PETALING JAYA: Brands are evolving fast. Besides being a tool to gain market share and provide competitive edge, brands are expanding their roles.
Apart from their primary role in merely engaging with customers, many are championing for a cause or purpose. And by doing so, are attracting consumers to the brands as they create a positive image on consumers’ minds in the market place.
Nestle Malaysia and Singapore regional head of communications and marketing services Chow Phee Chat told StarBiz that branding, when effectively harnessed, could evoke strong emotions and responses as it resonates with the consumer.
“Beyond being associated with a cause, a brand needs to walk the talk, have a clear strategy on how it supports the cause, and translate this strategy into action and initiatives which deliver results. It is about creating a brand that is a force for good.
“In Nestle, we call this having Brands with Purpose. Milo, as an advocate for more active and healthier lifestyles, is one good example of this, ” he said.
With over 60 years in driving grassroots sports development in Malaysia, he added, Milo continues to bring to life the brand’s essence of providing consumers with the energy to go further and encouraging Malaysians to be more active.
Its recent Milo Aktif Negaraku movement, which consolidates various well-loved grassroots sports programmes and new initiatives under one banner, has helped over six million Malaysians get active in 2018, Chow noted.
He said this direction is in line with Nestle’s purpose to enhance the quality of life contributing to a healthier future.
Malaysian Advertisers Association (MAA) president Mohamed Kadri Mohamed Taib agrees that branding helps in championing a cause and to be associated with it.
He said branding has evolved from product centric to value centric today.
He added: “The ability of a brand to adopt and be associated to a cause such as staff welfare, community development, environmental sustainability, and human rights tends to attract consumers to support a brand as it creates positive feelings among consumers which make them feel better about themselves. This creates a positive image in the consumer marketplace.”
Kadri, who is also Coca-Cola Malaysia public affairs and communications director, said branding is fundamental and an essential tool in any business. Branding provides differentiation which leads to long-term profitability, he noted.
According to him, a brand must incorporate authenticity in its commitment to a cause and stand for values that promote the cause.
All branding efforts must be aligned to those values, Kadri said, adding that this would inspire trust among the audience to build a relationship with a brand.
In engaging in a cause, Branding Association of Malaysia president Datuk Eric Chong equates a company to a person.
A company is like a person, he said, adding that it’s known for who it is through the things it does.
A person is positively perceived if he associates himself with positive endeavours and vice versa, he said.
“It’s this very reason why, as far as branding is concerned, a company should engage in causes which are beneficial to society, such as charity, education, environment, equal rights, poverty eradication, etc.
“And when this happens, a truly positive outcome is derived – the company gets to brand itself positively by championing meaningful causes, and society benefits by having this socially responsible enterprise taking the initiative in creating a positive societal impact, ” Chong told StarBiz.
However, he said when branding is done correctly, the value which can be created is huge. The better way or superior strategy to build “equity” for a business is via the acquisition of intrinsic brand value.
Amid intense global market competition, fast changing consumer patterns and ever-volving technologies, Chong said businesses need to possess knowledge of the latest market trends and skills of the latest branding tools in order to compete effectively and not be rendered obsolete.
Meanwhile, AirAsia Big Loyalty CEO Spencer Lee said consumers want brands to drive positive social change and give them experiences that enhance and fulfill their passions. AirAsia is a strong brand synonymous with value, innovation and making dreams come true, he said.
“We will continue to build on these promises as we expand our ecosystem beyond flights and evolve airasia.com from a flight booking site into a comprehensive travel and lifestyle platform.
“We won’t allow ourselves to become complacent by past achievements and we constantly challenge ourselves to do better, ” Lee stressed.
The evolving nature of branding, according to Dentsu LHS chief strategy officer Milan Agnihotri, means that brands have to be purposeful, participative and go beyond engagement with customers and connect with them.
Most brands, he said, are now pressured to adopt sustainable practices in the way they conduct business.
However, he noted that brands need to come across as genuine and authentic towards the cause they are associating with in their marketing practices.
“Through its behaviour and actions, brands need to establish its right to champion the cause that it is taking up. Consumers should experience the brand’s intent towards the cause. Any green-washing by brands risks attracting backlash from consumers, ” he added.
Milan said embracing a four-dimensional approach leads to experiential and people-oriented branding instead of a two-dimensional one.
For example, new shareholders, brand footprints or some 500 PowerPoint slides are not going to develop or further improve a brand like Malaysia Airlines, which has its DNA rooted in golden service and Malaysian hospitality, he said.
“It is an experiential brand, in which superb on-board service and gracious hospitality, tasty in-flight meals that is representative of the Malaysian culinary spirit, punctuality or in the event of a delay, thoughtful and efficient handling are just some of factors that will eventually enrich the brand, ” Milan noted.
Branding is what the customer feels about a company’s products and services and is driven by both creative communications and the customer-service experience.
Lewis Malaysia managing director Ann Chong felt that any brand would be able to find a cause to support and organisations behind those causes would be happy to have the support of prominent brands. But the real challenge she said lies in brands finding the right cause or causes to support. There are many brands collaborating with non-profit organisations as well as brand ads demonstrating a company’s stand against or for a cause, she said, noting that not all cause-related campaigns have been successful.
“The caution that brands must take is to choose causes that are aligned with their core values and purpose. Jumping on the hype bandwagon for the sake of staying “relevant” is risky because consumers can see right through it.
“Although building brands with a strong purpose and cohesive campaigns is important, brand owners should also be aware of the implications in breaking promises.
“A faulty product or negative service experience can very quickly diminish positive brand equity. This is increasingly critical in the age of social media when users tend to share negative news more rampantly than positive ones, ” Ann said.
Hence, she said there is no one effective channel, or one effective strategy to produce a successful brand, adding that the journey towards achieving that success is an ever-evolving pathway. Lewis Malaysia, is part of the Lewis global integrated communications agency with 29 offices worldwide.
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