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The Sun, 21 May 2001

Dr Paul Temporal was lecturing in the field of marketing at a university in the UK, when a friend said: “It must be comfortable lecturing in your ivory tower; why don’t you come over to the other side; and practise what you preach?” And so, he took the challenge and accepted the post of marketing manager in Smith and Nephew.

That step to the outside world led to a career in consulting and training that spanned 20 years. Temporal is the author of books on branding – Branding in Asia and Corporate Charisma. His most recent book Hi-tech, Hi-touch Branding is about creating brand power in the technology age.

Temporal holds a bachelor, master and doctorate in management from Leeds and Oxford universities in the UK. He also holds a degree in economics and a post-graduate certificate in education.

“Branding is the only route to survival in the next few years,” Temporal said. According to Temporal, factors such as globalisation, greater customer sophistication and the advent of the digital age will bring about the need to create a strong brand. Increasingly short product life cycles (a notebook, he pointed out, has a life cycle of only three to four months) makes branding a necessity.

“Strong brands live and evolve – they do not have life cycles,” he said. “Look at Coca-Cola. They’ve been around for over a hundred years and are still going strong.” Power brands, according to Temporal, build their brands based on charismatic personalities that have both rational and emotional appeal. Asian companies, he noted, tend to be very rational in branding, highlighting superior quality or special features of a product. But they fail to appeal to the emotions, such as a sense of security or confidence.

A key reason branding is important for technology companies is what Temporal calls the “21st century business problem” – product parity. Competitors can copy anything physical with amazing speed, and whatever you put out today can be improved in a short time. Good branding provokes emotional response and breaks parity.

But a greater challenge lies ahead for technology companies. “Branding is about emotions,” Temporal said. “But technology is cold and impersonal. People are frightened of technology and complexity. So the challenge is to build a brand that appeals to people’s emotions.” A technology company with a great branding strategy is Nokia, Temporal said. Nokia has built a great brand with its “human technology” slogan.

“They have taken technology, which is cold, and added a human element to it to say ‘this is what technology can do for you to make your life easier’.” He credits Nokia’s top position in the mobile phone market to its branding strategy.

As for branding on the web, Temporal has some words of advice. Brands need to be consistent, and for websites, this means maintaining the fonts, the placing of the logo and the colours used so that you can identify with the brand wherever you are.

“A good example is Yahoo!,” he said. “When you visit Yahoo! in different countries, you know it’s Yahoo! the moment you hit the site.” When offline brands go online, it is crucial to reflect the identity of the brand. “For example, Virgin Atlantic Airlines, has an image of fun. Appropriately, when you go to the website, there is a picture of a teddy bear in a plane flying across the screen.”

Trust is also an important aspect of branding. Thus it is important for companies not only to build awareness and eyeballs, but also trust. He mentioned lastminute.com, which a survey said achieved 84% in consumer awareness but only 17% in trust. You build trust, he says, by fulfilling your promises. “If you put up an e-mail address and invite customers to send in enquiries, make sure you answer your e-mails.”

According to Temporal, online retailers are at a disadvantage because offline retailers can better create the consumer experience through personal service, and atmosphere in the retail outlets. As a result, online retailers have to increasingly involve the customer in order to build customer experience. As an example, Temporal points to Reflect.com, where the product does not exist until the customer specifies what he/she wants. In short, every product is customised for each customer.