IN BUSINESS, it helps to have a good, solid brand name.
But beyond slick packaging and smart advertising, branding forms an integral part of any successful organisation's business strategy, and it goes a long way in adding credibility in the market.
"Branding is about the clarity of a company's vision and mission and the ability to execute it well. This creates a track record, which is useful when a company wants to expand overseas," says Mr Tan Chia Seng (above), business director at Citibank Singapore.
The bank's CitiBusiness unit is the main sponsor for the Singapore Prestige Brand Award (SPBA).
This is the second year that CitiBusiness, which provides banking and networking services to small and medium enterprises (SMEs), is supporting the SPBA.
It is also the presenting sponsor for the CitiBusiness Regional Brands category of the SPBA, which recognises local brands that have successfully penetrated and established a significant presence in at least five foreign markets.
"More local SMEs are venturing overseas. Having accreditation like an SPBA helps such companies introduce themselves outside Singapore," says Mr Tan.
"We have chosen to support the SPBA because it goes beyond simple financial success. It looks at a company's history, its ability to replicate past successes, and has a view to the company's future."
He says Citibank Singapore, through the CitiBusiness arm, is behind its SME clients every step of the way.
"We partner them on their growth journey, offering a full spectrum of banking solutions," he points out.
The global reach of Citibank and CitiBusiness means that local and foreign companies only need to deal with one bank, wherever they are.
In its own way, Citibank is also building up its brand.
Says Mr Tan: "We have the ability to innovate, differentiate customer service, reliability and globality. Market participants, clients and other corporations know us to be strong in these areas."
He observes that in recent years, branding has matured to be more than just a buzzword.
"Businesses in Singapore have moved from just being aware of branding to really working to make it happen," he says.
"This can be seen through the fast-improving quality and quantity of participants in the SPBA. Getting ahead today is not just about product or sales strategy. It is a lot more competitive, and good branding gives a company an extra edge over others."
Business-to-consumer businesses may find it easier to get brand recognition, since the product is delivered directly to consumers.
However, Mr Tan notes that in a business-to-business environment, where a company's clients are other corporations, awareness in the broader market is not likely to be as high.
"The SPBA - through the judging processes and accompanying media coverage - is a good way to create recognition and introduce a name to the marketplace," he says.
A distinct name and consistent corporate identity can help open doors for the companies overseas to consumers, other corporations, communities and governments, as well as cement their presence in the industry.
Mr Tan adds: "Good branding creates a high level of trust among clients and a unique customer experience. It is also a great morale boost for employees, who feel like they are a part of a winning team."
And regardless of an organisation's industry, format or product, when it comes to developing and managing a brand name, the company must be ready to embark on the branding journey in the first place, he says.
"An organisation must differentiate its value proposition to customers. Branding initiatives must be executed by a strong team of managers and staff who are passionate about doing what is right for the company."
Mr Tan adds that clarity of business vision and the ability to cascade it to employees is paramount.
"Branding efforts must become a way of life in the company, embedded in the corporate DNA," he observes.
"These will translate to robust financials and the establishment of a recognised name.
"Branding is the end of one journey, but also a means of embarking on another longer, more successful one."
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