World city brand impossible if officials take cosmetic approach

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 30 May, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 30 May, 2009, 12:00am

At a recent educational seminar, two brand consultants (an expert from London and a local designer) were talking about their approaches to brand building.

One walked us through his strategic, business-centric and customer-oriented frameworks and the other was talking about 'beautifully' designed logos, decor and packaging.

The word brand means different things to different people.

However, it certainly is a lot more than a logo and 'what is pleasing to the eyes'. Branding is about differentiating what one is offering and building a relationship with customers.

Building a strong brand requires a thorough understanding of who the customers are, what they want and how one could stand out in the marketplace. Branding is also a lot more than marketing. Building a successful brand starts from the inside out - what the organisation believes in, where it wants to go and how it could deliver its brand promise.

The best brand consulting firms in the world are all multi-disciplinary teams with a wide range of expertise from design, research and marketing to business strategy and organisational behaviour. Unfortunately there are many people masquerading as brand experts in Hong Kong.

Think twice before you agree to pay them millions of dollars, or invite them to speak about branding.

Brand building is often hailed as the magic solution to the transformation of Hong Kong's low value-adding manufacturing businesses. But building a brand is not for everyone.

It requires tremendous commitment, resources, ingenuity and courage. There is no short-cut, no easy way out. A new logo, a revamped shop front or a bigger marketing budget will not get one very far.

That would be like putting lipstick on the gorilla. Similarly, it will really be difficult for Hong Kong to brand itself as a world city if we leave the job to a logo or a slogan and if the government and businesses alike take a cosmetic approach to change.

Rachel Chan, Central