable economy.”

According to Dr. Sirikul, “As the world has witnessed the shifting of focus on brand building, more and more businesses have come to realize that strong brands are not enough, but sustainable ones are. And ‘Sustainable Brands’ will deliver the inspiration, ideas, community and solutions while companies need to act now to position themselves for long term success in a changing marketing environment.”

In a pre-event interview, she lauded the Tourism Authority of Thailand’s “Discover Thainess 2015” campaign, calling it one of best she had seen. “It is about the essence of being Thai and spreading this spirit among the people and making them proud to be Thai. It is part of the national identity, not just about communication.”

Asked about other Thai tourism brands such as The Oriental hotel and Thai Airways International which have fallen in global perceptions in recent years, she said, “Just image alone without performance will not work.”

Asked how small companies can compete against global brands, she said the trick is to find their own niche, make extensive use of social media and to focus on the story behind the brand. “These days, everything is a commodity, a product, but it is the story behind the brand that makes the difference. (Small companies) have to work on communicating how their products can make life more meaningful.”

However, she said that not every Thai brand needs to become global brand. “It depends on what business you are in. For example, boutique hotels, why change them to be a chain hotel without any niche.”

She said 80% of the conference programme is devoted to telling Thai stories. “I want to give confidence to the Thai brands when they go up on the stage, and be proud of themselves.”

Asked if the Thai government was giving enough support to help Thai brands expand their global footprint, she said the government agencies need to integrate and coordinate their support activities. “They need to create more synergy,” she said.

Commenting on the upcoming ASEAN Economic Community and its vision of creating a single identity for the ASEAN people, and the prospects of creating strong ASEAN brands, Dr Sirikul said that getting a regional prominence was only a transition for a brand from going local to global.

Born in the southern Thai city of Haad Yai, where her father was a banker, Dr Sirikul graduated in Mass Communications from Chulalongkorn University, did her Masters at the University of Texas, Austin. and her Ph.D in Human Resources Development at Victoria University, Melbourne and Burapha university, Thailand.

Interested participants may sign up for an early bird rate of Baht 20,000 (regular rate is Baht 25,000) from now until 18 February 2015 on tel. 02 319-7677, 02 718-5601 ext. 209 or fax 02 319-5666.

For further information, please visit www.sustainablebrandsbangkok.com or Facebook:   SB Bangkok