‘Because your customer is KING’


with Makro Marketing Director,
Dr Melanie van Rooy.

So Melanie, let’s get straight into it. Which rugby team do you support?

The Lions of course!

Of course. Now for the serious stuff. How would you say has the digital age changed Makro’s approach to marketing?

Dramatically! Digital platforms allow us to broaden our approach in more ways we ever thought possible. Digital is also instant, allowing us to act much more swiftly from an advertising point of view. It is also so much more cost-effective.

From an analytics point of view it has also been significant. Comparing and benchmarking is just a click away. We use digital platforms to cost-effectively gain very useful information about our customers. It’s safe to say that the digital era has changed the way we think about innovation and strategy.

And how about online shopping… is it on the up?

Yes, but not in the traditional way. The launch of our commercial functionality will make us a truly national enterprise with 19 different hubs. The coming of the digital age has really enabled us to do this, widening our access to people in even the most remote areas across the country.

Let’s talk about Makro’s card-holders, the benefits they enjoy should not be confused with ordinary reward schemes, not so?

Well, we know that not everyone understands this. We have not explained the difference well enough in the past and as a result some people see the card as a barrier when in fact it is an access card giving you access to a club – a warehouse club.

Makro is able to buy better, and offer unbeatable value because we have such a good understanding of our clients. All this is possible because of the insights gained through our card system. It also allows us to communicate directly with our customers.

Now for the all-important question. Which is more important: Brand, or product?

Hahaha – I saw this one coming. Makro is a brand that sells other brands. So, for us it can’t just be just one of the two. It’s about balance, especially in the retail space. We are the custodian of other brands. Therefore, our responsibility in terms of product is so much higher.

But, I must emphasise the importance of having a strong brand so that customers and all other stakeholders know exactly what we stand for as a brand.

What’s your take on the importance of “living the brand”… to exemplify your brand promise in the contact space?

I am very passionate about this. I firmly believe that it starts at top level with how the executives think. The people working for the company must understand their own brand before they can live it. People who work for Makro must be hungry, humble and smart – these are the sort of attributes that influence the brand. I believe in a system of brand championship. But, it must be formalised, it does not just happen.

A TV advert is a brand promise. If you walk into a store and you don’t have the same experience then Makro is lying to you. It’s about delivering the promise in the contact space. Living the brand is not just the marketing department’s job – even the tea lady working in the building is responsible for living the brand.

Let’s talk about research. What role should research play in

Wow! It is the heart of marketing, especially when you work in an industry with such diverse market segments.

Research is about understanding the past to correct the future. It helps you predict accurately. It allows for meaningful innovation. It enables us to test what customers are thinking. Of course, we have the cardholder system which gives us a serious upper-hand. It’s safe to say that for Makro, research underpins the marketing strategy.

I think marketing has very much become an intellectual activity, backed by serious understanding of technology and the power it brings.

You’ve mentioned the term “strategy” quite a bit. Do you think marketing is at all possible without a properly differentiated strategy?

No, not at all! If you don’t have a strategy then you will try to be everything for everybody, which is not possible. You can’t be on every billboard, every radio station, etc. You must decide on a strategy and go for it wholeheartedly. Lack of strategy can make you very schizophrenic and marketing very expensive. I’d like to add that if your business’s strategy is not clear then you cannot have a marketing strategy. Without strategy, you’ll be left chasing your tail.

Thanks Melanie, it’s been very insightful.