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The Bangkok Post, 2 April 2004
Copyright 2004. Financial Times Information Limited - Asia AfricaIntelligence Wire.

It is time for Thai companies to start seriously branding themselves domestically, regionally or globally as a defensive mechanism against losing out to competitors, suggests an expert on brand creation, Dr Paul Temporal.

But since the move made only by the private sector is unlikely to bring about effective results, the government should assist them by creating national branding in parallel with the corporate branding. The government should also offer more initiatives to promote awareness on the issue or launch subsidy programmes to encourage private firms to brand products like steps implemented in Singapore, Malaysia and China.

Dr Temporal, who last month set up Temporal Brand Consulting Co in Bangkok, said the deregulation of rules and laws in a globalised world would end trade and investment barriers and spur competition. China is poised to become a major threat to Asian countries, including Thailand, as the mainland has done a great job in sorting out production problems and applying modern technologies in manufacturing world-class quality products at lowest possible prices. He viewed that companies that would survive the competition were those able to develop strong brands. But Thailand in the past had concentrated more on developing efficient production, skilled labour and infrastructure.

"Thai companies hadn't been ready for branding until recently, especially after the new government took office, as companies have learned that big brands would survive in the ups and downs of economic development," Dr Temporal said.

"The only defence is branding, as we are in the stage that everything, whether it is a product, system, or technology, would be easily and quickly copied. The only thing that cannot be copied is the brand image."

He has worked with the Thai government to encourage Thai companies, starting with garment manufactures, to recognise the benefit of powerful branding and is now working with The Pizza Company to bring the brand to China.

Dr Temporal, who has spent 18 years in Singapore and Malaysia, has successfully assisted many Asian companies in creating their brands. One example is a Malaysian garment factory that obtained 80% of its business from supplying to big international brands and was losing orders to other countries. "Within 18 months, we have turned the ratio around and now this company exports 80% of its products under its own brand," he said.

Dr Temporal suggested that companies seeking to develop regional or global brands should choose the names that were easy to remember and understand worldwide and register their trademarks in all possible markets. Then they should make "emotional" connections with consumers, as now firms could not compete on the features or functions of products anymore.

"However, emotional brand platform development should be done carefully through strategic thinking, not advertising. Many Asian executives still do not understand the issue that advertising and designing agency take over from us when we finish," he said.

Dr Temporal said the next stage was to build a strong brand personality to create a set of values, as well as the uniqueness of that brand. He cited the example of Hallmark, a greeting-card company that positioned itself in the relationship business to help people express feelings and strengthen relationships in their lives.

"Such an emotional brand position hit straight to the hearts of the consumers. So when they have done that, they have a set of values including care, tradition, emotion and honesty."

"Companies must also answer two questions: why they are different and why they are better than competitors, otherwise they cannot find the differentiating position," Dr Temporal said.

The last thing is to give consumers great brand experiences at every stage when they deal with the companies. This issue would involve training to ensure that all staff act in the ways that represent the brands. However, the brand development process would not be successful if companies do not have top-quality products or services and constant innovations, as consumers always want something new.

Dr Temporal added that well-branded listed companies in major stock markets had outperformed non-branded companies over the last two decades.