WHILE small and medium enterprises (SMEs) are becoming increasingly aware of the link between corporate branding and the bottom line, the initiatives they undertake to differentiate themselves are often done haphazardly.
For PKT Logistics Group Sdn Bhd group chief executive and managing director Datuk Michael Tio, successful corporate branding requires establishing a proper vision, backed by a solid action plan with clear deliverables to attain specific goals.
Beyond that, however, he strongly believes that such undertakings do not have to follow conventional means.
“SMEs can explore unconventional ways that can enable them to be industry relevant, while creating a strong impression among various stakeholders at the same time, ” he said.
Moreover, there is a misconception that branding and marketing activities are limited to business-to-consumer (B2C) companies, which Tio stressed is untrue.
He opined: “Be it business-to-business, business-to-government or B2C companies, successful corporate branding efforts must be done through a combination of initiatives - both internally and externally - to communicate with different types of audiences.”
Branding from all sides
Case in point is PKT Logistics Group, which uses Facebook as its main communication tool.
This not only ensures that the logistics group remains relevant in the market, but also helps position it as a forward-looking employer open to adopting new technologies to increase the efficiency and productivity of its employees.
In the past few years, the war for talent has only intensified, which means that companies have to actively brand themselves as good employers to attract the digital natives of the emerging workforce.
He said: “In terms of the culture of the company nowadays, if we’re not unique, what’s our differentiating factor?”
Leveraging the advantages of digital technology such as social media platforms also makes business sense, as companies must move with the times to follow the changing behaviours of its various stakeholders, he noted.
It also reduces operating expenditures in terms posting job advertisements, as the younger working adults are already present on such platforms.
“Being present on Facebook, in a time where the lines between work and play are blurred, allows us to be relevant to millennials.
“At the same time, the use of Facebook internally allows for instant updates via posting in office groups, to ensure all departments and employees are aligned to a common vision and can work together towards achieving the goals that are set out for the future, ” he said.
An internally circulated memo, for example, would typically take days to weeks for it to circulate among staff members as managers have to communicate it to the team via channels such as email.
In PKT Logistics Group, a memo can reach the whole company in less than 30 seconds, once it is posted on a closed Facebook group comprising all staff members.
While setting the tone from the top to trickle down to all employees helps shape the company from within, he also cautions that there must also be a set of standards and guidelines to govern what’s acceptable in the company.
Creating a compelling story
Another key initiative to build up corporate branding that SMEs can consider, suggests Tio, is to invest or sponsor events relevant to their businesses, including trade, youths and business-centric events.
The reason for this, he stresses, is that the events can become the gateway to building up strong networks with relevant industry professionals, government officials, potential business partners and clients.
One corporate branding exercise that would not require heavy investment would be to create a visual story that the audience can remember.
“SMEs need to tell a story that the audience can see and relate with, as people are more likely to relate to a company that has a strong brand story, whatever the nature of their business, ” he advised.
PKT Logistics Group, for instance, has created a compelling story for its Shah Alam-based One Logistics Hub that features its three iconic buildings – The Lighthouse, The Ship and The Waves – that can be traced back to a poem called Beacon of Hope.
The poem can be summarised as “we are all travellers in a Ship, carried out to the sea by the Waves and will always be guided home by a Lighthouse.”
The One Logistics Hub, on its own, creates a strong visual impact as the three buildings can be seen along the Kesas Highway.
According to Tio, it is a form of pull marketing that would attract the attention of the general public and spark curiosity towards finding out more about the iconic structures.
The same can be said for The 12 Waves warehouse and the soon-to-be-opened The Ship Campus in Batu Kawan. Located next to Penang’s Second Bridge, The Ship Campus will be completed by year-end.
The alignment of its corporate branding also extends into the logistic group’s other business ventures.
For example, the phrase “Beacon of Hope” can also be found in Peninsula College’s crest. Peninsula College is a subsidiary of PKT Logistics Group, with campuses in Shah Alam, Klang and Penang.
Peninsula College offers programmes ranging from certificate, diploma, degree and masters across majors such as logistics management, business studies, public administration, hotel management, and accountancy.
Furthermore, the brand story serves as a rallying cry for a culture of inclusion among employees, as it shows the logistic group’s belief that all employees of the company, regardless of rank or position, are in the same “boat”.
It also exemplifies the organisational culture that exists within PKT Logistics Group, where employees have direct access for open communication with the top management, cutting away corporate red tape for quicker and more agile responses.
“The combination of all these factors, including technology adoption and the open culture, can apply to other SMEs as well, so that they can increase productivity that will be the catalyst to spur growth, ” he added.