WITH DR FARAI CHIGORA
This week we predicate our instalment on the critical pillar of brand management — image. The element of image is brand management is as old as humanity itself. This we learn from the holy scriptures of the bible which instructs the creation of the human being “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness…..”. Suffice to note that the construct of image and its management is a life time process which cascades within and without the national boundaries. In essence, through our own exploits we define the image that the SMEs will assume through the brand promise and how it delivers on the same leading to the creating of an image of the brand as a good, bad; responsive – non-responsive; competitive – non-competitive; bold or weak, among others. The image is also defined through the company and brand’s beliefs, norms and values that drives our behaviour from birth to extinction as instructed by cultural factors.
In terms of the positioning of our brands as SMEs and start-up as centre pivots for industrialisation, brands should be managed holistically. Brands are not only for displays and invoicing (as proven in the previous editions). They should talk and reflect our overall image (as projected and perceived). That is from what we say is our day-to-day business to our offerings (products /services) and our associations. Our enterprises are still to embrace these fundamental process ingredients towards the configuration of competitive brands that established on enduring image and reflecting their value systems. Without this foundational practise, the industrialisation will remain a stillbirth.
Without a good image, stakeholders and customers will engage in conversations that have the capacity to check-mate the entire business, especially in the age of the internet where bad brand image can go viral. We should be working towards what matters most in developing and maintaining a positive image. Global brand persona like Oscar Pistorius have tasted the poison not to mention our own legends. This should show where we are going and directed through considering brand image as catalytic and need for urgent installation. Then it is imperative to note that association brews image (whether positive or negative). Like in our general living we are judged by those friends, relatives, cohorts, partners and even religious denominations we belong. This should be a question leading our brand craftsmanship as we should explore and find our brand association capital towards positive brand image. This when image will be turned to imagery (serious matters here). We need to find a fit in these, both localised and international associations which have made sports, automobile, designers and any other associations as a breakthrough into horizons that pitch a lasting positive image (not by hook and crook). That’s the reason why one prefers Nike, Apple, Jeep, Gucci, House of Versace rather than any other on the market. This is out of building an enduring image through association rather than serendipity.
Functionality is what the customers look for as the expected performance. The reason for one preferring Mercedes Benz rather than any other is best known in its image as performer to one’s desire. That is the same with our craftsmanship of a positive brand image. We should make an end-back approach here by understanding our image as perceived by the customers based on functionality. As mentioned in the previous edition, if failed we end up in wrong fellowships (moving with the weaker when we are functionally superior). Such a mismatch will tarnish our brands’ image. However, one should note that functionality, depending on the target market is not an end in its own but probably the beginning as exclusive markets prefer aesthetics as opposed to function. That is to say the appeal of the product to the entire five senses plus the bonus one of prestige. There is need to find a placement within the thin line that separates functionality of our offerings, aesthetics and brand image. It then influences all other matters including pricing, segmentation, partnerships, venture capitalisation and all investment injectors to say. These are matters of profiling, those that profile the enterprise and its offerings (all embedded and building brand image). Our profile also matters most in image presentation and projection. When they see your brand profile, where are you placed in their mind and reaction to buy or not? This should be considered as not only for playing golf and hosting parties but for real positive publicity in all domains. Your profile (whether perceived or real) will sell the brand to the covert. Yet we just profile ourselves for the Registrar of companies and bank account opening only. These need to be filled with real money, one that is of a positive image, one that is not tangible but a feeling of glorifying echoes all over (in the name of good publicity). Proudly Zimbabwean has its own followers. Those that evaluate and follow through localisation as the adage goes “local is lekker”. From a food fortification, genetically modified organisms to natural heritage and music. These talk image and drives the desire for not only association but lasting partnerships. All referring to the key engines of industrialisation which cuts across tourism, agriculture, engineering sports and arts. Knowing the type of your customer is also best for positive brand image creation.
Brand locomotive approach
That is knowing and joining all pieces for positive image development and brand craftsmanship as a singular rather than in separation. A drop of poison in the pond can destroy the whole ecology and its beneficiaries. Brand image should be taken with a whole heart that is leading the way in what we do, say and relate to.
This is with what matters most in our provision. It puts us on a sieve that selects the real comrades to move with and keeping us going into the rewarding horizons. Rather than being everything for everyone. We should be identified with those of us rather than being a public (one prone to vandalism through sincerity).
Brand indexing for profiling
As announced in the previous editions, indexing is a mandatory as a birth and life support of a real brand. Adventurous and aggressive brands should not be left to wonder in a space for the weak hearted. If well done profiling will be in line with the image that we want to portray and accepted by our markets.
- Dr Farai Chigora is a businessman and academic. He is the Head of Business Science at the Africa University’s College of Business, Peace, Leadership and Governance. His Doctoral Research focused on Business Administration (Destination Marketing and Branding Major, Ukzn, SA). He is into agribusiness and consults for many companies in Zimbabwe and Africa. He writes in his personal capacity and can be contacted for feedback and business at email@example.com, WhatsApp mobile: +263772886871.