Business Times - 23 Jun 2009
Don't discount the importance of branding exercises
By VICTOR KATHEYAS
BRANDING exercises aren't just for bigger firms with deeper pockets. They are also important for SMEs, even those that have just started out, says Luke Lim, CEO of brand growth consultancy AS Louken.
An SME itself, AS Louken has been motivated to grow home-grown brands since it started operating in 2001 - and now counts the likes of Charles & Keith, BreadTalk and Tangs among its clients.
Having worked with plenty of SMEs, Mr Lim offers this advice: Branding needs to be 'holistic' - that is, it needs to be part of a company's overall strategy.
And branding isn't just about advertising or media exposure - it's about communicating a company's value proposition to existing and potential customers in a compelling and effective manner.
Having communicated the substance behind its brand, a company then needs to 'deliver the brand experience to consumers'.
The aim is to achieve parity between customers' expectations - which are a function, to some extent, of branding initiatives - and customers' actual experience, says Mr Lim.
If customers' actual experience falls short of their expectations, a company may find it difficult to retain clients. Conversely, if actual experience exceeds expectations, it would be fair to say existing branding initiatives are not doing the company justice.
Mr Lim points out that many prominent local companies that started as SMEs did not rely excessively on advertisements.
They chose instead to focus on visual marketing at points of sale, on their packaging and even on their websites. Over time, as consumers felt satisfied with what they received, the company's brand equity grew as well.
In fact, one often neglected aspect of branding is within a company - what Mr Lim calls 'internal alignment'.
Essentially, this means making sure everyone in the company is on the same page on what the company offers, so every moment of truth - such as an enquiry, indication of interest or even a purchase - is dealt with in the most advantageous manner. This holds true regardless of a company's size, says Mr Lim.