Mon, 25 Aug 2003

Established brands are the most valuable assets

Burhanuddin Abe, Contributor, Jakarta

For certain people, like executives, artists, celebrities or successful people -- or those who want to look successful -- appearance is highly crucial. One person who also believes this is Aditya Indrajaya, an executive of a company dealing in architecture, interior design and management consultancy.

"For me appearance is one of the most important personal assets," he said.

He agreed that to appear stylish does not necessarily mean that one has to wear clothes with recognized brands. However, the branded products do emanate a unique difference, although sometimes the difference is often abstract or purely emotional.

He admitted, though, that his clothes carry all the internationally acclaimed labels like Alfred Dunhill, Christian Dior, Celline, Versace, Hugo Boss, Armani and the rest. Likewise, his accessories, such as wallet and tie.

Aditya, also the owner of Odiseus Health Club & Spa located in several star-rated hotels in the city, is not alone in the way he thinks. A number of other local executives have a similar mind- set. Most agree that brand-name clothes and accessories as well as frequenting popular places, like cafes and restaurants, reflect one's personality and esteem. Such things also represent one's position or level of success. The cheaper lookalikes are to be kept at a long and safe distance, they often quip.

Judging a man by his looks is like judging a book by its cover. It is not always wrong to judge someone by his or her looks, but as appearances often deceive, it is not wise to use this superficial method as a parameter of evaluation, in the real sense, that is. However, on many occasions, especially where one has to reflect a certain image, then appearances play an important role. The clothes you wear become more than something that handsomely or beautifully cover you up, but they deliver a certain message, one that embodies certain values.

Naturally, another return for the brand owners is the huge profits that successful brands consistently bring in. This is the result of long years of arduous work by the marketers in nurturing their brands through effective advertising and public relations, or in the advertising jargon, grabbing maximum mind- share.

Today, in an era when high quality is often taken for granted, popular brands then are what separate by giving added value. Consequently, consumers do not mind paying extra for these abstract values. Paraphrasing what marketing expert Kent Wertime wrote in his bestseller Building Brands and Believers a brand and its role in making profits is becoming more recognized in the current "image economy" era.

Not only reputable designers, like Christian Dior or Jean Paul Gaultier, are aware of the importance of a good name, but manufacturers of other product categories have long emphasized its vital role, for example Kodak, Levi's, General Electric or Mercedes-Benz, just to name a few. Some of the world's most successful consumer companies have been outlived by their creators, founders and owners.

Though Indonesian marketers have for some years now realized the importance of investing in a brand, in many business areas, the established international names still dominate the domestic market. This is understandable based on the stronger roots of the world brands along with years of marketing experience. Also, the "foreign mindset" of many locals, or belief that Western products are ultra-modern, may be another reason behind their success here.

A simple recall test of brands of soft drinks or fast food outlets will result in answers like "Coca-Cola" and "McDonald's". Their ubiquitous presence is evidence of successful branding that knows no boundaries or borders. Based on such success stories and many others, who would refute the fact that the brand name itself has really turned into an invaluable asset of the intangible kind. For local business players, there is a rich lesson here if domestic enterprises intend to be more prosperous.