When folks talk about brand and branding in this era of mobility, you would probably hear them suggesting making use of apps, gaming, mobile ads, and websites (of course). In case you wonder, those are mere channels to carry out a brand exposure. These channels that include the likes of social media, email, and mobile app are only as important as the postal service that carry your letter.
A brand is like a complicated organic being. Take a burger as an example. McDonald or Wendy ain’t just about the meat patty, the buns, the coleslaw or even the pickles. These brands are made up of the product mix, the presentation, the restaurant building, the manager, the waiters and the waitresses, and much more. Yes, I did mention “much” instead of”many”.
Branding is about the waiter giving a little boy a lift-up because the latter could not reach the ketchup. When the manager scolded his staff in front of someone else, that’s branding! Unfortunately, when a cook sneezed without covering his nose and mouth, that is also part of branding activity. Even though, it’s considered unprecedented.
1.THINK OF BRANDING AS BRINGING UP A CHILD
In my previous post on Growing A Small Business, I mentioned that you have to treat your company’s brand building activity like raising a child. What do you want your child to be known for? Do you want him or her to be known for tidiness, honesty, a spendthrift or a spoilt brat?
Before Michael started his own startup, he had an oversea’s assignment with a company in Shanghai. When he left, his son was only 12. A year into the oversea’s stint, his teenage son started playing truant at school. As the issue became serious, Michael knew back then that he had to come back to rectify the situation as soon as possible. After he came back, Michael’s love managed to guide his son back to the filial boy that he left 2 years ago. The last I heard, his son managed to secure a place in a local university to pursue an Accountancy course.
2. HAVE A VISION FOR YOUR BRAND
Your brand vision should always precede revenue and profit. When you don’t know what to do, always use point # 1 as the guiding principle. What vision do you have for your child? I don’t think you are so narrow-minded as to only think of your child’s income when he grows up.
Let us examine some fine examples of good brand visions:
“To be the best quick service restaurant experience. Being the best means providing outstanding quality, service, cleanliness, and value, so that we make every customer in every restaurant smile.” – McDonald’s
“Capture and share the world’s moments.” – Instagram
“A computer on every desktop and in every home.” – Microsoft
“To be Earth’s most customer-centric company, where customers can find and discover anything they might want to buy online, and endeavors to offer its customers the lowest possible prices.” – Amazon
A brand vision must be forward-looking. If possible, the statement must be set in stone and immortalized. CEOs may come and go, but all of them must adhere strictly to the vision statement when carrying out their action plan. Imagine yourself taking over the leadership role from Jeff Besoz. Your strategies may be different from Jeff. But as long as the vision is intact, you will not drive the brand to a different direction.
3. KNOW YOUR CUSTOMERS BEFORE DETERMINING YOUR BRAND IDENTITY
Imagine the awkwardness when the t-shirt that you target at teenagers, ends up earning more love from your targetted audiences’ parents.
In my early days, I have never appreciated branding as one of the most important elements in a business. I got a job in a cake manufacturing company fresh out of university. The company produced frozen pound cakes, fruit cakes and varieties of festive theme cakes to supermarkets nationwide. Everything was moving like clockwork in those days until when the CEO decided to launch a new series of ready-to-eat steamed buns into the market. Imagine steam buns with cheese, tunas, and beef chunks as fillings.
Needless to say, the project was a disaster. The initial rush during the launch prompted us to make some significant purchase in packaging and raw materials. Although I don’t own the company, I did do some soul searching after the failure, just to see what went wrong. We used the same brand for our steamed buns, just like our cakes. Somehow, the brand’s popularity did not convert into new revenues for our new project.
4. CREATE A STORY FOR YOUR BRAND
Who has yet to hear about the powerful stories of Ray Kroc, Colonel Sanders, Steve Jobs and the likes of these legends? These entrepreneurs’ struggles and motivation are able to rally people of different nations to go into business.
What if you don’t have a good story to lift your brand up like Ray Kroc? Let me tell you this. Every startup has a story. It depends on you, the startup owner to make your story, your brand story to be as inspiring as you can. Your own struggle can be used to curate the brand story. But it’s your choice though.
The story of your brand need not be perfect. Just like the struggle of bringing up a kid, a brand’s story can never be perfect. It should never strive to be unrealistic. The brand should personify the struggle of your target audience. Your customers should feel the humanity in your brand; like someone that is close to their heart. It’s your brand story that separates your products from the rest of your competitors in the deep bloody sea.
5. QUIT MILKING YOUR BRAND TO OBLIVION
As your company grows, new blood will enter your company. If you are not careful, these “new blood” may cause adulteration to your brand identity. Think Levis going into the tuxedo business.
How many still recall the famous Aiwa brand mini-components stereo that rivaled the likes of Kenwood and Sony in the 1990s? The Japanese company was established in the 60s. Baby Boomers and Gen X in their teens loved to be acquainted with the audio products that came with the brand. I still recall the awesome feeling of carrying an Aiwa mini-component stereo when we went for beach parties. The “cool” moment when a nice girl caught me glancing at her while I was listening to my Aiwa portable minidisc system.
But all the awesomeness came crashing down when some desperate leader put the Aiwa brand into daily electrical appliances like an electric toothbrush. How wicked can that be? Brand dilution happens when a team of brand owners put short-term earnings ahead of brand equity. It could be licensing a brand to someone else or using the brand for multiple products without a proper strategy. Without good management and control, the overextension will stretch the brand to its demise.
At the time of writing, many once famous brands like Toshiba, is already facing a similar fate like Aiwa. Think of their thoughtless branching into cheap electronics, like your daily alarm clock.
6. DO NO EVIL
It’s easy to kill a brand. Really! Ask Elizabeth Holmes on how her near-psychotic disdain of the law sends the brand of Theranos down the drain. You can read a short snippet of Theranos here if you want to.
In the era where everybody can get access to instant news via social media, always think ahead before you want to cut corners. I might as well put a video below to illustrate how cutting corners could pan out in real life. A buyer vented his frustration on a property developer shoddy design and it went viral on Youtube and Facebook. By the way, the video is in a mixture of English and Cantonese. If you can’t understand Cantonese, just wait for the part when the buyer smashed up the marble floor with a sledgehammer.
7. CONSIDER A LADY FOR THE BRAND MANAGER POSITION
If building a brand is synonymous with raising a child, who would you pick to assume the position? Of course, there will always be exceptions.
I have taken nearly a week to finish this post. Therefore, I think I should stop here. If you guys want to add in anything, please drop a comment by all means…especially the part where I vouch for a lady to take up the branding position.
By the way, this is the latest blog post of a fellow blogger that I follow on Twitter: The Story of the Mountain: 10 Genuine Heartfelt Lessons about Loving Someone With Depression. Enjoy the post.