IT has been seven weeks since my last article. In between writing these two articles, I have moved house, travelled to London and Bordeaux, watched Adele live at Wembley, reframed some paintings, caught an infection, met up with childhood classmates and smoked some really nice cigars.
It was a good break from all the medical treatments I had endured over the last 12 months.
From my Sri Hartamas 20th floor corner balcony terrace, I have a 270-degree view, spanning from Taman Tun in the east to Bangsar South (Kerinchi) to Bangsar (original) to Damansara Heights (original) to the city centre with KL Tower and Twin Towers to the west of my view.
This view brought back old memories. Some 40 years back, Section 17 Petaling Jaya was a new township developed by Petaling Garden Bhd followed by new townships sprouting out into developments branded as Damansara Jaya, Damansara Utama and Damansara Kim. Damansara Heights was actually government land developed by SPPK for senior government officials and due to its location and prestige, the Damansara brand name was borrowed by property developers. Brand prestige association was the norm.
Property developers in the 1990s and 2000s stretched the Damansara brand association a little further by naming their projects Ara Damansara to Damansara Perdana to Kota Damansara and to so many other Damansaras. The original Damansara Heights was named as such because the land was situated on a hill and in the Mukim of Damansara. It has retained its prestige by virtue of having the highest valuation on a psf basis compared to all the other Damansara-named property projects.
On a similar note, Petaling Garden was named as such back in 1957 because it was in the Mukim of Petaling, which is next to Old Town or Section 1 which is the origin of Petaling Jaya. Petaling Garden went on to develop Taman Petaling Klang and Sri Petaling which was actually located in south Kuala Lumpur.
Branding by association to the original development gives confidence to the public that the development will be built by a trustworthy developer and not only will they deliver consistent high quality houses, it will be completed on time. Those were the days of abandoned projects by poorly funded property developers so instilling buyer confidence was of upmost importance to property developers as potential buyers were few and far in between. Property loans were mainly extended by Malaysia Building Society Bhd as our local banking funding capabilities were in its infancy.
Then came the new breed of property developers. The latecomers can only acquire large tracts of plantation land on the fringe of Kuala Lumpur and Petaling Jaya or sometimes at the fringe of secondary towns like Klang and Kajang. Headed by a marketing savvy founder, SP Setia Bhd started its own brand and over the next 15 to 20 years, Setia branded townships appeared all over Selangor, Johor and Penang. Many other young property developers followed suit with their own brand name development. Savvy marketing campaigns was conducted through the various growing advertising medium of television, newspapers and radio. Direct marketing was employed, sales galleries and show houses were important tools used to convince buyers to move out of the increasingly expensive areas of Petaling Jaya and inner Kuala Lumpur. Hence Klang Valley became the catchword for location, location location.
As the development projects moved further and further away from Klang Valley like Putrajaya, Semenyih and Ijok, availability of highway connectivity became the new catchword. More advertising is required to convince buyers to relocate their place of abode. New products featuring gated communities, recreational parks etc, are planned to make it more enticing, attracting new buyers. A strong developer brand name will be the differentiating factor for potential buyers.
It was no different in the consumer product category. Branding and brand image were the rage from 1990s onwards. Imported brands were perceived to be of better quality when compared to local brands.
Smart local entrepreneurs would set up a company in Paris, Milan, London, New York and Geneva. register their brand name/trademark and legally claimed their brand name is associated with the famous city. If it was apparel, fashion and leather goods, they would use Milan which was the fashion capital of the world. High-end skincare, fragrance and cosmetics would be associated with Switzerland, Paris and so forth.
My marketing team and I faced this branding by association dilemma when we decided to launch our own brand of colour cosmetics, Silkygirl. The Malaysian cosmetic market was dominated by international foreign brands for the last 30 years and my marketing team was arguing that Silkygirl will suffer from brand deficit/inferior image if it is perceived by the consumers to be a local brand.
We finally decided to present it as a local brand. I had felt at that time that our Malaysian consumers were ready for a Malaysian brand that understands Malaysian skin tones and colours. What was needed was a smart advertising campaign that resonates with local culture and values of our consumers. For Singapore, we presented Silkygirl as a local brand using top Mediacorp artistes and local programmes to promote the brand.
Luckily for us, the local consumers accepted our brand. Silkygirl was a classic case study for me on how branding by association (local culture and values) resonates with consumers.
In this current digital age, marketeers are touting brand building by consumer experiences. Guess I have to go back to school as I am unable to figure out on how to offer consumer experiences over YouTube and a smart phone. Maybe it is similar to what we would have deemed as shotgun advertising in our good old days, hoping to hit some consumers when we advertise over the mass medium.
Rather than losing sleep over it, I would leave it to the new batch of entrepreneurs to figure it out.
In the meantime, I will retreat to my sky terrace, select my favourite Adele song from Spotify to play over the new wireless Sonos speaker that my son had just bought. Perfect time for me to get a glass of Bordeaux Red, light a cigar and just enjoy the view of my beloved city that I had once knew.