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Managing Brands in a Changing World
Managing Brands in the Retail Industry under Economic Uncertainty
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Branding for Survival in Asia
Tracking and Valuation
Brand Communications and Naming
Managing your Brand Successfully
Branding for SMEs
A Winning Brand Strategy

The EDGE, 2 May 2005

We have seen in the last two articles what branding is all about and how to develop a winning brand strategy. Once you have developed all the requisite elements of the strategy for your brand, its relative success will depend on how you manage it.

Brand management is, at its simplest, managing the consumer experience by managing all the interactions (touch points) that any current or potential customer has with your brand. It is about those “moments of truth” that we all know too well can make us happy or frustrated.

To get an idea of this, if you multiply the number of customers you have per year by the number of staff they come into contact with (directly or via technology) each time they buy from you, you will see the number of touch points.

For example, it is a known fact that a person who flies with an airline comes into contact, on average, with five airline staff – ticketing, check-in, cabin crew and so on. If an airline has 10 million customers a year, this means it has 50 million touch points to manage; 50 million moments of truth to get the brand experience right or wrong.

Touch points come in various forms: websites, frontline service, telephone answering, reception, agents, distributors, call centres and so on. Some of these are directly in the company’s control and some are not. Some companies forget that back-office functions too can form a part of the number of touch points, such as finance department with billing and others. But they all have to be given attention.

So if you want your brand to be perceived as “friendly”, are your systems and processes customer-friendly? Does your staff answer the phone in a friendly way? Is your website easy to navigate? Do your advertisements put across a friendly attitude? All these things count. One telecommunications company that has relationships with customers by providing fixed line, mobile and an internet service gives them three bills each month. It would be friendly to just give them one.

As Lee Yew Weng, group financial controller of Pensonic says, “The way we manage the brand is of prime importance. We need to formulate brand initiatives for all touch points with the customers to support the brand vision and values that we have defined. These initiatives, if carried out with focus and diligence, will transform into core competencies within the organisation. These core competencies will form the pillars of the Pensonic brand. They are the differentiating factors for the Pensonic brand and would be difficult for competing brands to imitate.”

Brand management is a tough job. Meticulous attention to detail is needed. This means that training your staff is imperative. Sometimes I get asked, “Who should be responsible for managing our brand?” Well, the obvious answer is the CEO, but the real answer is everyone in the organisation. Why? Because everyone in the company can make an impact on the customer experience. So, extensive training and attention to all aspects of the customer experience is not negotiable.

As Dixon Chew, group managing director of Pensonic, says, “We want all ranks in the organisation to live the brand – from the cleaner to the CEO. Specific brand training and workshops are conducted to instil the Pensonic brand vision and values into everyone. We are now planting the seeds of the Pensonic brand in the entire organisation to build a strong brand culture. We want all employees to carry and display the brand values in their daily work. The whole organisation will be the future driving force to elevate Pensonic into a powerful brand.”

Some companies even train their outsourcing partners to help them understand what their brand stands for and how to represent it. Rangkaian Segar has carried out a country-wide training programme for highway operators, whose service staff attend to their Touch ‘n Go customers.

When your brand is represented by someone else, then include them in the understanding of what you want your brand experience to be like. Some companies like Gucci have had to buy back their franchise in order to manage the brand experience better. Your brand image will never be better than the experience each customer receives every time he comes into contact with your brand.