Importance of Corporate Branding for Caribbean Businesses
Importance of Corporate Branding for Caribbean Businesses
For many small business owners in the Caribbean the word ‘Branding’ has little or no meaning. This is not to say that some business owners do not have an understanding of branding, but it is not usually a business objective or part of a studied policy or deliberate strategy.
Because of the size of the communities and the nature of the evolution of business in the region, most businesses are family owned and are passed on from generation to generation; so we have a tendency to get into comfort zones and expect business to continue to flow in, regardless. Also, the market is very local, so word of mouth advertising and the physical proximity to consumers ensures some measure of business traffic.
But the world is changing rapidly and business models continue to evolve. We are now part of a global village, with supply sources which are global, and we have tools which make it very easy and cheap for the consumer to access those sources. Movement of people and goods is more fluid. As a result, competition for the eyes and hearts of the consumer is getting fiercer.
Technology is levelling out the playing field so more players are getting into the business game. Supply models for both goods and services are being disrupted; For example, AirBnB and Uber have transformed the hospitality and transportation supply models overnight; Amazon disrupted the retail industry before the retail sector could even get their thoughts together.
The reality is that we can no longer afford a laid back approach to running our businesses. There are no guarantees. Someone looking for a car part can choose to drive across the island looking for it, or he might just jump on his computer and order it directly from Japan, and have it in his hands in a few days – and at a cheaper price. Those with millions of dollars’ worth of auto-parts inventory may have to dump it in a couple of years. As a hotel owner you may see your occupancy rate going down, not up, as travellers turn to the likes of AIRBNB or VRBO to find good alternative holiday accommodation. Those in the tech sector will face overwhelming competition from start-ups across the world, not just in the region.
As a business owner you need to understand the value of advertising and also the importance of building your brand. Competition will force you to stretch your neck higher and higher just to get noticed. Advertising helps, and is a must, but brand-building as part of the advertising strategy is just as important – why? Because sometimes, advertising product or service is not enough to get the business, and you need that extra edge, that high profile in the minds of customers, to get them coming back to you again and again.
The profile is important not only in securing more business or dealing with consumers; it is also very important in business to business circles as well. As your brand stature grows you can carry more weight -
- In dealing with banks or other lenders
- In political circles
- In social circles
- In negotiations
- In getting contracts
- In securing distribution rights
- In making yourself more attractive to much bigger fish just in case you want to sell
- In commanding higher prices for goods or services
So how do we define and understand branding?
A decade ago we would have thought that our branding was what we communicate visually to the consumer, our business name, our logo, and our product images. At that time it was more about awareness that we existed and that our products or services were available in the marketplace.
Today branding is a bit more complex, and this complexity is driven by the necessity to stand out in the face of stiff competition, and the growing sophistication of the consumer.
Your brand value lies in the mind of consumers. It is not what you might want to be, or what you think about yourself, but what the consumer actually thinks about your business.
Here is what it means to have a good brand:
- The consumer develops a positive emotional attachment to you.
- You are top of mind when the consumer has to make a purchase decision.
- The customer develops loyalty, and psychologically shuts out competition.
- When your brand is mentioned there is a feeling of comfort and trust.
- The consumer is comfortable in knowing that money spent with you is money well spent.
- The consumer becomes a brand ambassador voluntarily and talks about you or shares your stories or promotions.
- Your brand starts to assume a higher value than your assets and sales flow combined. You become attractive to bigger players and you can negotiate partnerships or mergers from a position of strength. You can leverage your social capital to sell almost anything.
How do you achieve this?
First you need to have the basics covered, like proper imaging.
Then you need to understand and remember always that branding is built and reinforced at every point of contact you have with the consumer; from the ad on the billboard or newspaper, to your telephone reception, to the instore experience, to your product value, to the after sale service, to your transparency and integrity in dealing with issues.
Staff can make or break your brand. Think strategically and clearly about branding issues and discuss with, and train your staff. Implement policies and procedures to ensure that all customer contact points are points of positive engagement.
Remember that branding is more than product. As a small business owner or manager your personal ethics and business philosophy, and the culture of your organization will emerge to colour your brand, regardless of the public efforts you make to impress the consumer.
- You need to offer exceptional customer service.
- You need to have discipline in your business; your systems for dealing with customers must be clearly defined and understood by staff.
- Be transparent with your pricing and your terms. If you are expensive, you are for a reason. Let customers know. They will respect you for it. Many choose the more expensive over the unknown, or choose to pay a higher price in anticipation of better service.
- Understand business ethics, set standards for yourself and stick with it.
- Identify weaknesses in procedures and in staff. Deal with it. Do not let it fester.
- Stay in touch with consumers with calls or thank you emails or newsletters offering value.
- Be prepared for reputation management. Consumers now have in the palm of their hands the power to destroy you, and they know it. Get the best communicators in your business to handle negative exposure; do not allow just anyone to do it. Respond in a timely fashion.
- Give back to the community. People now attribute value to your brand depending on whether or not they see you as a good corporate citizen. This is especially true for younger consumers, who seem to be more socially aware.
The above is an introduction to Branding which we are happy to share. We urge you to give serious thought to these reminders. If you require further information or training please feel free to contact Kiskadee Media Inc.
CEO Kiskadee Media Inc.