The definitive definition of branding is changing around the world, and South Africa is feeling the effects of this transformation. In this article, I want to elaborate on the various ways in which brand building is shifting organisational functioning in the country.
In modern-day commerce, establishing a credible and recognisable brand presence is an absolutely critical aspect of conducting business, as the brand that is represented is essentially the vessel in which the organisation will deliver its value and define its purpose. Brand building has evolved over the past decade from being a mere function of applied marketing and a means to create attractive packaging and communication strategies for products and services. Organisations are no longer only selling products or offering services; they are responsible for creating legacies based on sound social and economic values and authentic practice.
One of the best examples of this realisation in practice are the recent FNB marketing campaigns, which have proved highly effective in developing a new brand power player in a sector which is not generally perceived as containing emotive brand players.
The success of FNB's well-executed brand strategy confirms that organisations can no longer rely only on their basic offerings to define their business. In order to deliver the envisaged value of the organisation, they need to invest in a brand strategy that guides the design and implementation of vital business systems and processes.
Driving the local brand evolution
A wholehearted adoption of brand principles by organisational leaders is the main driving factor in realising change in the direction and evolution of brand building.
These leaders have come to realise that every contact point with stakeholders presents an opportunity to define the brand, and that brand building is a total value chain concept that can't be left to perception alone. Some of the strategic initiatives that leaders involve themselves in include the process of designing a compelling vision, and the practice of contemporary brand building processes and systems.
With the inter-organisational changes starting to drive the adoption process, we have seen the introduction of chief brand officers, who are ultimately aiding equity growth by developing and defining the brand identity systems and architecture, monitoring internal brand health, creating contact strategies, and evaluating value chain performance.
Companies are also starting to appreciate that while brand managers and chief brand officers guide and complement marketing managers, they have entirely different portfolios. The brand manager is concerned with identity design, the architecture of portfolios as well as contact strategy across the value chain. Conversely, the marketing manager is more focussed on the management of the product or service offering, and the strategies required to grow the share of mind and markets in specific target areas.
Competing with international brand professionals
While South Africa is still a fledgling in the development of brand potential, we are also a strong competitor in the international landscape.
Our entry into formal brand management, executive decision-making and contact strategy practice is still in the early stages. However, at the same time, we are also described as agile, and able to work with complex heterogeneous landscapes. The more we invest in building our current and future brand management resources, the more we will become known as innovators and leaders in developing markets.
Making the choice to become part of the evolution
In order for brand building to become part of a well-recognised industry, investment in people skills is needed. Interested parties who wish to take up a career as a brand professional should ideally undertake studies in brand strategy, social and media studies, economics and finance, creative idea development and communication strategy, and also gain insight into developed and developing markets and specialist fields such as brand engagement and digital marketing.
In order to develop relevant and original solutions to brand challenges, professionals in the field need to be unconventional thinkers, and develop themselves as systemic practitioners that can analyse and innovate.
Importantly, a successful career as a brand professional requires a genuine interest in people and in adding value to lives, whether your passion is sport sponsorship or of a humanitarian nature.
These brand professionals should be driven by the principle that there is always a better way to design an experience, and develop themselves as outside-in thinkers that don't fall victim to stereotypes and first base solutions, and are able to deal with complexity whilst still retaining focus.
Ultimately, this will result in organisations delivering on their brand promise, and will create a more intuitive, innovative, responsible and productive business sector in South Africa.
Dr Carla Enslin is one of the founding members of Vega School of Brand Leadership. She is Academic Head at The Independent Institute of Education's Vega School of Brand Leadership, a Teaching Fellow at UCT's Graduate School of Business, and deputy chair of the Brand Council of South Africa (BCSA).
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