Thursday, April 27, 2006

What is a brand?


brand?
Originally uploaded by yasmin the storyteller.
Everybody wants to talk about 'brand' these days. Leaders of state, CEO's, marketing managers, college lecturers, advertising people, brand consultants.

Most of these people, of course, really have absolutely no clue what a brand is. And that might include me.

Here's the proof: If we really knew what a brand was and how we can make one, why are we just talking about brands, instead of building one?

In fact, generally speaking, the more a person has to say about brand, the less they probably know about it.

Unless of course, if they speak in simple terms. How simple? Allow me to conduct this brief exercise.

Which city in the world stands for romantic, chic and fashionable?

Which city in Asia is clean and strictly disciplined?

Now let's move on to products.

Which brand of cigarette stands for masculine and independence?

Which brand of jeans stands for American and sexy?

Which line of clothing stands for colours?

Chances are, everyone who is reading this had the same answers as everyone else.

Back to the local context, which brand of petrol, after a consumer research here, was considered as a national hero?

Which local clothing company stands for classy, expensive and slightly colonial clothes?

See it's that simple. What your brand stands for isn't big words in a thick document with charts in it? No! A good brand can be described in 2 or 3 words.

So how will you know who can help you build the brand of your product or even this country, for that matter?

Here's an idea. The next time you're looking for a partner to help
build your brand, demand this of the companies that are pitching for your business:

Demand that they show you the work they've done in the last 10 years. Why? Because if they haven't done any work that you recognise or remember or liked or that your family talked about in the last 10 years, why should you believe them when they tell you that they'll do it for you now? Correct?

And, demand that the work not be for just 1 or 2 clients, but for 6 or 7 clients. Why? Because if it's only for 1 or 2 clients, then there is a good chance that it was the clients that were good, not the agency.

If you're a CEO and have no time to see heaps of agency proposals, demand for these reels. Ask your subordinates to show you that video tape or dvd that contains the work of the agency they're recommending. If you don't like what you see, then why are they recommending it?

And so in the end, defining a brand and choosing an agency or a brand consultant may just be that much easier than everyone would have you believe. Doesn't it make you wonder why so many foreign brand consultants charge you millions just to exercise a bit of common sense?

Perhaps now we may begin to understand the unspeakable importance of having a vision.

The older I am, the more I learn - from watching, doing, making
mistakes, and getting up again.

And although I am tempted to say that the more I learn, the less I know, I must admit that, now at least I know that things are really much simpler than people would have me believe.

This applies absolutely to what I know about Brand.

For example, I know now that, the only hope a Brand has in order to go far lies in two things: God's blessing, and someone at the top who knows exactly what he (or she) wants.

In a word, someone with Vision.

He needs to be someone with a strong personality, and very clear beliefs and principles. The brand will then take on the personality of THAT person. Everything else will follow through.

Look at Steve Job and Apple. Look at Marlboro. The Body Shop.

Let's get closer to home, for me, in Malaysia.

Look at Petronas. Look at Pat Liew and what she has done for
BritishIndia. Look at Dave's Deli.

They all have clear personalities. They all had a visionary starting it, and someone presently at the top driving it.

I have had my fingers burnt several times, dealing with local and multi-national enteprises whose leaders think that the way to go is by managing the brand with a committee of 10, 20, 30 people.

Believe me, nothing great has ever been created by a committee. And as George Bernard Shaw once said, "Progress is in the hands of unreasonable individuals."

When a leader relies on large commitees to make decisions, I
immediately know that that leader has no inkling of what the brand should be, or where it should go.

He may have position, but no vision.

Sadly, this is true of at least 90% of the companies that I've ever dealt with.

It is also true of 99% of advertising agencies that I have ever come into contact with.