First of all, apologies for the lack of updates this week. I have been caught up with work the whole week as we wrap up the corporate branding project at the company that I am interning in.
I was busy with a photo-shoot of the company headquarters and some of the retail outlets that we operate for the corporate brochure that is due to be out by mid of next month. Thinking about it is scary because the lead time is really short, and we really need to get the things done quick.
The end of the branding project also marks the official end of my seven month long internship. I will officially end work by the end of July, and am hence trying desperately to finish up whatever I can so that the next person would not be caught in the unpleasant situation of having work she doesn’t know about piled up on her.
Looking back on these seven months, the journey has been bittersweet. I have had to play the middle man for the brand agency and the management, and had several difficult messages to convey. It has also been an uphill task to get the commitment of the whole management, and even when that has been done, you run the risk of unexpected situations coming up and destroying your initial efforts. Working for an Asian firm, it is also easy to run afoul with the budget. We have had to be very mindful of every single penny that we spend in this project.
It hasn’t been all rough though. I have learnt so much more about branding and marketing as a whole in this internship, and really got the opportunity to try my hand on implementing a lot of the ideas that we had. Also, I got to do a lot of hands-on work with contacting suppliers and coordinating photo-shoots, for example. Rarely does a chance come by when an intern gets to lead the whole branding effort, even if it is for a mere 3 months. I had been given an incredible opportunity.
Most importantly, a key learning that I got from this job was the importance of planning. There are so many different steps in a branding exercise, from research all the way to execution and engagement. All of these would have to be mapped out and planned for, be it the budget or the production of corporate collaterals. Sometimes the task seemed gigantuan, but I learnt to break down complex tasks into smaller, manageable parts and to take things a step at a time. Eventually, even a mountain can be leveled this way.
Needless to say, I have also gained invaluable colleagues and friends in this period. When the going gets tough, the people around you are the ones that prop you up by telling you that life still goes on. Sometimes it can be a simple listening ear to hear the whining before we hit the ground running again by getting on with our work. It’s great that I have all of these people to call my friends.
My important takeaway about branding is that it might seem superficial for those who haven’t experienced it (it is all about the identity design, or what font to use) but I have experienced that it is more than simply design. It is about expressing the core essence of a company and the values that it espouses. It is also about rallying your employees around the brand that is built to make sure that the whole organization knows your brand and what it stands for.
In fact, in the grand scheme of things, the design plays only a small part to make sure that the consumer out there would be appealed to to take notice of your brand. Anything after that initial attraction is really up to the company.
Corporate Branding vs. Product Branding
Another takeaway is the difference between product branding and corporate branding. It has been hard to convince the management of the need for corporate branding.
Companies which actively practise product branding might not believe in corporate branding. This is because good branding of a product has a tangible benefit in terms of the bottom line. For corporate branding, there is no such quantifiable metric. The benefits are vague such as better talent attraction and retention, or reputation. These are measurable only by the biggest of firms that have systems dedicated to keep track of these things.
Corporate branding then becomes perceived as an irrecoverable cost to management. Some might even believe that it is needless since the front of a company is always its products first.
Well, I would like to submit that this mentality of branding limits it to simply a cheap facelift: a change of logo; a renewal of the dusty corporate website. If we look at branding as an opportunity for the enunciation of corporate strategy, and for change within the organization to galvanise your employees towards the desired values of the corporation, then it is worthwhile to spend to brand. Research has shown that employee engagement with the brand and values boosts productivity at the workplace. That means good for the organization as a whole.
At the same time, branding agencies don’t make it easy for companies to see beyond the designs upon designs that they dish up for any given branding project. Sometimes we forget the strategy behind the designs, and it feels like everything that we are looking at is wasting the management’s time because “any design would do”.
Well, that is totally missing the point, isn’t it?