Key is to make branding efficient by

Published in Philippine Daily Inquirer, Business Friday, September 19, 2008

Many moons ago, branding simply meant creating a good product or service name, developing an attractive logo, providing extensive distribution and spending huge amounts of money in advertising to address a general market. Never mind, if the product or service did not suit certain segments of the market.

Today and more than ever, the cost of money has become more expensive, competition is aplenty, markets are fragmented and consumers have become more discriminating. Thus, practicing greater efficiency in branding is one of the more important accountabilities of a marketing person. In an era of post-modernization and globalization, money is no longer limitless and wantonly spent where world markets take a dip, competition is tougher and industry players emphasize business efficiency to bring down costs for consumers. Here are five ways to make branding more efficient.

Clearly define your target market

Forget about targeting a general or universal market. Focusing on a clearly defined market and catering to the needs, wants and whims of this market is more practical. The failure of most businesses however, is the vacuum between the target market on paper and the capability to deliver the product or service that suits the target’s needs. Businesses must take a long and hard look at their own capability. If the target market does not match the brand’s present deliverable, the choice is to reposition or turn around one’s present capability to match the needs and expectations of a targeted market.

Pamper your loyal customers

Most brands spend much of their resources and time focusing on the recruitment of new customers, failing to make their long-time customers feel truly valued. In truth, many long-time customers specially service consumers simply suffer from buying inertia, where buying or subscribing to a specific brand is borne out of habit and the lack of time to actively look for a replacement brand. Picture a scenario then when these long-time customers awaken from their slumber and suddenly realize how they have been taken for granted by their original brand. After all, it is six times more expensive to look for new clients versus pampering long-time good customers.

Use media that is certain to reach more of your market

Media has become too fragmented that the choices are overwhelming for brand owners. Nonetheless, most brand owners simply look at the bottom-line expense failing to note that while certain media are inexpensive, the reach is also far too low.

Brand owners must assess the objectives behind the use of each medium. Is the medium meant to trigger awareness among a target market, where pervasive brand awareness is lacking? Or is the medium meant to deepen the connection and experience about the brand to complement initial brand awareness?

Most brand owners are led to believe that any kind of awareness is better than no awareness at all. This has to be qualified. So as to avoid wastage, the awareness level must measure up to a certain quality to assure brand owners a return for their investment. Quality use of media means three things – One, a suitable number of the target segment must be reached based on the brand objective; two, the use of the media complements the image and message the brand wishes to communicate; and three, the targeted market must be exposed to the message more than once over the campaign period.

It is practical for brand owners to hold back a while in a situation where there is far too restricted budgets or absence of ample resources for media communications.

Bearish markets make for more efficient branding

Business owners naturally shy from major expenses when the economy is flat and the market has dipped. But hundreds of brand cases bear the argument that ample investments made in downtimes have paid off many times over in good times. Examples are global brands of Procter & Gamble, Unilever, Coca-Cola, etc. Locally, the brands of SM, Jollibee, Chowking, to name a few, were born, marketed and branded during an economic crisis. When the war chest is full, it is best to use a portion of this to build brands in a bearish market when more value buys are likely to proliferate and where industry players cannot afford but to keep silent.

Get in expert people to do the job

Today, the communications and media industry is deluged with novice or inexperienced people trying to make an extra buck. Quite a number pose as branding experts where their experience is highly limited, often restricted to advertising, public relations or special events or marketing and branding for mature brands, already with a global-dictated template, to name a few. There are advertising suppliers with extremely limited technical knowledge derived from telenovela or television documentary work engaged to do commercial production at a quarter to half the cost of expert production work but with highly disastrous results for brand imaging and communication, so with photography suppliers. Also, underground creative writers and artists who have less passion for their sideline jobs seemingly having another standard, often far less superior than the creative output they exhibit in their formal jobs, etc. Interestingly, this emerging group of novices and substandard providers has the network and clout to win contracts.

Branding work is expert-people driven. While networking or the who you know syndrome works wondrous ways in other aspects of making business operations efficient, it does not work the same wonder in branding. Disastrous imaging, time and financial results happen to branding efforts colored with parochial and political decision-making. Business owners must take the time to meticulously choose the people they will make accountable for their brand imaging, whether employable or as consultants.