HomeOpinion & AnalysisBusiness opinion: Branding in the age of entrepreneurship and industrialisation (Part 9)

Business opinion: Branding in the age of entrepreneurship and industrialisation (Part 9)

BY FARAI CHIGORA

The curtains of a daunting year, 2021 have slowly but surely touched the grounds. That 2021 was a hard year for Zimbabwe and the broader community is an understatement. It was survival of the fittest. The facts are evident across our enterprising sectors of both the national and global economy. Of the 12 months of the year, possibly we had half of them under lockdown and the usual uncertainty brought forth by executive orders in the form of statutory instruments, which by now have reached 300. Simply put, every day we had a statutory instrument, breaking and turning predictability into a tailspin. Thanks to editions from the home-grown PEOPLE model to the specialised branding in the age of entrepreneurship, which I believe, have informed and transformed the landscape into doing real business. Especially for those with a mind-set  geared for achieving vision 2030 and beyond for our great nation. As we gaze into 2022, we do so, knowing that it can only be further complex and pray that our local brands will navigate the treacherous waters.

One of the key areas that require marketers and brand managers for the SMEs to master is the concept of brand ambassadors and how their advocacy roles cost-effectively gear competitiveness. A point of loyalty is an invitation to real business sustainability (we need to go beyond). That one which goes beyond repeat purchasing as alluded to in the previous edition. We need self-driven and literally talking relationships for continued engagement and scaling up into the zone of sustainable and above industry profits. Having our key brand stakeholders thinking beyond instructions (for content and ingredients), promotions (that are routine) and other luring talks (which become monotonous as over emphasised repeatedly), towards building an experience through such associations driven by the brand ambassadors.

At this point, we should engage in the brand advocacy and ambassador’s concept in-depth. [We choose] those who think and talk like us, for us. When they are loyal and we now have them in our business, they are at home (both clients and partners). We can now have lunch and dine together. Such a scenario creates endless lineages and family trees that we refer to and most of the times emulate for generations.

Brands should do the same rather than be a once off and done concept of marketing by SMEs. When advocacy and ambassadorship is considered, the brand should perpetuate a lifetime return that propagates into fellowships and followership, which exudes the same as the originator and in the current needs of the time. Coca-Cola is that brand which is still talking the same and even more than in its inception (it created its advocates and ambassadors through excellence). For example, “Always Coca-Cola” making it a driver and quencher in every happy moment from sports to lifetime events. It is about the brand craftsmanship that is infused with creativeness for longevity that has made such brands last the stretch and stand a lifetime of serenity (rather than an outcome of serendipity). It is out of a well-planned commitment for lifetime engagement that one which energies and last in the minds and living souls of present and future generations. Those that have made it have gone far into brand inheritance where the founder has gone but not forgotten. Their lives have remained in those talking and lasting brands. We talk of the McDonalds, Ford, KFC and many more that have lived more than the human mind behind the craftsmanship. If we treat our brands the same in this age and take them not only for oiling but sustaining existence SMEs will win the show. Not only escalating in the current markets, but will also create newer ones, withhold and dominate future markets as well forecasted in the present.

This being said and done, how do we fix our fractures in this regard? Entrepreneurship in this perspective of construct should respect that “no man is an island”. We need to start with such a mind-set as we do business now (and move to all those who matter most). Brands in their competitiveness are also meant to fellowship with others as a first stance of existence in the global market space. You cannot be rated as the best when there is no competition. Denial and fear of competition should not be part of entrepreneurship in the brand craftsmanship and positioning. We should be happy about this and even create our own edge for lasting positioning. Yet at the same time those who have chosen and walked with us as customers and partners should feel that dominance when they chose us compared to the rest. That pride of moving with the winners inspires closeness and transformative engagements with enjoyments. This will lure them with confidence into our brand selling journey as advocates and ambassadors. They will go beyond the dictionary and marketing literature to be part of our brand strategy (more fortunes as returns here). We have come to this end which is a start of all the aforementioned in the relay that we have been engaged into. Where are we then? Let’s take a closer look at these fundamental nodes within our existing broken chains. That is brand advocacy and ambassadorship. These two variants seem to be taken as mere words for concluding any brand storytelling rather than a practice. Unfortunately, SMEs have adopted the same downplaying viewpoint (there is a need to think new). Our customers and partners will always stand for us in the market and other spaces where we are not physically present. They carry our burden as if it’s theirs. They will become brand soul mates. They defend our muddled image as created by those brand terrorists in our operating ecology. How good will it be if our enterprise is in such a state and defence? There is a need to relook at these issues and put in place systems and structures that encourage our customers to be our brand advocates and ambassadors (not merely for database ranking and instant benefits). It is high time we engage with our customers and partners by going to an extent of providing toolkits and any other brand supporters so that they represent our vision as they move around in all platforms. This cuts across all sectors of the global economy. We need to invest in these relationships where we have time to share our experiences with customers and partners. Sharing brand strategies in various ways, even simple workshops and focus groups. These do not expose our strategy for competitiveness but encourage us to share the brand vision and practice. That is walking the talk with those who matter most in our brand life. Of course charity begins at home.  Such that our localised business environment should have a common share of brand advocacy and ambassadorship. We should remove all existing silos due to functional structures and organisational seniority syndrome. Every member of the organisation is an advocacy or ambassador and should be given that space to practise and express themselves. This is not a role for the marketing department only or those in sales. In branding we are all representatives and custodians of what matters most. It is that high time to reconfigure and come up with processes that consider such an installation where a full force is exerted on what makes the brand talk to the global village. This is by considering;

Brand vision openness

Most operations are configured as “open for business”. Let’s think beyond the boardroom as we construct our brand vision. It should  be open to stakeholders (mainly employees, customers and partners).

Brand shout capitalisation

More should be allocated in improving brands’ shout. Toolkits are not enough but a composite of human and non-human mechanisms in a systemised approach will help.

Brand trust

Though not measurable but doable. We should trust those we deal with in our branding. These are the custodians of our name, symbol, colours and brand ownership. They should feel excited to showcase rather than moving by the book. It gives them a brand sense of ownership and their own creativity and innovation is selling and showcasing.

  • 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. He is into agribusiness and is a consultant. He writes in his personal capacity and can be contacted for feedback and business at fariechigora@gmail.com, WhatsApp mobile: +263772886871.

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