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So what if you think you have a good brand

Ouch! The title of this article might just cause a little painful twitch in some brand managers and brands' heartbeat. The fact is, it's becoming more and more apparent in the marketplace: "brand schmand."

While conducting MRD's nationally I have found that many potential customers state that quality is their main concern and consideration when buying a new product, let it be a kettle or a cellular phone or arch, whatever the case may be, however...

Come the end of the month and your potential customer - the one who was so concerned about the quality of the product s/he is buying - is more concerned about school fees, having bread and butter on the table and getting rid of that hectic overdraft before the bank phones AGAIN. The other concern I found was the fact that many brands' R&D departments come up with the most awesome inventions at their overseas plants, implementing great global market strategies, etc... and then expect the same results in South Africa, putting enormous pressure on their local head offices.

The fact is, and I have said this on more than one occasion in meetings with corporates from overseas: "Whatever you have tried, implemented or made work in New York, China, London, or anywhere else in the world; forget it. This is South Africa and our market is more unique in needs, wants, expectancies, and so forth than anywhere else on earth."

Take for example the point of sale (POS) / point of purchase (POP) materials we use. Recently a huge global leader I dealt with spent literally hundreds of thousands to get POS/POP printed and distributed, after being warned that it will not be allowed in the channels they supply, simply because, well, that's the way it is in the specific industry in South Africa. The outcome: Money spent, or should I say wasted, on designers, printing, distribution, etc. only to find the items lying in the back of a dark storeroom advertising their awesome brand and products to cockroaches and other interested bugs looking for a place to nest.

Most of the POS/POP designed also carried the message that this is a great brand, fantastic features and all the other buzz-words used in the industry... and then when you look very carefully you will eventually see the price at the bottom somewhere. Mmm, then mister and missus customer ends up stroking their chins, give each other the "we have other expenses to cover and we will most certainly find something just as good, yet cheaper..."-look, smile at the sales person and make their way to the door.

In a survey conducted we found that across all races, genders, age groups etc. the main selling feature was eventually price, THEN quality. The other thing that stood out was that BRAND didn't even make the slightest impact on the "motivation-to-buy" tab. We've conducted this test again and again and... for different products and well, the conclusion at the end of the day:

1. Make sure you know WHO you're going to market to before you even start bringing in your products (and if you want to be totally paranoid about it you can do this before even manufacturing anything at all).
2. Make sure you know what POS/POP is allowed in the chains you supply to before you spend money on designers and so forth.
3. Having only high-end products when supplying to a generic market is not a good idea.
4. Consult whomever you have to consult before lifting a finger - ask the specialists, the people who know and can back it up with proof and documentation. For some reason many companies still find it hard to pay R10,000.00 - R100,000.00 or even less for consulting and research before doing what they think is the right thing, even when they know that it could potentially save them 10 times the amount - the reason why a post mortem is always a good idea after a "little blunder".
5. Instinct seems to only work in Jerry Meguire's life, and it's also country dependent. Therefore overseas offices dictating marketing and product strategies/roadmaps to their fellow brand loyal colleagues in other countries should fast become a thing of the past if brands want to start making huge profits and less "we're surviving here" progress... as the famous quote goes: "even if you are on the right track you can be knocked over if you're standing still."

Facing the facts has never hurt anyone or any company, as a matter fact, facing the reality of your current market share, product opinions and so forth may just be the determining factor in sustaining your business or becoming the global or local leader. There's a huge difference between nice to know and need to know, and the same with nice to have and consumer needs. Technology is awesome, but in order to make it work in South Africa or any other country we need too start making sure of what the local market predicts in terms of what they want and more so; what they can afford in terms of what they want. For most of the bigger brands in the world it has become more important become the "world leader" in terms of their technology instead of number of sales, back-up service, and all the other nice things that makes the end-user's heart throb with excitement and appreciation.

About Lehan Stemmet

Lehan received his B.Sc degree at the University of the Freestate, earning academic merit bursaries for psychology and biochemistry. While and after completing his degree in biochemistry and microbiology, he earned some extra money doing temp work for too many companies to mention. He has experience in science, human resources, data capturing, database building, information gathering, politics, sales, exporting and importing, human resources, counselling, operations, consulting and many more industries. He has also, while running a consulting business and second-hand office furniture business, completed a post graduate diploma in psychology and industrial psychology with distinction. After his return from Europe – where he played a part in the EURO change over project - he was offered a position as territory manager in KwaZulu-Natal for Capital Outsourcing Solutions (CAPOS). After almost two months he got promoted to business development manager and moved up to Johannesburg. Shortly thereafter he was offered the position of National Operations Manager. He is responsible for all the operational services accounts on a national level, including research, benchmarking, merchandising, field marketing, issue escalations, as well as selection, appointment and training of new staff. For further information / comments please contact Lehan on Cell: +27 82 345 0887 or E-mail: /

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