BY FARAI CHIGORA
Our brands are anchored on a promise to the customer through our mission and vision statements. These brand promises are made tangible through building an enduring perception about reality, where in upon the customer making the purchase decision, the promise should be fulfilled.
Many at times, the branding and marketing community suffer the challenge of over-promising and under delivery. This creates a mismatch and dissatisfaction on the customer’s side and through word of mouth and discourages their community in engaging the brand in future.
In our quest as start-ups and SMEs, the approach is to better understand our capabilities and capacity upon which we make brand promises and build a sustainable perception which matches the reality on the ground through under-promising and “over-delivery”, which creates the wow effect on the customers and stimulates lasting loyalty with the brand.
In the digital economy, attempts to create a false perception will not last as the online communities will poke halls in the false promise and its impact goes viral. In this instalment, we take a leap into the discussion on why perception matters.
There is a common challenge surrounding all communities, that is to influence perception through projection of a deliberate reality.
As the adage goes, “no kingdom can endure two kings”. Thus one of the two should take precedence here. It is our duty as entrepreneurs to be on equilibrium.
Otherwise we risk selling a ruse to the market, which has negative returns on the brand value and its propositions. Our enterprises are suffering from over promising and not meeting expectations.
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This builds an ordinary failure in the lifespan of a brand and we make daily promises that we fail to fulfil.
Giving birth to perceived brand quality is a structured process that must be nourished and invested in daily. Love is in the eyes of the beholders, same as quality. Our efforts should be towards attracting a large share of the market as providers of supreme quality. In its simplified understanding, it gives birth to performance issues.
As we buy and make products and services, our determination for quality mainly resides on performance. Our localised and global markets buy performance.
This is embedded in the brand craftsmanship, as brands present quality in the form of performance.
The weaker ones on the market have tried to imitate those brands that have shouted quality (which is unethical and of bad repute), to an extent of having fake Nike shoes, clothes labels, cars and even food.
However, it shows the need to balance the meaning of our brand quality in its construction and the meaning in consumption by the targeted customers.
People pay an extra for this quality reflecting how brands can progress into the bottom-line of the enterprise and shareholder value.
A self-introspect of our SMEs is worrisome as they treat quality in a business as usual and for regulation purpose only (that is as required by International Organisation for Standardisation, Standards Association of Zimbabwe and any other form of certification).
We are undercutting our own sustainability and shortening the brand longevity curve.
There is, therefore, no shortcut to quality that is equal to the perceptions of the market (in a positive way), where the equilibrium is not met, only for it to be on the part of under-promising and over-delivery.
This requires a systematic evaluation by those in our enterprises to explore and understand how the product features are meeting the global expectations.
This is as prescribed by accreditation bodies for the related industry or sector. Many of us are hanging in there by providing the bare minimum. These are fundamental in building supremacy in our brands.
As it is not only a window dressing agenda and cause but confidence building in the minds and hearts of our customers. That is to be reckoned as risk free, consumable and ready for partnerships.
It is an internal drive for collaborations leadership as employees and any other subordinates in our businesses will be engaged for holistic quality engagement, including promoting and encouraging formation of the quality circle groups. Being ambitious should not divert from reality and continuity.
Quality is maintained throughout the life cycle (from the concept to customer ownership and after sales services). But our SMEs usually think about the profit today and they are done.
Tomorrow should be brighter and more rewarding as we continuously service our brands, even when they are in the hands of our customers.
The reason why some automobile brands have become extinct over the years is because spare parts for repairs have not been available (it’s like the customer buying for car breaking instead of a lasting ride).
They talk about Toyota as stronger and serviceable especially in our localised ecology. What about your products/services? Where do they belong in the same view?
That is when we will project the expected quality that will last in the minds of generations, encouraging referral through both physical and e-word of mouth that will be converted into fortunes.
It is a fit and finish ideology through a thoughtful brand mechanisation to walk the talk in quality (not having the brand and offerings living in two different worlds, let them merry and propagate goodwill, revenues and shareholder satisfaction).
Quality should, therefore, not be mistaken as something that is not measurable. Our enterprises should try to vision brand quality to change the worldview through installation of all the nitty-gritties as aforementioned.
This will enhance our brands more towards industrialisation through tangibilising quality for once and equate projected and perceived quality. Brands themselves should be a start and end in defining quality. So as to turn all parties for quality that is definable, presentable and globally appreciated.
As said by Stan Phelps, “Customer experience isn’t an expense. Managing customer experience bolsters your brand.” The drive is to enhance all facets of quality from conformance to durability, reliability and fit and finish. Our SMEs should, therefore, consider:
Brand quality measurement
Our SMEs should develop a culture of brand quality assessments through putting in place their own crafted measurements that suite with their own projection.
There is no need for copy and paste here, rather customisation, as the intent is to become unique in the eyes of the beholder and be defined from our own quality (not that which is borrowed through imitation).
That is being with the stakeholders who matters most. From the customers to advertisers and regulators, they each have a good say and contribution that will define our quality and even help us in self-assessment before we project (a proactive approach rather than mercurial).
Continuous brand re-engineering
These are matters of continuous improvement. Revisiting our brands presentation for quality with regards to what made our brand foundation and the present representation. It helps in self-evaluation and continued improvement to please and entice the markets.
Accreditation for quality not compliance
This should be a matter of matching the offering with the projected time to tell the truth rather than gimmicks. Our customers know us better as they continue consuming our products. Any brand consumption has some risks and when we promise quality, it should be.
In conclusion, my gospel to the SMEs is that they should invest in quality products, under-promise and over-deliver to create lasting loyalty and maintain an edge in the market. Until then, let’s invest in total branding for entrepreneurship and industrialisation
- 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.