BUILDING a brand and building a business are two different things.
“Malaysians are good at building a business but they are not good at building a brand,” opines Datuk Lewre Lew.
Fortunately for Lew, he had the opportunity to travel and watch other designers build their brands early in his career and he learned from their experiences. He saw the importance of branding and knew that this was the way for his footwear label to gain traction.
Lew says branding is about positioning, belief and a lot of perseverance.
“You need to know the direction that you want to take with your brand. And you must stick with it. Don’t deviate. You cannot keep changing your direction to follow the market and do what everyone else is doing. You need to be the leader. If you follow the market, you are no longer the leader,” he says.
His vision for Lewre has always been to make it a high-end brand and he stuck with it even when he had little recognition back then.
He adds that it is necessary to overcome the early hurdles of building traction in order for your brand to grow. For every mistake made, learn the lessons and move on.
“Persevere. And you also need to believe in yourself. If you think you can, then you can. You must have the confidence and you must be bold,” he says.
Lew doesn’t seem lacking in this sense.
“I am confident in myself,” he says.
But you must also ensure that you have the quality to back it up. He advises businesses to deliver on their promises to build customer confidence in their brands and to keep learning from others along the way.
Building a brand is not just for the sake of earning money, but to touch global markets and to inspire the next generation to want to do the same, he says.
Seeing the need to educate the local market on the importance of branding, Lew was among the pioneering team which founded Branding Association of Malaysia, of which he is currently the honorary president.
“We did not really have a brand culture like in the US or Europe. Malaysia is still lacking on the branding side. But, we are doing it now. Because of the experience from the trade shows we went to with Martrade earlier on, we decided to form the Branding Association of Malaysia.
“We sat down and talked to the government. Then prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad supported it with a RM100mil grant, followed by another RM100mil grant.
“Dr Mahathir is a strong believer in branding. Look at the iconic Twin Towers, Formula 1 and KLIA, even the highways and Penang Bridge. He’s the one who believed, and we also believed, that we businessmen had to also initiate this kind of action – to start building our country’s branding,” Lew had said earlier.
“I want a brand that Malaysians can feel proud of,” he adds.