SME Branding: Practical Solutions With Real Results

Collaborative Marketing

An online survey on SME Branding and Marketing Challenges conducted by BIZSPHERE in 2017 found that insufficient funds and high cost in brand communications were the main challenges faced by SMEs. To date, these remain the core reasons for SMEs not focusing on branding and marketing.
The good news is that many SMEs are already leveraging on social media to brand and market their products and services as the cost is relatively lower to start with and easier to manage by themselves. Yet, in order for a brand to be imprinted in people’s mind, it needs integrated marketing communications.
How can SMEs brand more with less and achieve greater branding impact? Below are some of the local examples which SMEs can relate better.

COLLABORATIVE MARKETING
There are many definitions for collaborative marketing. I would like to make it simple and define it as a marketing effort that synergises two or more parties’ strengths and resources to gain greater results.

• Advertising
When RapidKL introduced a limited number of double decker buses three years ago to Klang Valley commuters, BIZSPHERE seized the opportunity to brand itself as a new advertising media is an attention getter. It collaborated with clients and shared the advertising cost. All brands’ logos were prominently displayed and, we positioned them as an established brand with the message “Taking Brands To The Next Level” conveying the message they are already up there. Our SME clients benefited most as they were positioned on the same level with an international brand like AVIS and successful brands like Captain Oats and JOVEN. Believe it or not, none paid more than RM2,000 to be there.

• Value Creation
Captain Oats is a local oats brand competing mainly with Quaker Oats – an US brand. Captain Oats is fresher as the natural oats are processed & packed in Malaysia, yet Malaysians prefer foreign brands as it is more credible. One of the strategies adopted by Captain Oats was to partner with Loh Guan Lye Specialist Health Screening Services in Penang. The collaborative marketing programme was for Captain Oats to offer a pack of oats to health screening patients. Dietician would recommend high cholesterol patients to take oats for better health and hand over a pack of Captain Oats. No brand name is mentioned to maintain professionalism. What will likely cross your mind if you were the patient? Loh Guan Lye cares for me and gives me complimentary oats. Captain Oats must be a credible brand since it is handed over by a dietician. It is a ‘Win Win’ situation. No cost for Loh Guan Lye, No advertising fees for Captain Oats.

In some businesses, there are idle assets which may not be productive. Car Rental – not all cars are rented out and remain at parking lots. Hotels – you would be lucky if you record an average 70 percent occupancy rate. Training centres – you will have days when there is no training and the rooms are left empty. These idle assets can be used to be exchanged with publicity or advertisement. A simple concept of Barter System. Car Rental company can offer their cars to media owner’s management team for a year in return for a number of advertising space. Hotels can offer their rooms during low peak season to certain publications for their company retreat in exchange for advertising. All these are not new ideas, but SMEs seem to forget it can be done if they have something to negotiate with.

LEVERAGE THE POWER OF MEDIA

SMEs only aim for advertising when it comes to publicity. Media and public relations are another mode of publicity which SMEs should leverage more. Press releases, Press interviews, industry commentaries and media tours are some of the most cost-effective initiatives to get your brands out. Inovar Floor is one fine example, where they spent less than RM20,000 for a media tour but the result was news coverage from 19 print media, 12 online media and three TV broadcasts. If, Inovar were to advertise with such coverage, it may easily cost them more than RM500,000. The key is to create newsworthy stories that media has interest in. It is content for them and it is marketing for you.

POSITIONING AS AN ESTABLISHED OR SUCCESSFUL BRAND

It is always challenging for local SMEs to compete with foreign international brands. They have a higher branding budget which could be more than your yearly turnover. It is even harder when most Malaysians idolise foreign brands. So, what can we do with limited budget?
Cinema advertisement can be a good option. From our findings, most cinema goers regard the cinema advertisers as established, big, popular, successful brands for a simple reason – they are on the BIG SCREEN. Yet wouldn’t it be expensive? Well, it is still affordable and, you can choose the locations where your market is. Why advertise nation over when you are only selling in Klang Valley? To our knowledge, cinema advertising can be as low as RM28,000 for four weeks, 19 cinemas, 142 screens, all day and all shows for 30 seconds advertisement. This is certainly much more affordable than a daily newsprint advertising which can cost up to RM40,000 for a full-page colour advertisement.

There are cost effective branding options out there. SMEs can brand too. Don’t wait. Start Now!

By Keng Teck Yap, Managing Consultant of Bizsphere Brand & Marketing Group
Written for Business Today, Issue August 2019