The deluge of information, tip sheets and whatnot you can find online about bolstering your brand can either make you gritty or giddy. Sometimes, at the end of the day, your understanding of the word “brand” can become slightly displaced.
Jacqueline Alexis Thng, chief executive officer of Lexis Branding, came to Cebu late last year to put the basics (and trends) about branding back to the table.
No time is better than now to relearn about how branding should be approached. Thng, a brand strategist and consultant with a long list of successful brands like Octopus Hong Kong, Tamagotchi, Goldilocks, and Belo Medical Group at her tail, pointed out that the economic cooperation among member countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) spells market opportunities for home-grown businesses and start-ups.
Speaking to an assortment of businessmen, professionals, marketers and government officials at Marco Polo Plaza Cebu at two separate occasions, Alexis reminded participants the essence of branding, saying that it is a recipe of three important things: image and identity, behaviour, and execution.
“Branding is about what we believe in, what we stand for, our personality, how we express it, how we act and behave, the relationships we form, the experiences people have of us, and what we do,” she said.
Thng shared what businesses and start-ups need to keep in mind about branding. First, it is about clearly defining the entire experience that the product offers. One way to do this is to make design a strategy so people will know and understand who you are.
“Defining your brand is important, especially now that branding equity is an asset to the business. Buildings dilapidate but brands live on,” she said, adding that some brands have become so powerful they live on in the minds of the people, like Kodak (properly called Eastman Kodak), an American technology company focused on imaging solutions and services for businesses.
“A brand is not just a project. A product is made in the factory but a brand is made in the mind. Products can be copied but the brand is unique.” —Jacqueline Alexis Thng
You should be careful about showing what your brand is, especially when it comes to places; certain qualities will be highlighted. Do not commit the mistake officials made when they agreed to show the slums of the Philippines in the movie Bourne Legacy, because the country is not all slums. Make a similar brand commitment Davao, Philippines is doing when it is strictly implementing a no smoking policy in public places.
Branding today is about creating tribes, about associations, like what Starbucks is doing with its customers, according to Thng. Digital brands, such as Google, are the thing today, she added, because they are the future.
She pointed out that while brands offer identification, businesses should not limit themselves to their logos.
“The logo is just the ‘pot’ where we fill in all the positive and negative experiences with a brand,” she said. “It’s a fact that we’re hardwired to notice only what’s different. If your brand is differentiated, it stands out.”
“Differentiate or disappear,” “Change or be changed,” “Be real”—these are the challenges she posed to large companies and start-ups during the workshop.
Then when a brand becomes stronger, it is time for the company to narrow its focus. Focus, focus, focus, Thng called out, for a brand cannot appeal to everyone. She cited Nintendo having more value on the stock market because of its focus on games, compared to Sony.
“Small can be beautiful. Focus and be bold,” Thng assured.
Branding is also about reinvention, about innovation, about foresight. Business owners must be compelled to think out of the box, such as the case with Vertu, a luxury, handmade mobile phone brand, which associated itself with Ferrari that already has a brand legacy as an Italian luxury sports car.
“Defining your brand is important, especially now that branding equity is an asset to the business. Buildings dilapidate but brands live on.” —Jacqueline Alexis Thng
“A brand is not just a project. A product is made in the factory but a brand is made in the mind. Products can be copied but the brand is unique. So first and foremost, do your employees understand your brand?” Thng said.
It is not, she added, what you tell people but what people say about you. This means business owners should think long-term by creating a brand roadmap that stretches five to ten years, ensuring a brand experience across all touch points, including people and behaviour, marketing and communications, products and services, and environment.
“People before systems, that’s the brand essence. When you have a brand and you think like everybody else, you will fail,” Thng emphasized, illustrating the ideal customer journey—attract, inspire, inform, connect or engage, and establish.
Never forget these basics about branding. Remember that, at the end of the day, as Thng rightly said, “brands should make you happy.” #
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