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Temporal Mechanics: Brand Building In Asia

The Gulf Today Business, 20 April 2004

Branding plays a major role in the successes of not only individuals and companies, but also countries competing for a share of the marketplace in all areas including tourism, according to Temporal Brand Consulting Group Managing Director Paul Temporal.

“Brands are part of everyone’s lives and branding is the only route to sustainable differentiation – with some companies even employing anthropologists. It is of increasing importance to not just companies but also nations, which are adopting the same techniques that world-class companies are doing to stand out,” Temporal told participants in a two-day seminar on “Branding” sponsored by the Gulf Today in Dubai on Monday.

“In terms of companies, it’s a tough, competitive world, while in terms of countries, its deregulation and liberalisation. So everyone is fighting for business and countries are no exception.

“The strategy of branding is replacing corporate strategy, where companies and nations are looking more at brand strategies to differentiate themselves from others,” he said.

Temporal said one country that has been quite successful in branding is New Zealand, which has barely four million people and about 52 million sheep, but is focusing on the theme “100 per cent New Zealand” with emphasis on tourism.

New Zealand is even having cabinet-level discussions on branding, including even whether to allow genetically-modified foods into the country and whether this will affect its brand image, he said, while observing that a strong nation brand could help much with tourism, investment and other areas.

Looking at individual branding successes, he highlighted cases of singer Madonna (who attributed her success to good brand marketing and not her voice or acting) and English footballer David Beckham.

“You can never have a good brand without consistent good quality,” he said, while narrating the case of a businessman who – because of a malfunctioning car – returned to that car company his entire fleet of that brand of vehicle and purchased another brand of cars.

However, Asia is way behind the West and this is because of the mindset of the chief executive officers, he said, adding that these companies were more concerned with short-term thinking and not long-term brand building. He described the market power of branding as such that, even in bad times, strong brands sold well, and a recession in Japan found 5 out of 10 women buying expensive Louis Vuitton bags.

Noting that emotions play a vital role in consumer choices, he said despite the best of technology changing people’s lives, companies needed a strong brand name for people to trust them and in future companies will be involved more in “capturing people’s hearts rather than their wallets.”

“Branding is holistic – covering service delivery, relationships, consumer emotional associations, good experiences and positive perceptions in every possible dimension,” he said, adding, “Brands generate choice, offer quality assurance and reduced risk, simplify decisions, help self-expression and provide friendship and pleasure.”

Great brands understood the consumers’ “hot buttons”, emotional drives relevant to the category and brand, and some companies sent their representatives to live in people’s homes – and even villages – for experiences that would benefit their brand, he said.

He said one company spent about US$205 million yearly on consumer surveys, while a Chinese CEO sold about half the number of refrigerators used in the US on the basis of a market analysis of customer needs there.

Intel is employing “anthropologists” to understand patterns of people’s behaviours, while cultural practices in urban Asia are shaping people’s relationship with technology, Temporal said while noting that majority of brands have strong “emotional triggers” in the relationship process, which begin with awareness, information, respect and friendship leading to trust and loyalty with togetherness/partnership, brands in Asia never get past the “friendship” stage.

"Today, countries are looking hard at branding themselves though this has to be done across ministries, while nations are now seeking help in positioning themselves better globally", said Temporal, who has been recently appointed by the board of directors of Statutory Board of the Singapore Government to sharpen the country’s competitiveness.

“Politicians and heads of nations are now realising how important a good strong brand and powerful image can attract tourism and businesses and even give a country a competitive edge in terms of international relationships,” he said.

He said Australia is working on its brand to attract tourists and used events like Sydney Olympics and Formula One as major platforms in that process, where the Olympics created 150,000 jobs.

“While China is using the 2008 Olympics and World Expo in Shanghai in 2010 in a carefully orchestrated branding process, its Government has also identified their top 100 companies which they want us to make global brand ambassadors for China,” he said.

“So even small companies in small countries can have huge brand images if they get the branding right and I think Dubai is well down that road.”

“India has lots of potential and also a lot of bureaucracy. The big battle there is bureaucracy versus brand because there is a lot of technology talent there – software particularly – and a lot of big Indian companies are capable of becoming global brands, but the Government doesn’t seem to help them and they seem to get where they are despite this situation.

“Other countries are giving assistance to companies who are seeking to do their branding. Singapore and Malaysia have put into place incentive schemes whereby if you want to create a branding strategy or go into international markets, you can get financial assistance from the government.”

Temporal said another problem with Asian countries was deregulation, whereby big Western brands are going to come in and take a lot of market share.

“Even in China, they are worried about that because they can see their market share slipping already from some of the big Western brands coming in. So they know they have to go out and get global market share themselves,” he said.