BY FARAI CHIGORA
In our previous edition we talked about brand leadership and we discovered that it perfectly aligns with brand visioning. As we soldier on, a voice of the ancient whispered, informing that leadership without strategy is in vain. Yet we see it in the operations of our SMEs as they focus on leadership only, if not excessive power, rather than recognising brand strategy as a pivotal tool for sustainability. As we talk progress and ululate how brand focus by our SMEs has given birth to a strong foundation and prolonged lifespan of our home-grown enterprise, we are reminded by Lisa Ganksy that “a brand is a voice, and a product is a souvenir”. In this case, a brand and a product drives viability and profitability of our ventures into real industrialisation but they should not be treated the same. The glue that binds them is the strategic workmanship by the owners and partners of our thriving SMEs.
I was made to rethink through a self-introspect where I found myself and other colleagues in the SME fraternity wanting. As said by Sun Tzu: “tactic without strategy is the noise before defeat”. Let us then recall the foundation of our branding from a naming perspective by separating a company name from a brand name. I believe that is where branding strategy begins. As there is a thinner line between a mere company name and a brand name (of course these were generally discussed in previous editions). Company branding is what we have been doing from the day we engaged in this life-changing journey, thanks to the inaugural editions which laid the foundation. Therefore, as we grow in fame, diversity and profitability we should keep on oiling these branding turbines for a lasting success in this age of entrepreneurship. We have been accredited and certified by the Registrar of Companies and granted a company name which has been a start of our identity through formalisation. This has made us visible not only for taxing purposes but credibility as legal entities (a credit to those who have made it as registered entities). It also gave birth to global identity and attraction to do business (by both customers and partners). At least we can now bid for tenders, invite venture capitalists and be part of a global supply/business database and supply chains. I call this a smart starting strategy.
In view of this edition’s focus as aforementioned, there is then a need to further this foundation with effective branding strategies. Where the voice of the brand leads the way in the successful milestones of an enterprise and its offerings. Company branding has proven to be the initiating driver towards identity and visibility into recognition, customer association, positive perceived quality, customer loyalty and the ultimate equity. This is an overall achievement but in between the short and long-term visioning there should be continued strategising in order to keep the brand vision alive and improved to have more followership.
Many brands of our SMEs have had a high infant mortality as the owners couldn’t keep a close eye and continuously monitor their market existence so as to adjust those matters that gives them a prolonged breath and healthy living in the competitive world. Fortunately we share as we walk together hand to hand advising each on what matters most in coming up with immortal brands (those that will live beyond the owner’s existence). We start by looking at individual branding strategy which has been the basis of brand construct by our SMEs. When we brand from our uniqueness in the way we do business, the logos, the jingles, the colours and personality (discussed in previous editions). This is one branding strategy that has been applied by many of our SMEs and they have leveraged on that as they give testimonies and share their success stories. However, this is not a cast in stone as a single formula since various businesses need to have different branding strategies from their inception and as they rise at each and every stage of their business growth. This takes us into another branding strategy which is attitude branding where attitude matters most (just like that of an individual). Yes, that attitude also applies to our entrepreneurial brands. As they exist and grow, they reflect an attitude. Where their marketing actions will speak more than the representing words, colours and any other element in terms of an attitude. It goes beyond art and brand storytelling to market perceptions and discussions made by our customers about us. How close are you to your markets? Food for thought! It is in these markets where the attitude of your brand is known and talked about. In previous editions we talked about brand personality which I say it builds up on your brand attitude as projected by you and perceived by the customers. We are procrastinating in this movement where we should make an effort to understand our market brand personality especially as formed by our customers. There is more that should be done in this respect. I then advise my fellow entrepreneurs to start on this assessment and correct the gaps as we move towards industrialisation. This then takes us to another critical strategy as we grow our SMEs into global brands which is brand extension strategy. This is inevitable as we grow, where we want to venture into other business lines which were not part of our inception. Our dream as SMEs is grow and diversify in offerings and partnerships.
Our brand strategy matters too. Especially when more success was achieved from the first brand we then extend its equity into other new lines and offerings (though it should be done with care and caution as we might lose brand legacy through new weaker associations). Just like friendship, we need that wisdom and serenity to choose the right ones otherwise we are lost by them. Our duty as entrepreneurs is to know when to extend and when not to (not gambling with our equity). It then calls for a well-informed scrutiny to make that decision. Our drive towards entrepreneurship can only be achieved through a positive reputation. One that is spearheaded by talking brands. As said by Warren Buffet: “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.”
Therefore, I leave you to revisit your branding strategy towards building a lasting positive reputation of our SMEs and their offerings.
- Dr Farai Chigora is a businessman and academic. He is the Head of Business Science at the Africa University. He is into agribusiness and consults for many companies. He writes in his personal capacity and can be contacted for feedback and business at firstname.lastname@example.org, WhatsApp mobile: +263772886871.