The right to brand

  • Why are Malaysian IT companies so bad at branding their products and services?
  • Yasmin Merican’s exhortation rings true whether it is a product or a service

The right to brandESSENTIALLY, branding is what consumers see, feel and experience – that’s what Yasmin Merican, Malaysia’s own branding guru, says.
 
In the IT industry, where products are virtual and experiences amorphous, the ‘branding’ per Yasmin’s definition can be a stretch, especially when companies insist on playing the shy, demure and modest damsel with their products.
 
This claim is made through two premier award websites for Malaysian IT businesses, namely the MSC Malaysia APICTA Awards and Frost & Sullivan Malaysia Excellence Award.
 
Except for mobile apps providers like TaxiMonger, MobileHealth2U and a few other winners who have YouTube videos of their products, most if not all of the winners take being a prude to a totally different level.
 
None of the winners were showcased (via the awards website) by MSC APICTA or Frost & Sullivan.

  1. We do not know why the products won. There were no samples, screen shots or customer testimonials. Maybe a sentence saying where they are from and for what purpose.
  2. We cannot compare them with competitors who were nominated; and worst of all,
  3. We sometimes even doubt that the product exists, because when you do take the effort to visit the website, the references to the product can be exceedingly sparse.

At best we have a company and product name and maybe a link to the website. I mean, two out of three isn’t all that bad – we may not be able to experience them, but at the very least site visitors and potential customers should be given the opportunity to ‘see and feel’ the winners.
 
Perhaps secrecy is one of the reasons for this prudish behaviour – the feeling that the IT business is so rife with copycats that it is best to not share anything publically.
 
Humbly, and the most honest feedback that I can give: If the products are easily copied, it is better for them to be copied and fail now rather than two years and several million ringgit later.
 
Contrast this with CeBIT and CES (Consumer Electronics Show) where all vendors delight in showcasing their wares. [CeBIT stands for ‘Centrum der Büroautomation und Informationstechnologie und Telekommunikation,’ German for ‘Centre of Office Automation and Information Technology and Telecommunication.]
 
To those who are tempted to argue that it is easy to demonstrate a mobile app versus hardware, check out this VBlock promoter in a similar event where VCE actually plunked hardware onto the exhibition floor. The promoter may not be the best English speaker, but he sure knows his stuff.
 The right to brand
Or what about destroying hardware to make a point or two? Talk about data-crunching here, by EMC (pic).
 
This is a far cry from a rather famous Malaysian IT event that persists on having unashamedly nubile promoters with pamphlets ever ready to strike a pose for DSLR wielding visitors.
 
Here’s a more difficult question: What if your company is a true-and-true services firm? You do not carry software products and even if you do, they are minimal to the overall customer experience. An example would be an IT outsourcing firm.
 
If the light-bulb hasn’t lit up yet … your product is your people.
 
Managers and leaders among DNA readers would agree that, people – as tangible as any product can be – are the most difficult asset to create, yet possess unlimited potential to improve! To add to the complexity, your customers-to-be cannot see, feel or experience your people unless they ‘consume’ them.
 
The answer to ameliorate this conundrum although simple; does not come easily.
 

“Through previous and current customer testimonials who willingly speak volumes about your performance and services experiences”

 
To achieve this requires intense investment in leadership, execution processes and continuous human development to ensure that your people follow through on the organisation’s value system and perform within, if not beyond, your customer’s expectations – coupled with continuous customer engagements, feedback loops and acting upon customer recommendations.
 
Note: People are developed; dogs are trained.
 
So Yasmin’s exhortation rings true whether it is a product or a service; except with services, the best showcase of your products are customers that have already experienced them.
 
The results of branding do not come from a new logo, fancy websites, pamphlets or whitepapers, but are unleashed through a well-oiled organisation that delivers on the promise; championed by testimonials and showcased through video feeds as well as a gut-wrenching customer value story to boot.
 
In short, before you even attempt to brand, you have to earn the right to brand.
 
Bernard Sia is head of strategy at Mesiniaga Alliances Sdn Bhd. His opinions here do not necessarily reflect the views of Mesiniaga.
 
Previous Instalments:
 
Are we really partners?
 
Choke-holding performance with process controls

The Malaysian SME, via casual business encounters
 
Malaysian firms are lucky, perhaps too much so

Fixated with technology? Think ‘information’
 
 
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