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BRAND BUILDING IN ASIA

Wednesday, February 12th, 2014

Brands do not simply mean a name, logo, symbol or design but rather something which stands apart because of its character. They can be just as famous as celebrities. And people can be influenced by brands just like they are by human personalities.
A brand becomes a success when it positively affects the way consumers think about a company or product. It has to affect their feeling and sensation. Some products make us think logically while buying, as in the case of the Dettol brand, which is a household name for an antiseptic. All similar products are called Dettol by many. Suchis the power of the brand.Some products evoke the senses of taste, sight and smell, especially cosmetic products and personal hygiene products like soaps and perfumes. Some products are famous for the emotional link they have with consumers. Maruti-Suzuki cars in India, the first in the compact small car segment, still brings about a feeling of connection as a ‘family car’ even though it has since gone out of production.Some brands like Samsung in Asia make people believe that they have to have a Samsung mobile even if they do not use its many features and applications. In order to make a brand successful in Asia companies have to offer a unique product or servicethat appeals to customers, makes them feel different and gives them a sense of achievement. So the key criteria in brand building and brand management are giving what a consumer aspires to or is looking for and that which matches his/her personality. A brand is expected to behave according to its name, which is to deliver value, maintain quality with minimum risk of failure and satisfy the psychological connections people make with it. Brand identity is important as many people are averse to finding new products. Brands help consumers quickly decide which product to buy. If a brand works for them then they prefer that same brand even for entirely different things. As groups of people associate eventsto certain brands they do not switch brands easily. This is true of powerful brands in Asia like Samsung, Godrej, Tata Steel, Panasonic Electronics, LG Electronics, Britannia etc.
In Asia corporate branding is gaining prevalence as companies are vying for image and identity building. Successful organizations have to attract new customers, as well as retain existing customers. Corporate branding encompasses all the products a company offers. Although each product may be marketed as a brand, some enterprises lay emphasis on the company name to highlight reputation and quality assurance.
Any number of advertisements, promotionalactivities, and change in brand name or logo will not attract customers if a brand does not have defined values which are appreciated by customers. Brand value needs to be showcased in every marketing and communication activity. Also employees should pass on the value to customers when they serve them in any manner. After all,employees are but brand representatives.
Hitachi officials explained that as employees deal directly with stakeholders they are important contact points for building the brand. Hitachi Group’s brand promise and brand awareness program was launched to encourage desirable employee behavior. Employee awareness of the Hitachi brand is given emphasis via awards programs.
To promote the Hitachi brand in a localized way the company is developing an international brand program in Asia and Europe. Also employees are assessed in Asia to see how well they understand the Hitachi brand to create appropriate education content. Brand building comes under corporate strategic goals and not in short term gains, as brands have no date of expiry.
Toyota, a famous automobile brand, was created in the 1930s in Japan, and it still holds immense brand power. Good brand building also helps retain brand loyalty. These factors help generate more volume in production which keeps the company ahead of competition. Some brands also tide over economic slowdowns, leveraging their brand resilience to maintain sales. As they are premium priced products they ensure continued profits for the companies owing to their margins.
If a brand becomes well known then the name can span more products in different categories also. Samsung is a household brand name for home appliances, televisions, mobile phones, printers, biomedical devices, set-top boxes, tablets, digital signage and laptops. Some Asian companies cover even totally unrelated products such as brand Godrej which makes all sorts of FMCG products like soaps and shampoos up to steel safety lockers, besides dealing with real estate development and heavy engineering equipment.
How to build a powerful brand?With many countries in Asia withstanding the upheavals of recent times the future looks rosy for businesses there. However, consumers are more aware and go to great lengths to ensure that their choice of a product or service is optimum.
Branding becomes important for survival in such a scenario and investments in people and technology are no longer enough to ensure survival, growth or good standing in the industry. This is because brands maintain customer loyalty irrespective of market trends.
Companies in Asia need to build global brands like Samsung, which is spending huge amounts in showcasing its products in Europe when local products are losing steam there. Moreover Asian companies have to think beyond trading, operations and technology and think of marketing in a broader global sense. Yes, it is imperative to maintain low costs to gain more customers but brand building is imperative to ensure long term survival.
Asian companies have to think beyond manufacturing and operational efficiency and cost effectiveness and include marketing in the corporate strategic thinking. The company leadership and employees shouldfirst understand what their brand means, as only then can it be conveyed to the consumers.
When a new brand is going to be launched emphasis has to be given to make it different from the rest and stand apart to create brand value, whether it is a shoe brand, hotel or mobile phone.
When the Tata Group in India launched its string of budget hotels and named it Ginger, they adopted a fresh orange color logo, the color extending to décor and furniture. Tata already has its Taj group of five-star hotels and Ginger is an expression of their desire to develop a brand in the midsize hospitality sector. Ginger is a well-established brand now across India.
Samsung became more powerful after sponsoring the Olympics in 1997, launching new products in the sidelines which gave them greater global exposure. It has been an Olympic partner since 1997 and will continue to be one in the wireless communications equipment category till 2016.
The Olympic Games is not only a global sports festival but serves as an effective communication tool to increase a brand’s awareness and preferences, according to the Samsung website. This is an example of global brand building.
Thestrategy behind building a brand in Asia is first to attract customers and make them buy, then deliver what is highlighted in advertisements – quality and reliability, which will help retain those customers. The younger generation is keener on quality and brand experience, and brand loyalty may not be that important if a better alternative is available.
Successful brands are characterized by optimized operations which ensure high profits. Companies like Singapore Airlines used differentiation to maintain market positions along with innovation in its company culture. It also developed emotional bonds with customers, making it a more powerful brand.
While trying to build a brand, strong association to some factor has to be made, such as happiness guaranteed, health assurance, comfort, cultural orientation or optimum service. This enhances brand value beyond just its usefulness
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Brand Equity in Asia
Brand equity is the actual value a brand name gives to a product or service. The value is measured based on the revenue generated by a product with a famous brand name when compared to the revenue obtained by a less famous brand name. This isbased on the premise that customers think that products with well-known names are better than the not so popular ones.
Brands are important not only to attract customers but also to attract employees and retain them. It is considered prestigious to work for Asian giants Toyota, Suzuki Motors, Samsung, LG, Tata or Mahindra & Mahindra. Retaining talent, expanding market reach and growth all depend on brand equity.
Brand building does not end with just making it famous, as complacency will lead to its fall sooner or later. Innovations to improve quality of products and operations should be a continuous endeavor. Although satisfied customers serve effectively as brand ambassadors, a brand should stay relevant throughout. A good brand understands its customers, knows their behavior pattern during crisis and caters to local sensibilities.
Some brands are developed as luxury brands. Asia has a burgeoning population of affluent and the nouveau riche who are waiting to splurge. Selling luxury brands is an art as premium amounts are charged for the brand value, which is much more than the actual value of the product. Luxury brands give the owner prestige and higher self-esteem as an acknowledgement of his/her achievement.
Luxury brands are sold by building relationshipswith prospective customers. Here volume selling is not important, since selling few items which are priced with higher margins is sufficient. Offering individual value, exclusivity and personalization add value. Luxury brands are available in every category from soaps to automobiles. Brand building here requires more sophisticated planning and marketing techniques, however.
The Asian economy is nowadays more robust than western countries and is expected soon to drive the world economy. This is proven by the fact that Asian brands are acquiring western brands spanning consumer durables to automobiles.
Asia cannot be addressed as a homogeneous market. Each country is unique in its culture, society, preferences and requirements. So a marketer has to customize his marketing strategy depending on the country. Also the oriental inclination has to be dispensed with as a new modern society is emerging. For example the Chinese culture has been interpreted in a modern way to create Shanghai Tang, a Hong Kong-based fashion brand.
Brand building in Asia requires a thorough understanding of the brand, the product, the industry, and the market. Market survey should cover risks and opportunities and comparison with competitors. Due emphasis should be given to product development, range, pricing and margin besides brand identity. Most important of all is aunique marketing approach.

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