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Staring Your Own Journey - Transforming Businesses Into Brands
Successful organisations create value by building strong brands. Behind every successful brand lies a clearly defined corporate vision that is consistently expressed through the company’s external communications, as well as through its internal business processes. A strong brand is crucial for improving sales, strengthening the customer base and loyalty, and enhancing business performance. And in today’s world of endless choices, Singapore companies have to offer distinct value propositions to convince sophisticated brand-savvy consumers.

What can Singapore companies do to ensure that their brands are able to grow within and beyond Singapore? There are four critical areas in building strong brands:
1 Understanding the tangible and intangible aspects of a strong brand
2 Having a long-term mindset behind a clear brand vision and strategy
3 Ensuring a deep company-wide brand belief and commitment
4 Measuring brand-building efforts for better management

Understanding the tangible and intangible aspects of a strong brand
On a simplistic level, your company’s brand refers to its logo, name, tag line, and “look”. But the true power and meaning behind great brands lie more in their intangible values than in their tangible features. Intangible values refer to things such as customer preferences, bonding and loyalty, your brand’s credibility and reputation, the associations and imagery of your brand, the core values behind your brand, and even in employees’ loyalty and belief in your brand. These intangible values form an invisible, but potent support network behind your business offerings. They add to your product’s perceived value and as a result, they act to both establish and differentiate the brand from rivals.

Nowhere is this more clearly seen than in a commodity market. When one product is more or less the same as the others, how can brands differentiate themselves from the others? Here, physical attributes can only play a superficial part – the bigger role is played by the intangible values of the brand.

One of the best examples of this is in the alcoholic beverages industry. Without a brand, Tiger Beer would be just a beer – a commodity that is difficult to differentiate based on product attributes and functionality. With branding, an emotional and psychological bond with customers can be established. This is crucial in maintaining market share in a highly fragmented beer market characterised by weak brand loyalty, heavy brand promotions and shifting consumption preferences. Due to the company’s long-term marketing efforts, enhancement and nurturing of the brand name Tiger Beer, it is one of the most recognisable brands in the world today.

The important point here is that companies need to focus on building up their brand’s intangible offering – as much as its tangible, physical offering – in order to create strong brands that can sustain long-term impact in the market. However, a majority of the Singapore companies today still fall short in realising the potential of the intangible value. Does your company understand what your brand’s intangible values are and how to build them? Does your company have a brand strategy that is able to efficiently and effectively build both the tangible and intangible aspects of the brand?

Action Step:
Create a brand platform that takes into account your brand’s tangible and intangible values. This process should involve senior management and employees from across different disciplines and levels of the company.

Having a long-term mindset behind a clear brand vision and strategy
To create strong brands, Singapore companies need to begin thinking, planning and investing on a long-term basis in areas such as customer service, company expertise, its employees, its values and guiding principles. Over time, they will begin to see benefits from their brand investments. There will be enhanced employee commitment, greater customer loyalty as well as improved investor sentiment.

Rather than focusing squarely on short-term activities such as advertising and promotion, it is essential that companies channel their efforts and finances on areas that build the long-term strength of both the tangible and intangible aspects of their brand. That way, results generated would be more sustainable after the effects of the “big bang” approach common in short-term approaches. Brands with a long- term strategy are usually stronger and more resilient in challenging economic times.

Action Step:
Design a communications and activities plan that sets short-term and long- term goals for your brand, and builds both its tangible and intangible aspects. Expenditure needs to be apportioned to take into account both sets of goals.

Ensuring a deep company-wide brand belief and commitment
Successful brands have the backing of a company-wide belief and commitment to branding. Studies have also confirmed that it is the depth and strength of company-wide commitment to the brand that is the crucial factor in determining brand success. For example, at the Raffles International Hotel and Resorts, the company is filled with passionate brand champions who walk the talk in delivering the brand promise. A sense of personal pride can be clearly seen in all employees at all customers touch points.

Aligning your employees behind your brand purpose and values can create far greater internal energy, motivation, drive, partnerships and teamwork. However, while the positive returns from investing and ensuring brand commitment and belief is clear, the brand strategy remains very much confined within the senior management in most cases. It is vital that companies start to employ strategies that encourage all employees to embrace and feel responsible for their brand.

Action Step:
Create an internal communications campaign that enhances interest and involvement in your company’s brand, and put in place regular activities that periodically reinforce the importance and resonance of the brand with your employees.

Measuring brand-building efforts for better management
Brand measurement is a vital component of the process of building a strong brand. After all, you cannot effectively manage what you do not measure. Think of measurement as the compass that every brand relies on to verify that they are going in the right direction. If companies are to make the right strategic decisions about their brand, they need to do so with qualified feedback.

Measurement of your brand goes beyond measuring the sales returns from investing in your brand. It is also a gauge to know where your brand equity or the intangible value of your brand, the reputation and goodwill that your brand has built-up over time for the quality and value it signifies. Equally important to measuring your brand efforts consistently is knowing what to measure. Only then can you further enhance your brand programme.

Action Step:
Put in place regular and robust measurement procedures that track your brand’s progress in key areas – these should include not just awareness, but also factors such as esteem, loyalty, and key personality drivers.

Getting Started
When a company is proactive about branding, its actions can bring about extraordinary accomplishments over the course of its brand’s life cycle. A brand is a company asset that must be creatively sustained by constant investment, protection and nurturing in order to maximise its long-term value to your company. It has many of the same implications on a company’s bottom line as capital assets like equipment and plant purchases, including the ability to be bought and sold, and to provide strategic advantages.

What should you get out of a branding project?
• A perceptual map of your brand
Branding is all about perception and perception is reality. Your brand is whatever your customers perceive it to be. So, you have to do an in-depth brand audit to find out what people actually think of your brand. More often than not, there is a gap between what you think of your brand and how it is perceived by customers, distributors, suppliers and even your employees. If you do not know how your brand is perceived by others, whatever strategy you put in place will be flawed.

• A clear positioning strategy
Once you know how your brand is perceived, then you can position your brand better. The branding project you undertake should explore several possible positioning strategies and the pros and cons of each one. Once a positioning strategy has been chosen, it needs to be clearly articulated and understood. You should stick to this positioning strategy for the rest of your brand’s life cycle as you need consistency to build a strong brand. So make sure you get it right.

• The correct brand architecture
Brand architecture is simply the attributes (or nuts-and-bolts) of a brand. It is what defines the brand. In order to properly support your positioning strategy, your brand needs to deliver what it promises. Therefore, the right brand architecture is critical. When doing the brand architecture, you will need to consider whether your brand, as it is now, has what it takes to successfully occupy the position that you desire in the market. If not, you need to know what you need to change and improve to do that.

• A great name
In the short run, you can depend on a unique idea or concept to establish your brand in the prospect’s mind. That is how all great brands get started – Xerox, Intel, Starbucks, Zara, The Body Shop, etc. But in the long run, that unique idea will disappear as your competitors copy it. So, what remains to differentiate your brand is the name. A good name should be short, unique, easy-to- pronounce and memorable. Generic words and acronyms do not make for good names so avoid them.

• A high degree of differentiation
Make sure your brand project helps you to create a highly differentiated brand. If you are a me-too brand, you will find it hard to achieve success. If customers cannot tell your brand from your competitors’ brands, then the only strategy you can employ is to sell cheap. You do not want to be caught in that price trap because someone else will be able to do it cheaper. So, that means whatever your competitors are already doing, you have to avoid.

• A focused brand
At the end of the branding project, you should end up with a focused brand. That means the brand stands for one thing and one thing only. Very often, companies try to stretch the brand by getting into too many categories, related or otherwise. This is a recipe for disaster. Only focused brands can own a position in the customer’s mind and only if you have a position in the customers’ mind can you be successful. For example, Volvo is focused on safety, Zara is focused on just-in-time fashion, Intel is focused on microprocessors, etc.

• Proper brand alignment
Finally, a brand cannot be successful if the people responsible for that brand do not know what it stands for and what to do. So, a proper brand alignment is necessary. Brand alignment is an exercise to ensure that all your key brand ambassadors – management, employees and distributors – know what the brand is and how to deliver on the brand promise consistently to build that brand.

How do you select a brand consultant?
• Track record
It is not necessary to get a brand consultant who has undertaken branding projects in your industry as the fundamental principles of branding are universal and can be applied across industries and regardless of whether yours is a B2C or B2B product or service. However, it is important to ensure that the consultant has a good track record in the branding business. Who has the consultant done work for? What is the scope of work actually done? How extensive is it? Do you perceive the work to be good?

• The people
Are the people who talked to you the same people who will be doing the work? It is important that you are introduced to the team that will actually be doing the work. What are their qualifications and experience? Who else does the consulting firm have in the company? It is important to know the actual people who will be doing the work to ensure that they understand your needs and concerns, and also to make sure that you are comfortable working with them.

• The clients
It would be a good idea if the consultant can provide a list of clients that they have worked for and also testimonials from clients. At the very least, the consultant should have some case studies of work that has been done for clients. The case studies need not be very long, but certain basic elements like the challenges facing the client and what the consultants have done to help the client overcome these challenges should be present. You might even want to call some of the clients up and ask them for their views.

• The methodology
Ask the consultant to explain clearly to you their methodology. What are the various stages involved? What does each stage entail? What are the resources that need to be committed (from both the consultants as well as yourself) at each stage? How long will each stage take? What are the deliverables at the completion of each stage of work? What kind of results can you expect to see? Make sure that you and your colleagues who are involved fully understand the methodology before you proceed.

• Make sure the work is strategic
This is very, very important. You need to make a clear distinction between the strategic and tactical components of your branding project. What your brand consultant proposes to do should be strategic in nature. Strategic components are things like the essence of the brand, its attributes, how it is positioned in the market, is it properly understood internally, how it should be communicated to customers, etc. Only then can you proceed to the more operational aspects such as packaging design, etc.

• The price
Although price is a consideration, do not choose consultants based on price alone. The price should be commensurate with the consultant’s experience, expertise, track record, etc. You also have to compare the scope of work. Does the scope of work justify the price? A 150-page proposal is no guarantee that the work is very comprehensive. Probe deeper. And finally, do not treat the fee you are paying as a marketing expense. Treat it as an investment in your brand’s future.

• Ask for recommendations
You may have business associates, friends or even clients who have engaged the services of branding consultants before. Talk to them. Ask them for their views and recommendations and they should be able to recommend a firm that suits your needs.

International Enterprise Singapore
Formerly known as the Singapore Trade Development Board (TDB), International Enterprise Singapore (IE Singapore) is the lead agency spearheading Singapore’s efforts to develop its external economic wing.
Our mission is to help Singapore-based companies grow and internationalise successfully. We offer a wide range of services in 35 locations worldwide by using a 3C framework of assistance – Competency, Connections and Capital. We provide market information, assist enterprises to develop their business capabilities and find overseas partners. At the same time, IE Singapore works to position Singapore as a base for foreign businesses to expand into the region in partnership with Singapore- based companies.

SPRING Singapore
SPRING (Standards, Productivity and Innovation Board) Singapore’s mission is to enhance the competitiveness of enterprises for a vibrant Singapore economy. We work to nurture a pro-business environment that encourages enterprise formation and growth; facilitate the growth of industries; enhance productivity and innovation and capabilities of enterprises; and help increase access to markets and business opportunities.
Branding is very important only after you have an established business. If you business is struggling and the sales is not consistent, there is no point to build a big brands just to see the business fail.

As for good brands, don't be surprise banks actually accept it as collateral when it come to secured loan

Mess with the best, die like the rest.
So far how effective is the branding grants providing by SPRING?

Has anyone company successfully gained their brand position locally through the SPRING grant?

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