Branding and brand equity have become increasingly important components of the economy. Today, a growing number of researchers conclude that brands are one of the most valuable assets that a company has. But contrary to what is widely known, branding is not the job of the marketing department. According to Pier Massa, founder and managing partner of Canada-based
M-2 Business Frameworks, branding is the responsibility of the top management. "Companies need to be educated on the financial results of branding and its value is in the hands of the executive team," he said.
The term 'branding' is relatively new in this region. Is it a new concept?
For decades a lot of people have associated branding with logo design and advertising. However, positioning a company's brand as the driver for growth is a new concept.
So what indeed is branding and how is it different from marketing, advertising and public relations?
Advertising is a very narrow sector that deals with the message a company gives to its customers. Public relations deals with influencing the media. Branding on the other hand is about the perception of the people on everything that a company does. Thus it is impacted by advertising, marketing, company policies as well as employee behaviour.
How important is branding for a company and how much budget should it allocate for this purpose?
Branding is the ultimate driver for great business results. It can deliver results far better than any good PR or advertising campaign. But achieving a good branding is not really dependent on how much money you would spend on it, as branding revolves around everything that a company does. It means therefore that the brand is not the responsibility of the marketing department. It's the responsibility of the executive team to ensure that everything that they do is aligned to what the brand promises.
Having said branding is the job of the top management, would you advise branding firms to leave a company whose executive team has not been co-operative?
In a sense yes; But what I do with my clients is I try to help them understand both the financial results of branding, which a lot of them do not realise. Companies need to be educated that the value of branding is in the hands of the executive team. This is something that the marketers are not good at. Branding is a way of running a business, it's an opportunity to transform your organisation inside and out.
What have been the common loopholes of the marketing team?
Focusing on the visuals, advertising and PR while neglecting customer experience.
Most of your clients are from the banking sector. How different is this area in terms of devising a strategy?
Banks are unique because the services they provide generally do not have a tangible physical product, so in a sense they need a very strong trust relationship with their clients.
What can you say about the maturity of the branding business in the UAE, especially in banking?
The banking sector here is highly fragmented, and is still relatively new to the idea of branding. So most of the strategies here are very reactive. Almost all of the banks are competing with one another on offers. Honestly, I haven't seen anything that has struck me as yet.
How is a brand affected by the employees' performance or behaviour?
Employee satisfaction has a direct correlation to customer satisfaction and ultimately in the profitability of a company. This is critical. Whatever we promise our consumers, we have to over-deliver to our employees. If we promise respect to our customers then we cannot treat employees with anything but respect because what we do to them is what they will ultimately do to our clients.
One of the major challenges in the Gulf is skill shortage worsened by the high attrition rates. What can your company do about that?
If you look at statistics, salary is important, but it is not the most important aspect. What ranks at the top is that you treat staff with respect, that you give them opportunities, that you pay them accordingly for what they are doing and you acknowledge their performance. All of these are systematic. We provide the methodology for this.
What is the most important thing in creating brand awareness?
Passion is critical in this business. The most important thing in creating passion is the engagement of the executive team and of the employees. They need to be a part of a brand's promise.
PROFILE: Pier Massa
M2-Business Frameworks Founder and Managing Partner
Bringing more than 20 years of experience through a combination of executive management and consulting roles in North America, the Mediterranean and Europe, Massa has pioneered customer-centred brand transformation across several organisations and industries.
As vice-president of brand management at the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, he transformed the role of the brand to become the key anchor point for change across the bank.
Massa developed his consulting skills at the Boston Consulting Group, and now, as founder of M2 Business Frameworks, has built interrelated practice areas anchored around brand transformation and customer experience engineering.