Branding can be a key differentiator for SME’s


A two-day branding workshop was hosted by The Brand Union at the recent MENA Businesswomen’s Network (BWN) inaugural forum, aimed at emphasising the importance of the brand to every business, particularly small and medium size enterprises.

Held at the Park Hyatt in Dubai, the forum brought together over 350 women from all types of public and private sector businesses, with delegates from all 10 BWN member organisations in the Gulf, the Levant and North Africa as well as from the US, Europe and other parts of the MENA region.

Held under the patronage of H.E. Sheikha Lubna Al-Qasimi, UAE minister of foreign trade, the event took as its theme, Unleashing the Economic Potential of Women in the MENA Region, and aimed to provide hands-on skills and contacts, featuring 25 workshops covering branding, social media, business management, entrepreneurship, family businesses, skills building and networking.

There was keen interest in the branding workshop, according to Tanita Sandhu, brand consultant at The Brand Union, a global brand agency with 35 years’ experience and part of the WPP Group.

“Both sessions were packed with female entrepreneurs and executives from small businesses, and all were eager to learn more about how brands can work ‘smart’ for their organisation,” she said.

“While larger companies have already addressed the role of branding in most cases, what we wanted to do was focus on SMEs, and how branding played an essential part in the operation of every enterprise.”

The good news is that women attendees at the workshop recognised that branding was a fact of life for business, not just a feel-good add-on.

However, Tanita said the knowledge of how branding could be used to corporate advantage was relatively rare: “While the answer to our first question, ‘do SMEs need a brand’, was a resounding YES, when we drilled down, the women varied in their views of a brand as a logo, a company’s personality to a marketing brochure and a website.”

Another vital finding was that SMEs tended to worked with advertising agencies or independent graphic designers to create their ‘brand’ – or basic logo – a route fraught with problems.

“While talking to a graphic designer, they might come up with a solution to a company’s marketing requirements, but it will be one based on the creative of the task rather than implementing a holistic approach that takes in to account the full implications of the brand and how it runs through a company’s DNA,” she said.

Having separated the concept of logo and brand, Tanita said the sessions focused on brand education through a journey from the company origins to how they sold their products or services.

“By mapping the reasons enterprises were set up, setting out the values implicit in the business and the way these women operated the practicalities, we were able to make clear that for most SMEs, the brand they worked with – whether it was a logo or communications materials – often did not match their core values.

“The key realisation is that by portraying who you are, you can profit from that key differentiating opportunity.”

Tanita also stressed that SMEs had to build strong brands and not use the excuse that their size did not justify the investment in the process.

“Small companies that have fewer resources must not use that as an excuse to fall in to the way of thinking that brand is only for the big boys – SMEs need to build strong brands in their own niche in order to ward off their better-resourced competition.”

Other tips included ensuring that everyone in the company ‘lived the brand’ by familiarising the whole team with the brand promise and key marketing messages.

“Strong brands are built not just by tactical marketing,” concluded Tanita. “Google, Microsoft and Toyota all started small but they shared one characteristic – an uncommon point of view, a differentiation which they nurtured through their behaviour to reinforce their promise of innovation.”

*Contributed by Tanita Sandhu, Executive Client Director, The Brand Union, a strategic branding consultancy.


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