BY DR FARAI CHIGORA It is with gratitude, to pen this instalment while basking on the enormous feedback that the readership is sharing and challenges that are being experienced by the SME in adopting some of the concepts that we are sharing on this platform. I’m also grateful for the feedback that I am getting from other entrepreneurs who are already implementing the concepts.
This is a fulfilling process, where through this platform we are sharing knowledge, experiences and innovations that are changing businesses and lives of many. In that very same fulfilling experience, this week we are engaged on the brand building process for SMEs (which seem to be generalised, yet it is a process) and how it is supposed to unlock the sustainable profitability for the businesses, industries and our national economy. It is from this phenomenon of engagement that I postulate that the brand and marketing management landscape in Zimbabwe is reflecting a new dawn that no one has never imagined in the form of a brand that walks the talk.
Thanks to the progressive movement following and shaping this platform that is shedding the much needed light. Various brand-concerned matters which used to sound fictitious (yet realistic) and mind boggling seem to have been simplified by each day, becoming doable and achievable (by SMEs). Our founding notion that brand management, inspired by home-grown and indigenous knowledge should become the turbines and propellers for industrialisation and model a new acumen in sharpening the entrepreneurship and by extension for the cut-edge solution to the modernisation of our national economy is increasingly becoming a realistic target.
This can be generalised in terms of transformational incubation that has been derailed in many instances as mere preaching without practise, but now can be synthesized for ongoing sustainable returns through revisiting what matters as the foundation of branding (that which brings about real equity in all facets of doing business). Nothing comes for free as my view for this continuous development. Successful brand ownership and its rewards will be experienced out of well-set foundation and propositions. It is imperative to tailor this DNA in our businesses through appreciating how a brand can anchor running systems and structures of our enterprising organisations.
It is not only a matter of talking a brand that one has to put on paper, but going beyond into the practicalities and modalities of ensuring a consistent brand-set agenda and satisfy customers profitably. I was puzzled that some of my great partners in the SME fraternity have done it all in terms of corporate logo, name, colours and any other previously presented elements, but now they seem to live a separate life from that which is in the brand manual (what are you waiting for?) Having all these ingredients in place is not the ultimate achievement but the beginning of the process of creating a lasting brand through ensuring recognition and equity in the mind of the customer.
There is no one universal way of handling branding as a model and driver of business success. Many do not know the purpose of their own brand on the market (they just brand in the name). We operate at different levels and we know ourselves better than anyone else in the market. At what stage are we introducing the brand in that market? Which will lead to another great self-evaluation but with a real 360 degree scrutiny whether you are the only player, a small/big fish in that pond.
This then helps in the need for the brand evaluation as the initiating combustion that is required by the brand strokes in order to ignite adequate motion for the branding locomotive. The challenge is that most of the time we undertake the branding process to fit in as others are doing it instead of looking at it as a holistic process of understanding ourselves and better serving the customers through unique offering that are we defined and branded as a show of our commitment to our brand and values. How is the brand aligning and conforming to the needs of time especially in its target markets is critical. The world has gone digital and are we there in both presentation and serving? Brands are now personalised to be an own persona and have we considered that? All is food for thought but in need of urgent attention.
The next step is that of defining our personality for the brand both within the business and in its external stakeholders (these matters well discussed in previous editions). At the same time a culture should be in-built and defined for the brand in these spaces. All that matters at this juncture is to configure guided and riding on the previous raised instalments. The main fault and reason for a dry joint in the brand building circuit is failing to engage key stakeholders (whether by ignorance or deliberate). Our SMEs now know and should factor this as a usually ignored emergency call. All should be reminded that these stakeholders make the ecology for business viable and a better place to exist. In the pursuit for brand excellence we then try to position where we want the brand to make its unique voice pronounced (brand segmentation matters as previously discussed).
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As we cannot be everything to everyone. This comes with a real crafted strategy on where we want to be as a brand rather than a business and its products/services. I am happy that most of our enterprises have now appreciated and are in practise of the efficacy and transformational magic of brand communication tools. These should be well identified in the existing spaces where all types of media exist. Let’s choose that media which is for us even not by us, but one that conforms to our brand storytelling and audience. Sometimes Twitter is not the end-thing, there is need for a real screening here or we waste investment.
This goes on to a continuous monitoring and evaluation of that what matters most in our branding drive since brand building and showcasing is a project on its own. Ultimately evaluation is never an end-thing, but a thermostat for continuous improvement and we should apply the same in this building process. This is the time not only to dream but to act and I am convinced that this has been lacking in the way we do real business. My fellow entrepreneurs you have it all that takes you there. However, there is need to add-on in the reconfiguration guided by the aforementioned which I am certain will help not only to sanitise but strengthen the great entrepreneurial vision through working brands that are for this age and beyond.
- 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. He writes in his personal capacity and can be contacted at [email protected], WhatsApp mobile: +263772886871.