As consumers become more sophisticated in their purchase choices, branding has become increasingly challenging to employ. Fortunately, the orientation of brand management has gone through substantial changes over the last decades, and has evolved as a more integrated and visible part of the overall corporate strategy.
The evolution of the brand equity concept during the 1990s, development of advanced brand valuation methods, and emergence of better brand tracking tools, have all facilitated the elevation of branding beyond middle management and into the boardroom.
The Asian Boardroom
Asian boardrooms generally lag behind this trend and tend to manage brand marketing from bottom-up instead of top-down. Many Asian business leaders still have strong reservations towards investing in intangible assets like brands, as opposed to their Western counterparts.
It is not uncommon that branding is referred to as marketing communication (advertising & promotion), and as a discipline managed by the lower-level marketing department in the corporate structure. These perceptions are the two core barriers for building more successful and international Asian brands.
Successful branding must encapsulate the entire company and its multiple and cross-functional actions and activities. When everyone in the organization serves the customers and creates customer value, then everyone is doing marketing regardless of function or department.
Hence branding is not a one-off session run by a separate marketing function, but a truly integrated part of the boardroom strategy along the lines of finance, operations, human resources and legal issues. This will require a major shift in how the Asian boardroom and corporate management team are structured and operated.
These steps enable the Asian boardroom to focus its attention on the required areas, and serve as check-points which can be tailored to the individual company's specific needs and requirements.
Take the examples of companies like Sony, Starbucks, Microsoft, Apple, Giorgio Armani, L'Oreal and Nike. They are all strong and highly aspirational brands where the boardroom and corporate management play a major role in all activities related to building and managing of their brands, being involved from high-level brand strategy decisions to monitoring the representation of the brand in local markets.
A strong brand is characterized by a unique brand promise (the customer focus) and an outstanding brand delivery (the organizational system and performance behind the promise). The brand promise and the brand delivery must be rightly and consistently balanced to achieve branding excellence.
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