LIME: The Caribbean’s Biggest Marketing Failure?

Untitled 2.001 “A refreshed Flow will be the unified consumer-facing brand throughout the Caribbean, replacing the former LIME and Flow businesses.” It is time to say ‘goodbye’ to our old friend, LIME… ”

– Phil Bentley (May 2015), CEO, C&W Communications

Why kill the LIME brand on which they invested so many $billions in the past 8 years? The simple answer is that it was a failure. So how do we know that? Let’s listen to Drucker, the acknowledged grandfather of modern management.

“There is only one valid definition of business purpose: to create a customer. …. Therefore, any business enterprise has two—and only two—basic functions: marketing and innovation.”

– Peter Drucker (1954), The Practice of Management, pp. 39–40

Having heard from Drucker, we looked at the latest annual report (2014) for LIME Jamaica. With, “Marketing Highlights,” and, “Corporate Social Responsibility Report,” appearing ahead of, “Financial Statements,” you didn’t have to guess what the financials were like. Turnover declined every year and net worth had fallen to negative J$23Billion! Yes. It is on life support. A failed brand. But why?

Following Drucker, LIME has done very well on the innovation side of the equation by creating numerous excellent products. But good products alone never did guarantee financial success. So what then, of LIME’s marketing? Let’s hear from two of my favourite marketers; first a successful practitioner, and then a celebrated academic.

“The sole purpose of marketing is to get more people to buy more of your product, more often, for more money.”

– Sergio Zyman (1999) The End Of Marketing As We Know It, pp 11

LIME, recording declining revenues every year, was a colossal marketing failure. But why? Let’s hear from McDonald.

“Companies who recruit professionally qualified marketers with appropriate experience have a far greater chance of success than those whose marketing departments are staffed by just about anybody that fancies themselves as marketers.”

– Malcolm McDonald (2007), Marketing Plans, pp.7

While there is clear evidence that LIME has qualified accountants, engineers and so on, the question must be raised about the capabilities of their senior marketers. For how could marketing spend rise while revenues fall? And did LIME fall into the trap of hiring popular pseudo marketers that focus on attaining brand recognition instead of qualified marketers that focus on brand preference and brand resonance? Come to think of it, were LIME’s senior marketers being guided by a carefully constructed strategic marketing plan that could stand up to either rigorous theoretical or pragmatic scrutiny? Or were they 1-P marketers (Promotions) who never fully understood how to create a sustainable competitive advantage and compete through the new marketing mix?

Allow me one final question: from looking at LIME’s corporate mission, vision, and promise, can you tell what business they are in and identify a clear brand strategy?

RIP LIME. This is a classic case of a good product that suffered from poor product strategy and fatal brand management, beginning with a name that could never find favour in the Jamaican context.

So, is LIME the Caribbean’s biggest marketing failure?

Herman D. Alvaranga is a marketing and sales strategist.

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