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Business opinion: Branding in the age of entrepreneurship and industrialisation (Part 14)

Obituaries
Most of our entrepreneurs are shooting themselves in the foot by attempting to build their businesses too quickly. This then talks to the concept of diversity and brand management which is slowly but surely destroying the supremacy of our local brands.

BY FARAI CHIGORA

We have the immortal powers over the eternal life and existence of our brands. I wish our brands would remain young forever (as a built-up and thrust of our previous editions). This does not happen on its own, but through a structure process that is rooted in the entire organisation which propels a brand into longevity and living longer than its founders. The case of how the Lever brothers gave birth to the Unilever brand in England in the 20th Century and the brand has scaled up to the 21st century and beyond. This is what I call progressive growth. entrepreneurs who are driven by the desire to grow towards industrialisation are always caught in-between (life and death of the brand).  Where we ask ourselves if we are doing it too much or less. But growth in itself has some consequences such that one should not be fond to read one side of the story. That is to say not every growth comes with positive gains –— typical euphemism, big is not always good. We should manage our growth in the birth and growth of our home grown brands.

As our brands progress over the growth curve, they require ongoing monitoring and care. We or anyone else can lengthen or shorten this slope upwards. The ball is now in our hands. I will never let the work we’ve put in so far to wire the growth and existence of our brands go to waste. That is the brand that is going to die at a moment when we should be thanking the artisans who created it (by saying look it this far you have taken us with excellence). Most of our entrepreneurs are shooting themselves in the foot by attempting to build their businesses too quickly. This then talks to the concept of diversity and brand management which is slowly but surely destroying the supremacy of our local brands.

Branding through diversity can be generalised, yet it can be systematically proven to be an equally double sided outcome of either a face-lift or face-off. Little has been shared in the living of our aggressive brands as growing start-ups. In its form as a signal of real business transition into the land of promises, diversity has always been viewed as only a positive end of the ruler in measuring growth of our enterprises.

My view to this approach focusing on responsible brand management left me with a homework. If ever diversity could improve or destroy the brand value. There is need for deliberate approach towards focusing our efforts on that which we know the most. Econet once tried to venture too deep into the blue waters and launched Kwese TV which did not last for long. This is worrisome from the experienced shared by my fellow entrepreneurs in their drive for expansion through diversity which left them in a plunge. Yet branding on its own is supposed to be a magic for sustained growth. It then questioned hope on whether branding is an end thing in improving popularity, awareness and lasting identity of our ventures. Through this boggled mind I then realised that it is now high time our SMEs need to understand how to manage brand growth through diversity. This journey we are into has taught me that there is a danger in putting your name in everything. It’s like doing it too much.

My fellow entrepreneurs in our progressive movement of brands as a panacea for market dominance, we should guard these brands jealously especially from false growth (more than any non-renewable treasure). In its uniqueness a brand should not be deliberately muddled as an act of negligence and ignorance. This is because so far we have been equipped with the knowledge of brand power in our previous editions. Whether it is through wrong association or blinkers it is evident that many of our growing businesses are failing to see this cavity. Some might call it fastest growth and I can add on to say losing brand direction. That is failing to align and intertwine with the basics that carter for and allow a lasting and profitable brand diversification.

Experience has shown that failure to manage growth in this manner can reduce the life span of an enduring brand. The reason being that our brands are as a result novel creation and as we diversify, they might end up falling into wrong hands. Even with the knowledge of brand management that it should be as simple for acceptance in its target markets. There is also need to maintain brand consistence as we share success of its elements with any other. Colours talk beyond a name and they should not be tarnished. Most of our SMEs have used their brand constructs on every other products/services that came after its birth. This has demoted its initial meaning made and brand success. I then appeal to our enterprising colleagues to handle this matter with caution. Imagine a washing powder in the shelves labelled Coca-Cola. But it is happening when we get excitable and forget what made the brand develop followers in the first place ( let’s maintain a product/service range if not being innovative as we diversify). It then goes to stakeholder acceptance and appreciation. Are we considering those who have started and always standing with us in our brand life story.  This should be considered with respect. Our brands need to continuously look back to what made them ready and acceptable for business. A continuous review and exchange with the founding partners should be the way as we industrialise. Where we hold the same purpose and promise to our key stakeholders as partners for life. Not forgetting brand culture which in most instances is compromised through diversification. Every brands have values, if that can be remembered. The customers we have today have aligned themselves with these values and that’s what they follow. So as we diversify brand culture must be remembered otherwise it is destroyed. As a story for another day most of our SMEs don’t know their brand culture and that is why they easily let go. That’s where we share the common between us and the market. As for Apple there is a culture of “connection with the customers”. Imagine if the same brand was transferred somewhere else. Food for thought. Also to remind that our advocates and ambassadors are doing a lot of work to make us shining brands. Are we going to honour them as we develop into these new spheres? I am troubled that my fellows are just doing this in the name of growth hitherto slowly heading towards self- destruction. In all the aforementioned my disquiet is on the Jerk-of-All trade way of operating that has defined our SMEs. Making them labelled Musiyamwa who can invest everywhere (without thorough scrutiny) resulting in a failure to manage brand growth. This has resulted in brand suffocation derailing our inspired drive to industrialise through talking brands (high brand mortality). Yes the desire is to create and serve new markets, but there is need for a structured growth rather than mere following a bandwagon. One should stay in line with the original meaning of the brand and never be persuaded to totally change the brand so as to please a new product/service or partnerships (they can forget you but your brand will not). Real brands should last on the market with a same meaning that is traceable (even bringing in incremental value to the brand). Like Inhapi Tapi Chete ne Sun Jam. As the jingle plays you can visualise and select the jam on the shelf because it has stayed in the mind with a same meaning from your childhood. There is also need to understand that customers who has made us what we are today so that even in any diversification we keep on searching for a similar one and serve the same (lest we forget). That one who does not force damages on our initial brand dream. Know your customers better in the diversification saga. Also there should be a real cause for brand diversification especially considering short versus long-term profits against extensions. My fellow entrepreneurs I leave this on your dining table with a view that as we industrialise let us chew what we can swallow.

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 consults for many companies. 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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