[CMO] Martijn Smelt of Philips TV and Audio TP Vision: ‘Marketing is all about trust’

Philips TV & Audio have been residing under the Taiwanese / Chinese wings of electronics company TPV with TP Vision as the Philips production and marketing arm since 2012 and 2018 respectively. As is well known, Philips has focused entirely on healthcare. Martijn Smelt joined TP Vision during the takeover. Initially as General Manager to set up the TP Vision organization in Eastern Europe from Prague and since August 2017 as CMO at the head office in Amsterdam. “A lot of marketing is about trust. And distinctive products. “

At the head office in Amsterdam – Amstel building at the Prins Bernhardplein – there is a deep silence. Corona has also forced most people to work from home here. There are scattered headphones on the desks, many displays, promotional pillows, banners and a brightly colored homely seat with the Philips television Oled +, the crown jewel of the company.
As a consumer organization, TP Vision is of course completely unimportant. It concerns the Philips brand. Philips still has an intense relationship with TP Vision when it comes to directing the brand guidelines and thus the correct use and optimization of the Philips brand. The concern for the brand history is in good hands in that respect, because Smelt is and was a Philips man from the very beginning. Before moving to TP Vision, he worked at Philips from 1999 in all kinds of functions and in relation to all products: from curling irons and Senseo coffee machine to vacuum cleaners, razors and TV. “I think Philips is a wonderful company, but I wanted to do more in 2012, pioneer more, switch faster and this was a golden opportunity for me. I first set up the Eastern European operation in Prague and after five years I returned here in Amsterdam to shape the marketing strategy. A total of 21 people are marketing the Philips TV & Audio products here in Amsterdam. In the other thirteen countries in which we are located, an average of two marketing people operate per country. “
In the period after 2012, a lot of time and energy was first invested in integrating the companies and setting up an oiled production, distribution and marketing organization. TP Vision has been writing black figures again with Philips TV & Audio since 2018. Pretty clever if you have to tolerate giants like Samsung, LG and Sony next to you. Smelt: “You have to remember that TPV as a parent company produces screens for all kinds of applications and hardly does anything about marketing. That only came when Philips TV was taken over, when it became urgent. The profession is also relatively new to the owners. As a CMO, I have to explain a lot and explain why marketing is important, especially now at the time of Corona. The management team is also very accessible and involved. They really want to understand what is happening. You can interpret that as meddling, but the opposite is true. “

To continue with this immediately: do you feel sufficiently supported as a CMO and do you have sufficient clout?
“Of course it is never enough, but as a CMO I am happy at the moment, yes. I have shown step by step what we do and what we achieve with marketing. The watchword is actually: keep it simple and regularly show what you have achieved. In the past three years, we have seen more than 30% growth. As the A-brand in electronics in Europe, we have gained the only market share. That is significant in my opinion. In addition, with our PR agency Weber Shandwick, we have been working hard on PR for three years to bring the Philips brand back to attention across Europe through electronics magazines, newspapers, lifestyle magazines and online influencers. In 2019 we won no less than 106 awards in the field of design and innovations [zoals iF Design Award en Red Dot Awards, red.] I think the best part is the partnerships with European design brands such as the Danish Georg Jensen and the British audio giant Bowers & Wilkins, because they emphasize the quality and premium design of Philips products even more. I see many opportunities, but I always have to explain it to the management. In 2018 and 2019 we have written black numbers and now with corona it is more difficult, but we are in the game. “

Corona breaks the results or is it otherwise destructive?
“Of course we feel the impact of corona, also in sales. The sales channel is of course different, we sell more online. First there were three in ten people who bought something online, now it is eight in ten. The disadvantage is that you can show your products much less physically to consumers at fairs and shows or exclusive events. TV and audio are pre-eminently products you have to see and feel. We do less advertising now, but I see other ways to have contact with the target group. Philips wants to make people’s lives better, and that has become more relevant during this period. People want to enjoy entertainment at home and have a good experience with TV and headphones. This is an excellent opportunity to have more contact and interaction with your customer. We have therefore set up a special program to get even more out of your Philips Ambilight television, with tips and tricks. Ambilight is a lighting technology developed by Philips and stands for Ambient Lighting: atmospheric lighting. This technology is applied by Philips to televisions. The goal of Ambilight is therefore very simple: to provide a more intense viewing experience. People could sign up to a special platform via email registration. 50% of the people opened the mail and 10% registered, which is really bizarre high. And as for corona in relation to our budget, there is no discussion about that. There is confidence from Taiwan. “

What does Philips’ marketing strategy look like in normal times?
“We focus very strongly on retail. In the customer journey in terms of TV and audio, a lot is searched and viewed online, but in the end people still go to the store. They want to see that TV for real, how big is it? How is it? The brand preference for TVs is not firm. As a consumer, you can still be significantly influenced in the store. Then things like the place on the shelf, displays, price and promotion are of course of great importance. The game is of course also played by the major competitors. “

The influence of store staff is of course enormous, because they can “send” customers to a brand. How do you see that?
“Yes, that’s why we also focus on the sellers. We have developed special training courses for them plus an app containing all the facts and sales arguments about, for example, the Ambilight. The latter is especially important, because we have seen that people who buy such a TV are more loyal to the brand and the implementation. Eight out of ten people who have ever bought an Ambilight never want anything else. In the past, far too little has been done with that loyalty. The challenge as a marketer is to build and maintain that trust. The public, the retailer and my marketing team must be able to trust the product. That sounds very logical, but it is often forgotten. Everyone should be able to rely on the brand. That is extremely important with TV. Philips is synonymous with TV, but when you ask which TV people have at home, they often don’t even know. We must stimulate our unique Ambilight technology much more as a USP and important added value. And now that we are looking for interaction with the customer and consumer during this corona time, and so you have faster feedback, it appears to work very well. “

That the game is sometimes played hard became clear in 2018 when TP Vision Europe was no longer allowed to use the slogan ‘The best OLED TV you can buy’ in the Netherlands and Belgium in combination with the predicate ‘best buy’ from European industry club EISA. At that time, the Amsterdam court agreed with competitor LG who called the claim misleading.
“It is more nuanced. We were allowed and allowed to use the claim. The advertising slogan for The best OLED TV you can buy in combination with only the EISA predicate is misleading (6: 194 BW). The advertising slogan The best OLED TV you can buy without mentioning the EISA predicate or in combination with multiple awards, it was still permitted because it had been made plausible that Philips TVs had won a large number of awards. “

Does the retail comparison compare to the bicycle market? Does the seller also play a key role in this?
“Not entirely, the bicycle market is very focused on one brand for one target group. You often still sell as the main brand Batavus or Gazelle. You see the same with the car brands. Electronic stores are still more fast movers like Albert Heijn. It is therefore important in the process to have a wide range of products, maintain relationships well, gain trust. And you do that by being open and honest. Philips is for sale at 600 locations in the Netherlands and we have excellent contacts with major retailers such as BCC, Coolblue and Mediamarkt. “

What about advertising for Philips? I think a lot online, because we don’t see you often on TV?
“The emphasis is indeed on online communication. We do a lot of PR, content on social media, digital and a lot of communication via retail. In the area of ​​PR and content we work together with Weber Shandwick, social communication with SocialLab from Ogilvy, the digital media we do with Orange Valley and for advertising Twofish. Speed ​​and entrepreneurial spirit are paramount in this choice. In October 2019, we made a TV commercial for the first time in twelve years with the Oled + TV with audio from Bowers and Wilkins as the subject. That spot has done a lot in the Netherlands and Germany, given the large number of digital searches for Oled + and Philips TV. My marketing budget? Less than half of the competitor. “

Philips remains an icon. Yet it has slipped as a brand in recent years and Samsung seems to have taken the top position. How is the brand image currently?
“Every year we research the image of Philips (under the name Heart Beat) and in the last two years the appreciation for the brand in TV & audio has increased again. I am particularly proud of the fact that we have risen sharply in the part. We are at the forefront of technical image quality, as is the overall quality and value for money component. Now let’s be the points where we’re pushing hard in marketing. “

Philips is busy also conquering the world with audio. With which products do you do that and what does the marketing look like?
“We see great developments in headphones and different forms of loudspeakers, for both home and outdoor use. We have invested a lot in understanding consumer needs. How can we best use TV, headphones and / or speakers to enhance the experience of streaming movies and series, listening to music (in any way) or using other media? What does a user want and use? What not? Based on these insights, we have implemented our new marketing strategy. We are a lifestyle brand. All our products and activities are developed around four basic principles: European Design, Effortless Use, Joy to Experience & Exceptional Quality. As an example, we are now launching the Philips Fidelio X3, the premium headphones for the home, with high-quality sound, quality and materials, for a target group that makes demands. But the principles are also reflected in other segments, for example our collection of sports headphones. In the activation we work hard on trust, together with brand ambassadors. These influencers understand our products and are personally involved with the Philips brand and share their experiences through their own social media channels. Word of mouth is a powerful communication tool, it is always more credible when someone you trust or find inspiring tells a positive, personal story about a particular product than when the company does it itself. “

What is your motto in life?
“My family on my mother’s side once started the first self-service store in the Netherlands. It was new in the US and some company members wanted to go there first to see how it worked, but the family just wanted to do it. I think that’s important. Of course you have to have a plan and a strategy, but just get started, speed of action is very important to me. A can do -mentality.’

Is marketing a lonely profession?
‘Absolutely not! No dude, the diversity and dynamism that we have here. In my marketing team alone, I already have six nationalities. There is a lot of interaction with each other, with our partners, with our agencies. I work with relatively small teams. It is rather difficult to be alone once! “

How do you relax?
“I like to cook and run. I do miss team sport now, like with my hockey team. During the home work period because of corona, I was not bored for a minute. I’m working in the garden and I’m doing a job. Sitting still and reading a book, I can’t find the peace for that yet. “

Do you have a marketing hero?
“I recently renovated my office and I came across old study books by Professor Peter Leeflang. He has taught me the basic knowledge of marketing and that is something that is very dear to me. I don’t throw those books away either.
Another thing is that I just came across a very nice and interesting brand from Poland, Tylko. These are cabinet makers who tailor everything for you. They’ve come up with an incredibly ingenious online system that allows you to design and create everything yourself. Their communication, concept and service are very clever. I can be jealous of it. I think that’s very cool. “

What blunder and success can we note?
“As a very young product manager, I once introduced a concept of hair coloring at Philips. Could you give your hair a color. Philips had bought that product and the urgency to market it was great. Ultimately, the technique didn’t work well. It was pushed through anyway and eventually it flopped enormously. The stuff was later heavily discounted at the Etos. I learned a lot from it, though.
Senseo was certainly a success. Especially nice if you saw all those people walking the street with that box with a Senseo device every weekend. The engagement, the experience was really an important factor. Everything about this concept, with the coffee from Douwe Egberts, the special cups, was correct. But for me, the introduction of InterBrew’s home beer tap Perfect Draft with Bavaria and Grolsch was also a milestone. Here, too, was the experience, tapping yourself with the thrill of the swirl, the swirl in the glass, decisive. That made the consumer thirsty! Taught me how important details are in a concept. “

Any tips for colleagues?
“In marketing, the combination of business sense and consumer insight is essential to me. What is the value for the customer and how can you contribute to this and at the same time help create commercial value for the company? The consumer ultimately determines whether it is a beautiful, good and handy product. If that combination works and you can switch quickly, you cannot miss the victory. “

TP Vision
TP Vision is an international player in the field of consumer electronics in the world of audiovisual digital entertainment. TP Vision focuses on the development, production and marketing of Philips branded television sets (Europe, Russia, Middle East, South America, India and certain Asia Pacific countries) and Philips branded audio products worldwide. With Philips TVs, TP Vision is the worldwide market leader in the catering market (think of hotel rooms). TP Vision employs nearly 2,000 people in various locations around the world and is 100% owned by TPV, one of the world’s largest manufacturers of monitors and LCD TVs, and sells and distributes Philips branded TVs in China .

This article was featured in MarketingTribune 09, 2020; the photography is by Zuiverbeeld.

Also read our other interviews with CMOs:
Thorsas Koenen | Rabobank
Johan van der Zanden Albert Heijn
Marlin van Straaten HMSHost
Brenda Smith | Kruidvat

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