Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Branding goes beyond activity

When the writer first arrived in Eastern Europe, people animatedly talked about branding. Yet, several years later, attending the business community’s brand management awards night, it was obvious that people still mistook activity for branding. The discipline is relatively new and periodically they invite gurus from the West – and it’s big business, they can fill the National Theater to capacity.

The writer tells his Eastern European friends that he didn’t hear the word (“branding”) thrown around in the West – not in organizations that own global brands. And outsiders probably see the activity behind these brands and assume that’s what branding is about? And this is especially so in developing countries where new brands are being created all the time – yet many don’t survive and if they do, they can’t travel beyond the home country?

A brand is an investment . . . and must generate a multiplier effect that raises the value of the business. A brand is thus a ‘business proposition’ to begin with – not simply an activity. And as a business, it demands leadership and financial accountability.

We’re currently talking about branding the Philippines to create a positive image for the country, attract investments – and likewise employ it in our tourism efforts. If branding is a ‘business proposition’ to begin with, then we must look at the Philippine brand as a business proposition? And it demands leadership and financial or economic accountability, e.g., raising our GDP?

A business proposition must be sustainable. It means it must attain competitive advantage. And if indeed it does, then we would be attracting more investments! Love begets love! And which explains why the international community is promoting investments and competitiveness especially for the developing world to partake of the spoils of globalization.

Yet it is not something new. The Asian tigers and likewise China and India have recognized the imperative of a business proposition being geared to attain competitive advantage, and thus continue to attract foreign investments. And that must be the starting point of our thought process – and efforts to create a Philippine brand?

And since we have to work in partnership with foreigners, we need to recognize what a ‘win-win’ partnership is about? The JFC (Joint Foreign Chambers) has shared with us what it means. How far have we pursued their recommendations, which apparently we were in agreement with?

We can’t fall into the trap of ‘Filipino abilidad’ – which we unwittingly invoke when we are unknowingly sidestepping reality? For instance, Juan de la Cruz can’t summon Filipino abilidad if we don’t have a world-class airport and the ability to provide adequate energy at competitive rates? These are fundamental requirements to simply be in the game . . . as our neighbors are? We must accept and simply deal with reality? Who will do what, when, where and how? Isn’t it about time we get such basic things as an airport and electricity in place? Or should we be proud of our resiliency, ‘Filipino abilidad’ and faith instead? There is a time to stop talking and start doing?

To give justice to the Philippine brand, it must be a business proposition that is sustainable, geared to attain competitive advantage? Simply put, branding is about authenticity?

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