Branding is no game of chance

Hyper-competition, globalization, consumer empowerment, creeping urbanization, the internet and social media as well as rapid changes in technology are some of the major drivers that make running a business or a brand today more complicated than ever.

That is why to the untrained and uncertain, failure has become acceptable as a method of learning how to run a business and manage a brand.

Some business owners and brand stewards subscribe to the belief that failure is part and parcel of becoming an entrepreneur and the only way to learn is through personal experience.

Some believe that with repeated failures, success is certain to come. Unfortunately, these entrepreneurs endure financial pain if not undue distress.

But there are the wise ones who acknowledge that branding is not their expertise and therefore seek professional help.

Why is branding important?

Not all products and services are a brand. This means that a product or service with a name may not necessarily be a brand.

A product or service rightfully is a brand if a potential or current user is aware of the product, has knowledge of its attributes and from memory is able to conjure images, perceptions, experiences and positive associations at the mere mention of the brand’s name.

Developing a brand mandates a differentiating brand strategy for the brand to be recalled and locked in memory. A trade event, a consumer event with participation in movie premiers, concerts, stage shows, fiestas, a publicity stunt, a celebrity endorsement without a differentiating strategy behind it—all contribute to name recall but not brand equity or deep-seated differentiating memories about the brand.

Scholarly journals repeatedly affirm that a brand with a top of mind recall at the mere mention of the category is often the segment’s dominant brand, provided all other factors like the product, price and place or distribution remain satisfactory to the customer.

A dominant top of mind recall also often means that many consumers hold the brand in high esteem and have high trust in the brand, enough for them to use the brand often or be loyal to the brand.

Why do business owners not engage in branding?

There are businesses ripe for branding but business owners delay or refuse to take it to the next level.

Here are some of the reasons why:

Overcoming the fear of the unknown. Business owners who are greenhorns to branding have not experienced the far greater benefits and rewards that come with successful branding.

These business owners are simply stumped by the relative expense that goes with building a brand.

They continue to believe that branding may not be necessary as the business has survived sufficiently to pay for business operations and generate a tidy net income that is enough to live comfortably on and send children to good schools locally or overseas.

But visionary entrepreneurs do not stop at the present and think of legacy and beyond their time.

Visionary entrepreneurs cultivate brands to last many generations.

Jollibee Food Corp., founded by Tony Tan Caktiong, started out as an ice cream shop in 1975. Today, it is valued at more than $2.2 billion and has expanded from Brunei to the United States. The brand Jollibee has indeed become larger than life. More than its commodity products, the brand evokes memories of the Jollibee mascot, family gatherings, birthday parties and happy times. These images and memories add to the value of the brand and the business.

Some think of ‘now’, not minding the future. Many businessmen think of their businesses and brands simply as a milking cow for the present, not thinking that businesses when built into brands can last beyond their lifetime.

Brands are a personal legacy. Brands carry the personal stories and beliefs of their owners.

Steve Jobs has been credited for the Apple Computer and reinventing the personal computer.

He is also still known for introducing a host of personal lifestyle technology products from iPads to iPods that have provided Apple with stable financial returns year on year and propelled it to become one of the world’s most valuable companies, even after Job’s death from pancreatic cancer in 2011.

Brands can glue families of brand owners together, like it or not. Not all products are brands. Businesses that sell commodity products and services despite not being a brand can be relatively successful. However, the life of these businesses with no legacy or proprietary recall from consumers can be fleeting.

It is easy to disband or dispose properties and assets related to the businesses that are not brands and this often happens upon the death of the founder.

But being a brand carries responsibilities even among the owner’s family and shareholders. And the greatest responsibility is to the generations of consumers that the brand is likely to serve.

No wonder families behind brands like SM, Ayala, Megaworld, Robinsons, Mercury Drug, Jollibee and Max’s, now likely joined by the second and even third and fourth generations for some, need to steadfastly glue themselves together or have at the very least representation together, like it or not, to carry the brands into future generations.

Building a brand is no easy feat. It is not for the unskilled, untrained and inexperienced. While business owners know their brands well, there is always a science to developing brands that business owners, their family, friends or close associates, new or long-time senior managers may not be trained for.

Today, time is not on the side of the business owner. With globalization, hyper-competition and the cost of building brands, making costly mistakes is not something business owners would like to get themselves into. —CONTRIBUTED