Among 10 different coffee chains, 10 different fast food outlets, 10 different banks, 10 different electronic suppliers or manufactures, how would you distinguish which is the best of its category.
Most people would opt for what appeals to them the most. Regardless of how much something costs, people usually purchase for reasons of self-satisfaction and product quality.
Why then it is so important to ensure people know who you are?
Dr. Paul Temporal, a renowned branding guru, makes his point in his recent book called Asia Star Brands.
Brand management is a relevant practice throughout countries of the entire world. It does not matter whether the country is small or going through poverty or whether a country is overwhelmed with riches-branding applies.
Some business entrepreneurs may equate brand management to pure advertising while others regard it as a state of glamour or popularity. Most do not fully understand the important role of brand management in their organizations; consequently leading to stagnation and inability to achieve top market status.
Asia’s unique markets
In Asia, it is difficult to build something that is unique, that is able to stand out among the rest while at the same time able to meet the needs and wants of the society. This is a result of the region’s vast markets of different products that are constantly growing in number and evolving in quality. To a certain extent, it confuses consumers causing them to choose without thinking.
Brands however will never work well if they do not possess a reasonable level of quality. Take for instance cell phones or mobile phones. To determine the best choice to purchase, a consumer will grade the quality of a cell or mobile phone before viewing its features. There is not once where a consumer will purchase a mobile phone based solely on its outward appearance without evaluating its quality or functionality. Consumers rather pay a price for product quality than merely to look `cool’.
It is easy to create brand awareness but whether consumers trust the product or service is another matter. Hence, advertising works very well with making a brand well known in the market, but it definitely does not guarantee how good an impression is left on consumers’ mind.
``The best results of successful brand management are when consumers not only recognize who you are but are also impressed with the quality it provides. Consumers need to be convinced to stay loyal and trust how well a product or service can serve them for a long term,” asserts Dr. Temporal.
In the Malaysian context, most brand owners have not yet achieved recognition from the world or even within the country itself. Compared to most foreign products, Malaysia has still a long way to go.
However despite our country’s rather unimpressive record of brand successes, Dr Temporal assures us that there are a few Malaysian companies which have accomplished some measure of success. In his assessment, Pensonic would be one of the prominent brands that have been able to reach consumers’ hearts to as far the Middle Eastern countries.
Another example of a Malaysian brand, which according to Dr. Temporal is almost at the mark but not there yet, would be Petronas. Though the company gains its share of the limelight during F1 races, yet most people outside Malaysia have yet find out where Petronas actually from.
It is a realization within an organization to ensure that branding is well managed to create maximum impact on consumers worldwide.
Successful global brands
Starbucks Coffee is a classic example of successful in brand management. They were clever in creating an ambient environment for consumers to not only enjoy coffee but to also treat the café as a meet-up place, whether for work related appointments or simply as a venue to hang out.
Eventually, the café became a concept that people started to accept warmly, and gradually patrons did not do a good job. Starbucks managed to create a comfortable feeling among café patrons, connecting with people emotionally.
Another brand that has made it big is Intel. Some have wondered how this company could have made it so far by selling only electronic chips.
Intel has brought itself this far because of the strategy they implement in selling their goods. Instead of solely selling electronic chips for computers, they began looking into how they could use those chips to help consumers improve their daily lives.
``It’s not a matter of what you are selling; it is more of how you sell and who your target markets are,” notes Dr. Temporal.
So besides only targeting consumers who needed the technology per se, Intel widened their target market to all citizens who needed help in keeping their data safe and secure; at the same time these consumers would be able to enjoy technology.
It is important to live up to promises that are made by brands to consumers. Several brands fail tremendously in his aspect as the empty promises they make have disappointed consumers, resulting in the failure of gaining brand recognition.
It may be argued that culture is what makes branding work. Regardless of what role culture plays-be it the corporate culture or plain-trend culture-culture influences branding.
If a company is not able to live its brand within its organization or among staff, then that brand will not be able to sell outside of the company. It must be able to convince its own staff before it tries to convince consumers.
Since brand management is a high scale process in making a product or service stay in the market, most may think that is a process that only big organizations can afford to support. It does not mean that non-profit organizations should ignore the need to be positioned in the market of consumers. Although non-profit organizations may not be selling products, they need to at least make known to consumers the range of services offered. This is especially true for non-profit organizations that depend solely on public donations to run.
``If you only managed to touch the consumers’ minds, it will not get you anywhere. Instead, if you manage to touch their hearts, it just simply means you touch the wallet too, as it is the emotions stirred in one that usually drives one to give,” observes Dr. Temporal.
How then can the gap and the lack of brand management be improved in Malaysia?
Branding may sometimes seem glamorous to many. It grants one a sense of popularity and to some a certain status in the society or consumer market. No doubt it does increase popularity, but companies that only strive for fame do not go far especially if they are unable to produce high quality products.
In most foreign countries beyond the Asian region, the government plays an important role in encouraging companies to maintain a good status of brand management.
Perhaps the government bodies in Malaysia could do more, for instance provide government funding to support local brands, thereby driving the standards of brand management towards global acclaim.