Why brands matter for economic revival

Brand passion: (From left) Azrani, Wee, Chacko, Khaw and Prabha at the IAA Malaysia webinar.

KUALA LUMPUR: A crisis triggers brand owners to reorient their marketing efforts, and usually, advertising and promotion (A&P) budgets are the first to be slashed.

However, contrary to conventional wisdom, brands that have an enhanced presence during a crisis, such as this pandemic, would be the ones to stand out post-recovery.

“In times of crisis, consumers take notice of brands that ’stand by’ them and show that they care. Inadvertently, such brands secure customer confidence and loyalty, ” International Advertising Association Malaysia (IAA Malaysia) president John D Chacko said, adding that this is the case with both multinationals and small and medium enterprises (SMEs).

Besides generating economic value, he said brands play a critical role in fuelling economic recovery through innovation, creativity and optimism.

They convey the source, quality and authenticity of products and services while representing pride, passion and trust, amongst others, he added.

He said trust provides consumers with peace of mind that they have made the right choice. Consumers would remain loyal to brands they trust. Every ringgit counts and, in many cases, he noted that consumers tend to gravitate towards brands they trust because they have less time to experiment.

The Edelman Trust Barometer 2020 concluded that 60% of people are turning more to brands they trust, especially in times of crisis, ” said Chacko, one of the panellists at the recent IAA’s “Why Brands Matter” webinar - the second of the three-part “BrandsMatter” webinar series.

During the lively hour-long webinar attended by over 300 brand owners, marketers and members of the media, the four-member panel highlighted insights from industry captains on how brands can ignite pride, passion and trust among consumers, while contributing towards resetting corporate Malaysia on the path to economic recovery.

The other three panellists were Adam Wee (former group chief marketing officer of CIMB Group and Malayan Banking Bhd), Azrani Rustam (corporate affairs and communications director of JTI Malaysia) and Rudy Khaw (chief brand officer of AirAsia Group).

AirAsia, which has become the pride and joy of South-East Asia and Malaysian consumers over the decade is a stellar example of brand pride.

“Even as the airline and tourism industries were harshly affected by the pandemic this year, as a brand we never let that deter our vision.

“Airline aside, we have always been about the people and we used our familiar brand to not only help those in need but also reshaped our offerings to remain relevant and in tune with the people, ” Khaw said.

Looking back, he said the natural entrepreneurial mindset that’s ingrained in the business has allowed the group to be a step ahead in ensuring all the building blocks were in place for moments exactly like this where it is ready to constantly evolve, taking for example going from in-flight food to restaurants in malls, and now food delivery.

Additionally, he said in May this year, the group ventured into the food delivery industry under the brand AirAsia Food, engaging with 500 other restaurants.

Now, AirAsia Food is available under the airasia.com super app, which was unveiled last month. Eventually, the service would be extended to other countries including Singapore, Indonesia, Thailand and the Philippines.

Wee acknowledged that for brick-and-mortar businesses to gain customers’ trust, particularly with the millennials and Gen Z, can prove to be an arduous task even for brands that have been established over the decades.

“This is an era of Brand Fragility. Where brands no longer need to be built over time and can equally be destroyed overnight. What’s important is for brands to be genuine, ” he noted.

CIMB recognises that digital competency is key for businesses, he said. “That is why the group partnered with an e-commerce solutions provider earlier this year to help local SMEs without digital presence to leverage on an online store platform, providing a complete suite of complimentary services and efficient digital payment platforms for these merchants, ” he said.

Wee added that as a brand, the move also helped set CIMB on the right path of being relevant to the country’s growing gig economy dominated by the millennials and Gen Z.

Meanwhile, Azrani pointed out that while brands have a significant role to play at a time when economies need rebooting, brands and brand owners need to be protected against challenges and threats that impact innovation and erode brand equity.

“In times of economic crisis, there will be a natural threat to brands whereby consumers will compromise brand power for value, which could be manifested in the demand for cheap illegal products.

“There is a need to protect brands against threats as it affects the larger economic contribution of investments and jobs, should companies pull back on resources invested in developing brands, ” he said.

To add significance to this Webinar, the IAA Global “We Love Brands” campaign was officially launched locally, with the three creatives touching on Trust, Pride and Passion, taking on a Malaysia-centric approach.

The insightful discourse was moderated by IAA Malaysia Honorary Secretary Prabha Nayar. The BrandsMatter webinar series is part of IAA’s ongoing “We Love Brands” global campaign to promote the role brands can play in driving economic revival.

Brand Trust, the first of the webinar series, was held in late October. IAA Malaysia is embarking on a slew of events leading to the 46th IAA World Congress in 2022, which would be hosted by IAA Malaysia.

Themed Brand Re/Code, the congress would address how branding, technology and creativity can amalgamate effectively to create better lives and a better world. Currently, IAA Malaysia is inviting partners and sponsors to support this industry-leading global congress.

The IAA is the world’s most influential network of marketing professionals. Established in 1938 in New York, the IAA is the only global association that represents all spheres of the marketing and communications industry.

The IAA has played a strong role in supporting key industry issues such as freedom of commercial speech, self-regulation, responsible advertising, education and professional development. IAA Malaysia was established in 1993 and is the compass for the marketing communications industry.

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