BY DR FARAI CHIGORA
Having gone through the fundamentals that anchor the formation, growth and competitiveness of start-ups and SMEs, we are taking a leap forward and engaging into the next tier of gears that define the tone and complexation of industrialisation and the science of entrepreneurship. The next continuum in this regard is in the frontier of brand management and its essence in setting the businesses apart. Suffice to note that brand management in this regard will be understood from the home-grown PEOPLE model an acronym for People, Ecology, Organisation, Practitioner, Leadership and Education (discussed in previous editions).
Branding has traditionally and presently, proved to be the centre-pivot upon which the entire business system of entrepreneurship and industrialisation revolves, as it sets competing offerings apart. It connects all the business dots into tangible constructs of purpose which are accompanied by profitable visibility, lasting networks and global attractiveness. These gains go beyond the existence of the founder into generations to come. Against all odds, brands have proven to be self-preserving in engraving lasting footprints that seem to hold a permanent presence in anyone’s memory from kindergarten to retirement. Such brands have since grown to be allies in our memories as they literally become the campus upon which we make purchase decisions.
It is, therefore, imperative to think broadly and confess that we invest in products and services, which therefore calls upon the start-ups in Zimbabwe to cast eyes far into the future and build enduring brands that are worthy investing in. This is mainly due to the fact that customers and stakeholders look for brands that have made it in their lifetime through recalling whatever good memory associated with the brand’s existence and somewhat guide the consistency temperatures each time there is contact with the brands. It, therefore, reminds us as entrepreneurs that the net worthy of our start-ups is in the value of the brand portfolios as they are the strategic pillars upon which the company’s vision and mission statements are achieved. The grand challenge facing the start-ups today is the mistaken view that branding and brand management are optional choices, yet they are the turbines that propel the business into profitable blue oceans as they differentiate their products and set a competitive value proposition. Existentially, it does not matter which sector one is operating from, branding has proven to be an all-rounder strategic process which define, setup business, configure, visioning, practising and relate to the broader external world.
A brand talks to the heart and memory of persons and societies. The perennial challenges and experience I have noticed while providing consultancy services to local SMEs and start-up is that they are struggling to be part to that societal happy memories, as there seems to be limited strategic thought going into the DNA of such companies. Yet we have the resources and expertise to tap into and shine light into these darkness spots. Comparatively we might be running a competitive manufacturing industry and top notch services but all will be in vain if branding is not structured as the engine of such processes as we will be in the business of producing and manufacturing common services without any premium value for our stakeholders. It is high time “buildings should speak”, colours should be brighter and while our actions showcase excellence as the adage goes “action speak loud than words”. This entails that a well-defined brand strategy promised that which is in its reach to deliver. Therefore, in a supreme brand when it is well-crafted as a central pivot for real enterprising, its offerings are geared to exceed the promised value than the other way round. Therefore, ground-breaking branding is founded on innovation rather than basic survival instincts of imitating the first movers in the market. That is where uniqueness begins and ends. Nothing is new to showcase to the world when it is just a reinvention of someone’s name, idea, logo and colouring. We should compose our own songs that comes as acts of novelty, surprise, and luring.
The taste of the pudding is in the eating, those who have done it have been favoured by greater market share, increased shareholder capacity, favoured by real partnerships and have been the story of the day in every sphere that they stepped into. Yet we do create logos just for invoicing, and fold our hands and assume that we are running a strong branding strategy. There should be a real quantifiable meaning behind a logo or any branding element (more in the coming editions). Not withstand the colours and straplines accompanying our entrepreneurial identity. Branding should be taken as a pragmatic practise rather than a showmanship. It should reflect consistency as it is to address and be judged by generations and generations to come as a form for a lasting positive corporate identity and reputation. Of course it is also addressed through packaging and compatibility, yet our practices have divorced these as fulfilling the bare minimum requirements. Our packaging is more elusive from the simple instructions to the ingredients of the content. Complexity and skyrocketed prescriptions and designs of our logos destroys the positive communication intended by the brand.
Simplicity in construct is the way to go in our drive to be heard and appreciated by potential customers and investors. This was illustrated by the Apple founder, the late Steve Jobs when he summarised the company’s philosophy towards branding as “… Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication!” Let us leverage on our uniqueness, especially from our ecological elements, that’s where our own definitions will develop extended to visibility and attractiveness. Within the space of the aforementioned, it is of paramount importance to take a deep dive into the core aspects of branding for entrepreneurship and industrialisation as the thrust for coming editions. Considering a solid chain of all related brand matters in the realisation of vision 2030 and beyond. Some of the issues to take home include:
- Sally Mugabe renal unit disappears
- Embracing green buildings to save energy
- Chaos as NatPharm fails to supply drugs
- Feature: Is IP education sufficient for African young inventors?
There is need for a full-house brand evaluation for its sustained longevity in various enterprises. This helps in structuring of real branding and business through people and machines. Also it helps in understating the employees and partners from a brand perspective rather than just a mere product/service offering.
Brand creation rather than imitation
It is reflecting that most of our enterprises are a mirror of other existing brands. It does not give any form of identity through uniqueness, there is need to originate through novelty so as be recognisable and be selected amongst many in the pond.
Branding as an art
It is imperative to invite art and its forms in creating real brands, through and mix of elements (to be in the next edition) rather than just relying on a mere logo as being practiced by most businesses.
Brand as a culture
Entrepreneurs should consider branding as a fellowship that is having brands talk to each other more than any other component. It will even encourage creativity in crafting one’s own element that runs into competition and rated on its share of the market. Being a common player in the game restricts real self-evaluation in the play field (branding should be an edge for competitiveness).
It is also vital to consider contemporary creativity through consulting architectures in the subject area as it comes through specialisation rather than hook and crook, taking into consideration digitalisation and social media influence by real technocrats rather than viewing it as housekeeping matter.
- 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 can be contacted for feedback at [email protected], WhatsApp mobile: +263772886871.