MANILA, Philippines – A firm’s brand is its most direct connection to customers so quickly establishing an identity and remaining true to it is key to building a global empire, said global business leaders at the 2015 Forbes Global CEO conference on October 13.
This was the consensus by leaders of firms across diverse industries, from luxury hotels and shoes to transportation and media at a panel discussing the finer details of building a successful global brand.
“Brands are incredibly powerful but they can be fragile as well. You need to be careful with it,” said Mike Perlis, Forbes Media President and CEO. (READ: Steve Forbes: Expect turbulence in the shot term)
People have emotional connections to brands, he pointed out and added that small compromises in order to increase profit can have a significant effect on brand image.“That is why we’re so careful with it. Every employee of a firm is effectively a steward of the brand,” Perlis said.
“We’re in the transportation business so every day our customer experiences our brand,” said Noni Purnomo, president and director of Blue Bird Group Holding, Indonesia’s largest taxi operator.
“We specifically focused on making sure our drivers are happy because they are the keys to us providing quality to our customers. Only happy people can give happiness to others,” Purnomo said.
The concept of happiness extends even to choice of name, like Bluebird, which was chosen because it is the bird of happiness, she added.
In order to stand out and create loyalty, she said, you have to inspire good emotions in your customers and your brand is the foundation for this.
“Brands cannot just be a slogan, it has to have soul,” she emphasized.
Building upon existing brands
Sometimes the quickest way into a new industry is through using an established brand name as shown by Taiwan-based hotelier, Steven Pan.
Pan serves as chairman of the FIH Regent Group, the group behind the Regent hotels worldwide. He is also chairman of Formosa International Hotels Corporation which bought the rights to the Regent brand and existing hotels in 2010.
“We had a historical connection with the Regent as we used to develop hotels for them. In 2010, our contract for the Regent license in Taiwan was nearing expiration and when the opportunity came to buy it outright there was no question, we had to take it,” he explained.
Instead of establishing a whole new identity for the Regent however, Pan said that his firm decided to retain as much of its essence to ensure a smooth transition.
We decided to work with the original Regent guys so it was the new guys and the old guys coming together to revive the brand, he said.
It wasn’t just a sentimental decision but a financial one because as he explained, “A lot of luxury brands rely on legacy in its DNA.”
Customer is king
Ultimately the end goal of any good brand is to connect with its customers and in that sense keeping them happy is paramount, said Jack Cowin, chairman and managing director of Competitive Foods Australia and the largest shareholder of publicly listed Domino’s Pizza.
The secret to to this, he explained, “is the speed of the response when we get an inquiry or complaint. As a rule, it’s very important that you respond within 30 minutes.”
A firm has no excuse not to respond quickly as one of the benefits of the Internet is you can see customer’s inquiries in real time, he added.
The business leaders also agreed that although brand loyalty takes a long time to establish and can be lost quickly, this is not necessarily a death sentence for the firm.
Apple is perhaps the best example of this, Perlis said, and noted that it was the archetype of the Silicon Valley culture before falling drastically behind rivals after funder Steve Jobs was forced out of the company.
Perlis pointed that Jobs’ return and the subsequent focus on inspiring customers through design returned the company to pop culture prominence and changed the world by giving us the iPhone and iPod.
“In the process, it has become the world’s most valuable brand and consequently, the world’s most valuable public firm,” he said. – Rappler.com
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