Investing in brand building a key factor

PETALING JAYA: The time is ripe for brand owners to invest in brand building if they are serious of having successful brands.

Industry players and experts agree that marketers should up their investments amid the Covid-19 pandemic to build brands as failing to do so would result in their brands losing out to competitors.

Oxygen Advertising managing director and 4As senior adviser Datuk Johnny Mun (pic below) said that regardless of what the situation may be, marketers need to continue to invest in brand building albeit there may be tweaks to the focus and content of the messages communicated.

Association of Accredited Advertising Agents (4As) president Datuk Johnny Mun. — YAP CHEE HONG/The StarAssociation of Accredited Advertising Agents (4As) president Datuk Johnny Mun. — YAP CHEE HONG/The Star

“By this, I mean that brands may shift their focus from sales centric messages to one of a corporate social responsibility (CSR) nature or even a hybrid of both.

“History has shown us that everything has a lifespan and a pandemic is no different. It just a matter of the duration. Successful brands are built over time and like a seedling or a plant, need constant care and nurturing and cannot be simply left to nature to steer its course.

“A brand in neglect will almost end as a forgotten one as consumers would not hesitate to try out alternatives given that they are spoilt for choice now,” he told StarBiz.

With product proliferation being rife and competitive pricing at play since marketers are pitching for the same share of the market, he said it makes it even more important to invest in brand building.

So when the pandemic ends, Mun said brands that have continued their thrust in brand building would win their rightful places as the preferred brands.

Concurring with Mun, Branding Association of Malaysia president Datuk Eric Chong (pic below) said in view of the current situation, it is also the best time to build brands.

He said a lot of new brands have emerged since the start of the pandemic, and most of these players are the ‘amphibious’ species - they operate effectively both offline and online.

Branding Association of Malaysia president Datuk Eric ChongBranding Association of Malaysia president Datuk Eric Chong

They also totally understand how to catch eyeballs online, Chong said, adding that mastering the online branding skill is essential for all businesses moving forward.

“It’s now clear that the hopes of Covid-19 totally being contained via vaccination or vanishing miraculously is illusive.

“What brand owners must do at this time is to reflect deeply on the business model and ask themselves this tough question: Is my business model workable even when such uncertainties abound or it’s only going to work when everything returns to normal?

If the answer is the latter then it’s necessary to rethink the model and perhaps adopt a cut loss strategy,” he said.

“If marketers are still in business and losing money and yet haven’t figured out a way to stay afloat, be it through cost-cutting, downsizing, repositioning, or selling online, it’s really bad news and they must take some decisive actions,” he noted.

Chong said times have changed and businesses must change with it in the wake of the pandemic.

Therefore, he said in the current scenario one must become ‘digitally relevant’ to ensure long-term sustainability and survival.

Audrey Chong, who is CEO of Universal McCann and Ensemble Worldwide, said in view of the current trying environment and to deepen brand penetration in the market, continued engagement is key.

Brands need to ensure they are at the top of the mind of customers, she added.

“Consumers are all facing varying degrees of challenges that are new and unprecedented, but at the same time, they are still looking to connect with brands.

“The opportunity is there for brands to grow and deepen this engagement through relevance and by speaking sincerely about the situation.

“As the medium is mainly digital, we have moved our brands to engage more contextually across platforms. For instance, we are aware that the continued lockdown has placed great strain on working mothers who are trying to balance work and home.

“In response, we provided ideas and suggestions for quick, convenient, and nutritious meals for the family. The important thing is for brands to simultaneously meet needs and seek meaningful connection to deepen penetration during this time,” she said.

On brand building, she said it is a continuous process, and brands need to prioritise and maintain dialogue and engagement during this time.

She said there has been much evidence shown across various points of recession and downturns that investments in brands during a crisis helps them to turnaround at a much faster pace during the recovery period.

The other elements of brand building come from building that authentic voice and standing for something that matters, she noted.

“Values are very much in the forefront in the minds of the consumers of today, and the pandemic has shone a spotlight on the value of integrity and transparency. This cascades into various aspects of what a brand stands for, and consumers are watching this keenly,” she said.

Any brand that plays its part to promote a sense of togetherness during this time of turmoil and challenges would come out on top, she added.

“In every crisis, there lies many opportunities. At the end of the day, the brands that can pivot and pivot fast will likely come out stronger than before,” she said.

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