The EDGE, 23 May 2005
In a previous article, I mentioned that names, logos, trademarks, advertising and promotion are tactical as opposed to strategic items of the brand building process. They are useful as they protect and communicate what your brand stands for to various target audiences. They are much more effective when driven by a strong brand strategy.
Nevertheless, naming and communications can help or hinder brand building. This article looks at some of the issues involved.
Taking communications in a general sense, it is very important to explain what your brand stands for and why it is better than the competition – this is the executional role of brand communications. Commonly used methods of brand communications include advertising, events, sponsorships, promotions, direct marketing, customer relationship management programmes, public relations and co-branding with other company brands.
Some are more expensive than others and what is important to remember is that it is not how much you spend, but how wisely you spend it. Some companies in Malaysia spend between RM50 million and RM100 million per year on advertising, much of which does not influence the consumer; rather, it makes promises that cannot be delivered. Avoid making this mistake. Mass advertising is rarely effective in long-term brand building, and cannot be afforded by many companies.
It is interesting to note that Starbucks – a global brand with around 7,500 outlets – has only spent around US$20 million in the whole of its 20-year existence. Yahoo! never advertised at all when building its brand – word of mouth was enough. So think about who you are trying to communicate with and what is the most effective means. Public relations can be very effective and low-cost.
Some companies change logos, using designs to signify that changes have occurred. In Malaysia, I know that some firms have spent between RM500,000 and RM1 million on logos that do not change the customer experience, nor mean anything of substance to the consumer. As a result, perceptions about the brand do not change the brand and neither does the image. It is easy to waste money in communications activities that are not well thought out. Nike’s logo cost only US$35.
And what’s in a name? Brand names are sometimes planned in advance, inherited or changed en route, and care should be taken when choosing them. Brand names should be memorable, short, meaningful, “protectable” and acceptable in all markets you might want to enter.
Nokia has easy recall. IBM is more relevant these days than International Business Machines was in the past, as is HP (Hewlett-Packard). And they travel well. But remember the case of Nova – the world car from General Motors (or should I say, GM). This product was successfully launched around the world with the exception of Spain, where a literal translation is “won’t go”. Well, nobody wants to drive a car that won’t go and in Spain, they didn’t. GM had not done its homework.
Sometimes, names have to change. Legend, the Chinese brand that makes televisions and other consumer electronic products, has had to change its name to Lenovo as the original name could not be registered in markets around the world it wanted to penetrate. So when you’re thinking of names for your brand(s), make sure that you can register and protect them in any market you wish to go into in the future.
Finally, let’s take a look at taglines. These sum up the brand’s promise and often appear as the sign-off in advertisements, but because they represent a promise, they have to be delivered on.
Good taglines are also short (three to four words), memorable, relevant and often a call to action. They also offer what is called “the brand promise” and promising too much can be embarrassing. Do you really believe that Hyundai is “Always There For You”? Probably not. But when you see AirAsia’s “Now Everybody Can Fly”, it is believable, memorable and deliverable.
So the key point to remember is that all aspects of communications can achieve great image impact. Apart from the above, don’t forget the Internet. There is a worldwide boom in Internet advertising now, but make sure your website is user-friendly and use it to talk to customers.
Is your website easy to download and navigate? And do you respond fast to enquiries? In some research with six top insurance companies, we e-mailed them a question four times in the same day but only one company got back to us within 24 hours. Two never even replied.
Every communication opportunity counts, and your brand image (and bank balance) suffer if you get it wrong.