I was at the Penang Forum “From Mediocre to Merit” organized by The Star in conjunction with its Star Outstanding Business Awards 2011 a few months ago.
The event was held at Cititel Penang and I was looking forward to two of the talks that morning.
It was also a forum held to introduce what the Star Outstanding Business Awards were and who could participate or submit their application to be considered. Plus it had a series of speakers from organisations like Exim Bank, Branding Association of Malaysia, Media Specialists Association, MATRADE and Bursa Malaysia to educate the business community in Penang.
Penang is rather small so it wasn’t a surprise to meet two of my clients at this event. The networking over breakfast before the event started was a pleasure as Penang people tend to be rather laidback and relaxed at events like these.
I was more interested in the talks by Branding Association of Malaysia and Media Specialists Association. As our business is not directly involved in manufacturing or export of goods, the other speakers and their content were not that applicable to me. But I listened anyway. One never knows what gems one might pick up!
Growing Brand Value
When Phang Kar Yew, the Vice President of The Branding Association of Malaysia took to the stage later that morning, I was all ears.
He said that the association itself is about “growing brand value through blue branding” which of course referred to the bestseller on Blue Ocean Strategy by W. Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne (which I’ve read and find it something that only academic types will enjoy).
The thing about new concepts or even vague concepts is that everyone banters with these words but no one knows what the concept is or how it works.
This happens a lot with Malaysians. We tend to use the latest buzzwords without any idea what it entails. I’ve heard people use Blue Ocean Strategy for all types of scenarios and most of them have NEVER read the book. Most people smugly think they’ve got a blue ocean strategy.
So just in case you want to know if you’re stuck in a red ocean and think you’re in the blue, here’s a quick test you can take over at the Blue Ocean Strategy website.
Repeat After Me, Branding is NOT Advertising
Basically, Kar Yew gave an overview of the association, its members and how it is able to assist companies and businesses keen to go on the branding route. Its aim is about building value within the Malaysian business community as well as “country branding” which is taking Malaysia into the level of international recognition. He emphasized that “branding isn’t advertising”.
Thank God he mentioned this.
In my opinion, a brand is not just about slapping one’s logo everywhere. The brand is more than just the company logo. The brand is a set of (positive) values and qualities which people associate with a company or business. It’s almost like a personality of the company.
Some companies have a strong “personality” and people want to associate with it because they perceive (rightly or wrongly) that the personality’s values are what they believe or aspire to!
Think of it. Why do you like a certain business or brand?
Why do some women like Longchamp or Coach or LV? Why do women like Forever 21? Why do some men like Nike? Why do some people like Burts’ Bees? Why do parents like OshKosh?
As for branding Malaysia, I strongly feel that we should veer away from the typical Tourism Malaysia scenes of jungles and forests lest unsuspecting tourists think we all live on trees! (The truest test of our tourism efforts – can tourists easily pinpoint where Malaysia is on the map of Southeast Asia?)
POE Media…How Are You Doing It?
The next speaker, the rose among the thorns (the rest of the speakers were men), was Chew Kagee, a Council Member of the Media Specialists Association.
She was a breath of fresh air as she was totally down-to-earth – none of that corporate type look-and-feel. Maybe it was easier for her as she is in the creative industry. She has more leeway to look un-corporate-like.
She was honest enough to note that offline media advertising is on the decline (an irony really as the event was organized by The Star).
She started by talking about the power of POE Media – Paid, Own and Earned Media – the types of media which you can use to communicate about your business.
Paid refers to the channel leverage which you pay for (and which you do not control such as newspaper advertising or TV advertising). It can also include sponsorships and paid search such as Google Adwords. However, the issue with paid media is that consumers have become skeptical. Paid channels suffer poor credibility issues.
Owned refers to the channel that you own such as website and social media accounts. You have full control over these channels but this type of media has its own problems such as longevity, cost and lack of credibility at times.
Finally there is Earned media which is perhaps wedged in between the two types of media. Earned media focuses on your customers as the channel.They help you create word-of-mouth buzz and gives you lots of credibility. Unfortunately, Earned media is like its name – it needs to be “earned”. What have you done to earn this? Sometimes, your customers can be negative too – and this poses its own set of challenges. What role do you play in crisis management of poor or negative feedback?
“Everything communicates,” she said. “This includes you, your staff and even your truck!”
Are You Distinctive?
Her point was, is your brand clearly differentiated and is this differentation sustainable?
Consumers today are spoiled with choices and with the many changes in the market, how does a business make sense of them all?
In fact, she gave some compelling data about Malaysia – did you know that Malaysian youth spent some 137 hours online, according to a study done in 2010?
Some 30 per cent of these youth are called Three Screen User – they watch TV and access the Internet on their mobile phones and PCs.
The question is, how do you reach them and which are the best methods?
To give more pizzazz to her presentation, she showed some interesting Malaysian campaigns via video case studies. These campaigns used both offline and online media to complement each other.
I liked one in particular – I thought it was quite clever to combine a TV series which captured the day to day life of a celebrity and her pregnancy (in this case Erra Fazira) and baby products producer, Johnson & Johnson.