The Sunday Mail
NIKE, Samsung, Coke, McDonalds; what do they have in common?
They are leading brands on the international market.
These products have a vibrant presence in most markets across the world, thanks to strong brand management initiatives.
Back home, Zimbabwe has some of the highest quality products and services that have potential to be world-leading brands and command a large share of markets around the globe.
Regrettably, these products and services have failed to achieve this.
To date, outside the tourism industry, the country is still to come up with key products and services that can easily be identified with Zimbabwe.
For example, countries such as Namibia have developed products such as the Windhoek beverage line, which have made strides in Africa, including Zimbabwe.
This is the same with Nigeria’s Jollof Rice, whose demand across the world has easily invoked appetite for more products from Nigeria. So, how have these products managed to penetrate foreign markets?
One of the most important factors that impact perceptions and market penetration is branding. It is an important element to consider when developing a marketing campaign and designing advertising and product packaging.
Branding is multi-faceted but all its elements deal with the promotion of a product or design by means of creating a unique identity, for instance, through trademarks or patents.
Broadly, branding deals with all aspects that identify a business, product and or service, and it is how the customers recognise and experience the business.
Branding is more than just a logo — it encompasses elements such as colour, language and packaging. These will need to be structured simply in order to create the desired attention.
This attention can be used to make it easy for local products and services to penetrate the export market and boost sales. Branding is also a promise, hence companies must ensure their products or services have capacity to fulfil that promise.
For example, does Tanganda Tea fulfil the promise to “lift you up”?
The promise aspect of the product can be used to develop the unique selling position for the product. The branding promise can be leveraged to develop a uniqueness for the product.
In addition, a strong brand ensures longevity of a product or service as repeated encounters with a certain label will lead to repeated business and ultimately good performance of the product.
For example, because of multiple encounters through advertising and use, some individuals refer to all toothpaste as Colgate or all washing powder as Surf.
This is a case of a brand becoming a generic trademark. This only happens when the consuming public no longer identifies the brand but the action. The brand will have become so pervasive that people associate it with the action.
Ubiquitous brand status is beneficial in the fast-paced business world as quick buying decisions need to be made and people find it easier to seek out specific brand names.
Jacky Charbonneau, a leading international expert in branding and marketing argues that small and medium enterprises (SMEs) — who make up the majority of businesses in Zimbabwe — need to work hard to increase the status and value of their brands by developing coherent, forward looking business strategies that will ultimately yield cost competitiveness.
What this means is that local companies that are looking to penetrate the export market need to invest in improving their brand and create unique selling points that place their products in a better position compared to others. This will drive consumer loyalty as well as gain and retain market share in international markets.
To assist SMEs in branding, ZimTrade, the national trade development and promotion organisation, offers a tailor-made training programme whose major objective is to improve the competitiveness of local exporters on the export market.
The Marketing and Branding for International Competitiveness (MBIC) training is largely anchored on inclusive growth and value addition, which ultimately leads to improved marketing and branding of local products and services.
MBIC training equips exporters with skills, knowledge and information on marketing tools and market access related issues for the SMEs and emphasis is placed on utilising the brand to penetrate and expand markets.
The training programme is modelled along creating brand equity with the understanding that a good brand is the sum of people’s perceptions of one’s products, vision and content.
Building a strong brand
Everything — from issues often ignored such as activities on social media, to larger areas such as packaging design — influence the perception that others have of local brands. Arguably, branding can be the difference between customers buying from Zimbabwe or buying from competitors.
The market is a competitive and congested place, which demands products and services to stand out through their unique brands. For local products to be competitive, local players need to develop modern branding techniques that take into consideration emerging global trends.
At the same time, there is a need for concerted efforts from public and private sector players to come up with a co-ordinated national branding that will make it easy for local brands to be identified on the export market.
For example, Peru developed a national logo being used as a brand for the national marketing strategy. This branding features a logo that resembles a mirror image of a stylised mixture of the ampersat and a fingerprint which spells out the word Peru.
At the ZimTrade 2019 Exporters Conference, a resolution to develop Zimbabwe’s national trade brands was made. This will see some local brands championing brand Zimbabwe in the export markets.
The aim is to make an indelible mark in the minds of tourists, entrepreneurs and investors by capturing the brand essence, which creates mental and emotional appeal to the target audience.
Following the creation of national brand features, local players need to be consistent in marketing campaigns as this helps to build the brand over time as the more it appears in the face of customers, the more it will be remembered.
What will also be important is to know the specific market requirements in terms of the language, colour, consumer preferences and needs. As branding elements can potentially communicate different messages to different people, there is a need to fully understand the diverse cultural perspectives.
It is important to know what is or is not acceptable in a specific culture, especially for those companies that are expanding into new territory.
Issues of counterfeit brands are common across the world and “fake” products and services milk potential revenue meant for “genuine products”.
Hence, there is a need for local producers to protect their brands on the export market where they are largely vulnerable to counterfeits.
To protect known brands and logos, owners must seek trademark and protection rights through organisations such as the African Regional Intellectual Property Organisation (ARIPO), Zimbabwe Intellectual Property Office (ZIPO) and World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO).
The aforementioned have offices in Zimbabwe for easy access, and depending on the marketing strategy and vision, it is recommended to first attain regional rights through ARIPO before going global with WIPO.