Much debate has ensued about why brand owners have taken so long to ensure that their brand equity is protected, and there is a reasonably holistic alignment between what their brand promises and what it delivers. Historically, the country has been in an economic super-cycle and there has been no real business need to invest in any real brand development. But moving forward, the business rationale is changing.
As we tighten our belts and spending patterns, the options to differentiate one's brands on the old USP principle have become fewer and fewer over the years. A case in point looks at the cellular telephone, banking and retail sectors. All of which are now in mature business environments where unadulterated order-taking was a thing of the past. South African companies are now in the space where, for the first time, they are operating in a truly competitive environment. True competition only comes into play when market saturation occurs and brands have to start differentiating themselves based on quality of engagement and not the quantity of their ad spend.
Engage as individuals
We live in a similar world with similar companies producing similar products and similar services. However, our consumers wish to be treated in a dissimilar fashion and are craving to be increasingly engaged as individuals. The Gallup organisation polled 6000 airline passengers and discovered that, by a ratio of between three and four-to-one, employees of airlines are more important than advertising messages in building brand loyalty.
This has been a lesson hard learnt by major league brands in Europe, the US and Asia, where in many instances mature markets have moved into economic down cycles.
Creating a lasting and consistent positive consumer experience seems to be the order of the day. In certain instances spend, on internal brand development is for the first time equalling spend on through-the-line communication. Mature brands now have internal brand agencies along side the usual ad, PR, interactive and design suspects, and the mix is proving to be quite effective. The result is that many marquee brands are, for the first time, able to create true brand consistency.
So what can South African brand owners learn form this? Well, take note, because foreign imports like Virgin and Barclays are already implementing serious customer engagement strategies through a robust internal brand development process to woo South African consumers away from the more traditional local brands that they have found favour with in the past (emphasis on the word past!).
Putting a bit more energy and effort into positive brand alignment is guaranteed to yield results.
I was so impressed with the article Investing in internal brand developement by Terry Behan (Bizcommunity 2 November 2006)
I would love to know more about The Fearless Executive and whether there are career opportunities, as I have burning interest in branding ESPECIALLY internal branding. Please send through details or any feedback - I would so appreciate your correspondance.
Kind regards Lindsay Lindsay Posted on 3 Jan 2007 17:07
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