Opinion: Laws for entrepreneurial branding

File pic: Branding

In our inaugural PEOPLE model we talked about the legal compliance as a critical cog of running a successful SME.

Here we narrow down to branding laws as originated in the field of business and marketing management (every philosophy/discipline has its own laws). Indeed theories must be turned into practice for real-life validation.

The existence of our entrepreneurial brands needs to be safeguarded by some sort of prescriptions made for us and by us. Especially now we have seen that we are equally excellent in performance to share markets, shelf displays, partnerships, business discussions and exhibitions with the so called global big brands. It is a sign that we can even do much better and dominate the world likewise.

Of course there are many, if not uncountable laws of branding, that have been shared in various domains. Here we apply a specific entrepreneurial checklist to focus and customise those branding laws for entrepreneurial take-off and longevity. In this edition we therefore discuss the laws of branding that relates to our SME growth and success. 

To start with is the law of brand quality where we move away from mere definitions and explanations to live the promise. A real brand should talk quality in its delivery, performance of the represented offerings and pricing.

Now we know what our markets expect from us through this enterprising journey we have taken so far it is high time to showcase real brand quality through business re-engineering processes. Where we introspect, test, adjust, match and evaluate. View yourself as customer of the same products/service you are marketing and selling. What would be the best price you will pay for against the anticipated satisfaction (brand quality =brand value). 

Many of the times our SMEs take short-cuts and give less in quality (because they don’t pre-test) but at the same time expect best returns.

A reminder that the market is also ahead in evaluation of the product/service, pricing and brand promise(s). The same goes with matching your brand elements like packaging and projected brand personality with the expectations of the segment(s) being served.

As we all know that quality lies in the eyes of the beholder. We have different types of markets/customers with diverse needs for satisfaction ranging from the lower to higher end of social classes. In this perspective various groups have different views/opinions on what they call quality in relation to an SME brand. It is therefore imperative to know that quality is not about being expensive and having brand elegance but providing what your segment see as satisfying for their particular need(s) (a proper market research should lead in this achievement).

That is why those in the school of economics have appreciated two extremes of every market that is for inferior and for normal/superior goods. Here quality is defined differently in both ends. Thus know what your brand quality stands for in the markets you serve as an aspiring entrepreneur.

This is then followed by another special entrepreneurial brand law of brand contraction. The law is a very interesting in the sense that it re-defines the growth of SMEs which has been on our main agenda from the onset. We previously talked about managing diversity and expansion of our businesses. Surely we discovered that some promising enterprises experienced a pre-mature death just because they tried to grow too much than they could handle/manage (concept of diseconomies to scale).

The same applies when we expand our brand(s) and use it on everything that comes in our lines of operation/engagement. We dilute its power in the sense that the brand becomes meaningless on a broader market. A brand should have a concentrated focus and direct its effort to sell with a positive image and wide awareness in particular/specific markets. I have seen most of our SMEs milking from their successful brand by attaching it to everything that comes along their way from pharmaceuticals to agriculture, retail, furniture and banking. Yes it is good to ride on a successful brand and benefit from its equity but that will not last in the long-run. Through contraction and narrowed brand focus visibility will grow to be intense and memorable.

The same goes with the law of brand category which equally relates to the aforementioned. A successful brand should create its own category. Rather than joining a bandwagon which weakens your competitiveness/bargaining power from the inception. It is critical for a brand to break its own ground and create dominance through being the first to develop and lead the promise(s) in one way or another. That is why it is important to patent and have own Intellectual Property Rights, Copy Rights and Trademarks. A brand should enjoy its own space as a pace-setter/ inventor/innovator in a particular area of provision/category. Also supporting the need to strengthen uniqueness that is needed from brand craftsmanship to its lifelong market expression. We all know that when shopping for some products/services in any category there is always one that standout to be the leader and first choice. It is important to maintain the same forever through continued updates, innovation and new product/service development. As represented by a progressive/innovative brand and in some cases even go on re-branding in the same category.  

In some editions we also announced the law of brand fellowship. Which extends from the above that for a brand to strengthen its existence/performance in a certain category it should embrace/encourage fellowship. That is welcoming other brands in its space/markets. Though it is important to be cautious and know when to invite others as competition might overtake your brand visioning. In fact you should be well prepared for fellowship. On the positive side if there is more competition (through accepted brand fellowship) there will be more noise in that industry/category which then leads to higher good publicity and increased sales for  those excellent players in the fellowship. So fellowship can really benefit a brand as one single SME might fail to raise that higher noise in a certain category than what will happen when they are many other players shouting for an equal attraction. Like the adage goes “There is power in numbers.” These markets/customers we serve enjoy competition because they will have a wide base to choose the best product/services as represented by the best brand. Our SMEs should now realise that there is power in fellowshipping rather than being a silo in a certain category. 

Lastly, we go back to brand foundation through appreciating the law of a brand name. A brand needs to be represented by a strong/unique name for it to sail through into the long-run. That’s what has made renowned brands like Nike and Coca-Cola live longer on the global market. Even with likely imitations these brands have managed   defend their space and still dominate to be the leaders in their category. A brand name should not only have a meaning but not easily copied like a biometric finger print (a story for another day). Today I rest my case as we lawfully support the existence of our home-grown brands.

  • 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 protected], WhatsApp mobile: +263772886871.

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