Branding, vital to meet competition, says expert | Sunday Observer

Branding, vital to meet competition, says expert

Wimukthi Galahitiyawa
Wimukthi Galahitiyawa

Brand Centrical was built to meet the changing landscape of doing business and is now a fully grown brand agency, Brand Centrical Director and Brand Strategist Wimukthi Galahitiyawa said.

Winning an international award and being a pioneer in introducing the first branding agency in Sri Lanka were the two turning points in his business career.

“The idea to launch the company came about based on our past experiences and a common opinion that everyone shared about the Sri Lankan advertising and marketing industry at that time that showed a lack of brand building efforts among Sri Lankan businesses,” he said in an interview with Business Observer.

However, he said that they decided to take a risk and enter a market that did not exist at the time.

“But our vision to build brands that believe in a purpose and resonate by creating meaningful connections with the consumer had helped us create a market for our services within the first year through our success stories. We now see a trend where new agencies are entering the market and also traditional advertising agencies working hard to change their focus towards branding,” he said.

Excerpts:

Q. What is the recent award you won that brought recognition to Sri Lanka?

A. I was recently awarded Young Achiever of the Year by World Brand Congress and this is the third time a Sri Lankan has received this award. But, this is not a recognition that I brought myself, this is based on a common vision co-founder Diluni Jayasekera and I had five years ago and was supported by a talent pool of 30 individuals.

Q. Can you provide an overview of your company?

A. Brand Centrical is the first branding agency in Sri Lanka and started in 2013 with three employees. We initially operated as a boutique consultancy team with a selective clientele before growing into a full stretched Branding Agency with Brand Servicing, Research, Strategy, Creative Production and Digital services.

Our unique approach starting with research and introduction of BCKonnect, our digital solution arm has given us an edge over the rising competition so far.

Even though we have grown rapidly since the inception, we are still selective of our clients as we plan to have long term partnerships with all our clients.

Q. How did Brand Centrical begin?

A. The people behind this company are from various different marketing related backgrounds and have about 10 years experience each in marketing. I co-founded the agency back in 2013.

The idea to start the company came about based on our past experiences and a common opinion that everyone shared about the Sri Lankan advertising and marketing industry at that time. This was a growing problem in Sri Lanka and the gap between international and local businesses was growing rapidly and local and multinational agencies based in Sri Lanka did not see the holistic picture at the time or they were simply happy with repeating advertising budgets of local companies.

So we decided to take a risk and enter a market that did not exist at the time. But our vision to build brands that believe in a purpose and resonate by create meaningful connections with the consumer had helped us create a market for our services within the first year through our success stories. We now see a trend in new agencies entering the market and also traditional advertising agencies working hard to change their focus towards branding.

Q. What is branding?

A. Branding started off centuries ago with marking of livestock and later used in different industries such as tea and porcelain. The idea behind this was to make it easy for consumers to intensify your product among others products.

This system worked since these names were known and trusted among the locals and trading was mainly done locally or one to one. If you think about it, our ancestors have being doing branding for a very long time. But it has gone beyond simply pasting your name or the logo on your products.

Today, most businesses believe that branding is a shape, logo, name or a colour. Which is not entirely wrong because those could be the identifiers of your brand. However, its only the tip of the iceberg.

Simply put, a successful brand is built around three main topics, ‘Why you do it’ (purpose), ‘How you do it’ (processors) and ‘What you do’ (product or services).

Q. How important is it for a company to get branded?

A. With the increasing competition and booming international trade, businesses resolved to Advertising on Print, Radio and TV to try and compete with each other based on low price, most features or simply who had the biggest advertising budget. At this point businesses were simply communicating “What they do” (product or service) and people were accepting it.

However, all this started to change when people got access to information and was curious to know ‘How they do it’ (Processors) and ‘Why they do’ (Purpose of existence). It became a deciding factor for the consumers and organisations had to focus on telling their story and creating a unique identity for them that last for centuries.

In the modern era, the brand story of a company is the key marketing tool no matter how basic or sophisticated your products or the service are. Companies that has a resonating brand is able to convert consumers into fans and fans tend to have a long lasting relationship with your brand than the consumers.

Resonating brand image will also guide the businesses internally spreading across their culture and resulting in boosting innovation and productivity. It also helps growing organisations to stay focused on their vision as all tiers of the organisation is equally committed towards a common goal.

Q. What are the other benefits that branding gives an organisation?

A. There are mainly internal and external benefits to an organisation by embracing brand building.

In most cases, an organisation with poor branding is like an engine with lots of moving parts that works independently to one another to achieve many different things. Its branding that helps to identify the purpose of an organisation and embed this purpose though out its processors, culture and its people.

Branding is what gives a company a direction to continue in, a vision to build upon and expand. It is an all-round commitment towards the purpose of existence and consumers needs. Externally, any origination with a strong brand will always rise above the competitors and be able to create a lasting bond with their consumers and turn consumers into advocates of their brand. Invariably this will help organisations to reduce their marketing budgets and focus more on improving their products and services.

If done right, branding alone can take an organisation from the very bottom to the top of the market. There are instances where strong brand building has helped companies to rise to the top of their competition even though their product and services are not very competitive.

Q. What are the future plans of Brand Centrical?

A. We introduced our Digital arm in 2017 and we have since been part of multiple projects in the areas of back office automation and launching of successful internet businesses. Due to this success and looking at the trends in the market, and we have been experimenting with a Launch Pad for Internet Businesses (LPIB) and it has so far proven effective.

We have learnt that most internet businesses fail since they focus heavily on technology and very little on the business model and the usability aspects. That’s where our expertise in research, business analysis and user experience can create an edge for these businesses. We already have multiple project in our pipeline which will be introduced in near future.

Also, the company has moved into developing independent digital products and also formed a joint venture with our existing clients for few new and existing projects in digital platform.

Q. How do you think the education system should be developed to meet the new demands of the job market?

A. I believe we should start with teaching our younger generations HOW to learn instead of WHAT to learn.

The world around us is changing faster than ever, I really doubt these set curricula and course content can keep up with these changes and produce individuals who can create the future. So why not give the students the tools needed to master anything, and let them choose their path.

We are led to believe that we have 13 years in school and four years in the university to learn everything needed for a successful life and a career. In my experience the learning never stops, that’s what got me where I am today. Its never too late to study something new, change your career or take a risk and start something existing.

Q. How would you advise young people entering this field?

A. Branding is a process that needs experts from many different disciplines and work together to deliver results. Current government and private higher education systems can produce the skills required for these positions but not the thinking and the understanding required.

Unlike other industries out there, branding has very little prominence in the current education system. Anyone interested in branding can start by research, understanding what branding is at a deeper level surpassing the typical myths such as branding is advertising or branding is creating a logo.

Only then you will be able to make a choose a path to enter the industry based on what you are passionate about.

Q. Entrepreneurship culture - How do you think we should maintain it for the next generation?

A. We need to re-think how we can give our students an opportunity to explore their interests and not get boxed into standardised career paths.

The private sector should practice a culture that supports open minded individuals to pursue their passions and interests in respective industries and they might create the next big thing for these businesses.

This has been happening for long time in the international arena in companies such as Google and Apple which has led wildly successful products or services. If the government and the corporate giants are willing to play a big role there will be more entrepreneurs in the country.

Q. What will be the status of branding in the next five years?

A. With the technological advances, brands are being forced to be more transparent. Consumers will very likely have an effect on deeper level of a business such as sourcing materials and production lines to design of the product or service. Brands too can use this to their advantage by delivering more personalised products and services. Shifts of digital and social media and introduction of big data can give businesses a deeper understanding into consumers’ mind.

This also means big businesses will have to be agile and ready to face the constantly changing markets. They will have to compete with competitors such as a millennial with a 3D printer at home, who would be a threat to them overnight. 

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