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MMA marketer of the year Firoze Bhorat, chief marketing officer of Discovery Group. Picture: SUPPLIED
MMA marketer of the year Firoze Bhorat, chief marketing officer of Discovery Group. Picture: SUPPLIED

With budgets under constant pressure, marketing priorities have shifted from pure brand building to performance-driven initiatives with strong measurement criteria.

But Firoze Bhorat,  chief marketing officer at Discovery, says that while the group places great emphasis on performance marketing, closely monitoring metrics such as cost per lead and cost per sale, “we ensure that this does not come at the cost of building the brand, such that it maintains equity and is sustainable into the future”.

Bhorat was named marketer of the year in the 2022 Marketing Achievement Awards and Discovery won the equivalent award for companies. The awards “recognise analytical and creative marketing that has had a demonstrable impact on business”.

The judges said Bhorat’s influence, value and presence are immense as he leads a big team in a major organisation with several divisions that are all competing  in highly traded sectors.

He does justice to the profession in all its aspects, the judges said, “from his digital-first view to the detailed customer understanding he employs across all channels, creating shared value, promoting diversity and building the brand and culture, while showing excellent business results”.

Bhorat tells the FM that being resourceful is a now a critical skill. “Gone are the days of corporate largesse. Most brands and marketers these days are being asked to deliver more with less. I believe that prudence has challenged the creativity of marketers. It has also forced the discipline of ensuring that the business case always prevails.”

At no point in our history was our purpose of making people healthier and enhancing and protecting their lives more important than when the pandemic struck
Firoze Bhorat

Bhorat says Discovery’s response to the pandemic was a seminal moment for the brand. “At no point in our history was our purpose of making people healthier and enhancing and protecting their lives more important than when the pandemic struck. It was a time of rapid innovation to ensure member wellbeing, business continuity and the continued relevance of our brand.”

He says the marketing function supported the business in ensuring propositions were repurposed to suit market needs. Key examples, he says, were the rollout of telemedicine consultations in partnership with Vodacom and redesigning the Vitality offering as Vitality at Home to enable members to stay active and healthy.

As the organisation enters new jurisdictions and new markets for products and services, marketing remains at the centre of the business.

“That means whenever we decide to enter a new market, or a new segment of the market, marketing drives the intelligence and insight into what is needed in that market and how to resonate with those consumers,” Bhorat says.

“Beyond demand, generation marketing is also tasked with designing optimal consumer journeys so that they are intuitive and enhance the overall client experience.”

Bhorat says tonality in marketing is critical, particularly for medical aid and insurance, which are mostly viewed as grudge purchases.

At the heart of this is differentiation. We operate in an industry and category that is built for bad outcomes rather than good ambitions. As a result, consumers choose to disengage from their insurance providers and only engage when they absolutely must. We seek to keep our members constantly engaged with the brand. One way this is being achieved is through the concept of gamification — adding online gaming opportunities to engage more regularly with consumers.”

Technology, says Bhorat, is becoming an increasingly important part of the marketing mix.

It has transformed our approach to marketing. Technology enables the aggregation of data and provides unique insights, which we can use to target clients with absolute precision and constantly optimise performance of campaigns. It also enables us to unearth new opportunities and drive product innovation.

“We place great emphasis on the use of tech to drive integration across product verticals,” Bhorat says. “In our business, removing friction for the client is a key differentiator, and the use of technology is critical to achieving this.”

Brand expansion is the plan for the next two to five years. “The launch of Vitality Travel earlier this year came at a time when South Africans were desperately in need of choice and value when it came to travel. We are now investing in building Vitality as a global consumer brand.”

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