Creative Brand Management – How to stand out from the crowd without losing your identity
From airlines to yogurt manufacturers and luxury brands, companies spend billions of dollars on branding each year–all with the aim of carving a distinct identity for themselves. This remains an uphill task for many Singapore brands, according to the Reader’s Digest Trusted Brands Survey 2012. Only 27 percent of Singaporeans says that they are likely to purchase a local brand, way below the average of 47 percent in Asia. The survey interviewed 1,000 respondents from Singapore.
Your brand identity is what separates you from your competitors, what makes you unique and stand out from the crowd. Local companies can take heart from Singapore Airlines, which is globally recognized as Singapore’s number one brand and famed for its iconic air stewardesses. In an interview with SimpliFlying, Nicholas Ionides, VP, Public Affairs, Singapore Airlines, explained, “The iconic Singapore Girl has long been a cornerstone of the Singapore Airlines brand philosophy and world-class service standards, known for her warm Asian hospitality and affable, caring ways. She represents not just the Singapore Airlines flight attendant, but service-focused qualities that our cabin crew–male and female–all possess.”
Having a strong brand identity is one thing–managing it effectively is another. When advising our clients, we always remind them to apply our proprietary three Cs of brand management: Consistent, Compelling, and Calibrated.
1. Consistent- Maintain a consistent brand identity
A brand needs to evolve to keep up with the times, but your brand identity should remain essentially the same. Like the flush of first love, your brand identity is what drew customers to you when your company was first established.
Although Starbucks has ventured into retailing CDs, mints and other knick knacks, it is still essentially a cozy refuge for the bleary-eyed executive looking forward to delicious coffee served by chirpy service staff. Imagine if Starbucks were to start distributing Hello Kitties with every cup of latte–the jarring inconsistency would scare of its niche customer base and demolish its reputation as a safe haven.
Promoting its meals with Hello Kitty giveaways is, however, perfectly consistent with McDonalds’ brand identity. Over the decades, McDonalds has been distributing collectibles in a bid to stay relevant and attract new generations of children and families. By all means branch out into different areas, but be faithful to your brand identity.
2. Compelling: Tell a compelling brand story
Local vintage furniture retailer Journey East also distributes d-Bodhi, a reclaimed wood furniture brand founded by Dutch founder Raymond David. D-Bodhi’s story is lush and meaningful, beginning with railway sleepers being reclaimed and carefully crafted by Indonesian artisans before ending up as elegant yet functional furniture in homes throughout Europe and Asia. Its story of new life being breathed into old wood and the preservation of Indonesian craftsmanship has resonated across the world where the furniture is rapidly gaining new converts.
Similarly, in Singapore, retro coffee shops and cafes with compelling brand stories have mushroomed over the years. An example is Dong Po Colonial Cafe on Kandahar Street. Step into the cafe and you will be transported back to Singapore in the 1950s when Butter cake, Bostock and Macaroon tarts were served on porcelain cups and saucers. The nostalgic feeling is recreated through tangible brand elements such as black-and-white photographs and vintage furniture, and intangible brand elements such as piped-in music sung by 50s songstresses.
Calibrated: Effective brand management is a careful calibration of the tangibles and intangibles
Logos and advertisements are the tangibles of branding; creative storytelling could be both tangible (think “props” and “accessories”) and intangible (think personality, emotions and promise statements). What links these together and make the brand believable are trust and consistency. As such, a sales person who over promises and under delivers is in effect violating the trust that should underprop the delivery of an intangible (service).
Telling a brand story requires the careful calibration of the tangibles and intangibles of branding, much like the role of the conductor in an orchestra. If one aspect is out of sync, such as poor customer service or after sales, your brand identity will be compromised and trust in your company will be eroded. Many companies ride on a branding “high” when they first launch their products. Think of the frenzy and excitement that usually accompanies the launch of a new budget airline–spiffy uniforms, catchy slogans, etc. Yet a few months down the road, complaints would inevitably surface over the mismanagement of intolerable delays. This is an example of an orchestra that is out of tune because one member failed to deliver.
Leverage social media to share your brand story
Without a doubt, a positive online brand experience creates loyal customers. As several studies have discovered, the majority of consumers who engaged with a brand in the digital space–whether by participating in a contest of by “liking” a brand on Facebook–tend to not only purchase the products, but also make recommendations to their friends and family.
In fact, according to SocialMediaToday.com, 60% of interviewed respondents said that that will usually or always buy the product from the brand that they follow on Facebook and will likely recommend the brand to others. This number increases to 65% for Twitter followers.
As more companies embrace social media, the intangible elements of branding have risen to the fore.Are you quick to respond to customer feedback on Facebook? Do you provide real-time Twitter feeds to allay customers’ concerns when your service breaks down? During the recent haze saga, the National Environment Agency quickly restored the public’s trust when it started tweeting hourly PSI updates.
Building a reputable brand goes beyond sleek logos and elaborate mission statements. A lot depends on the consistency of service delivery right through to after sales, and on the careful calibration of the synergies between the tangible and intangible elements of branding.