By TAMARA JAYNE
We’re often told that we have only one chance to make a good first impression. Similarly, how a company’s brand is perceived and accepted by consumers has a critical impact on the business’s profitability and sustainability.
Leaderonomics took a look across our local small and medium enterprise (SME) landscape and spoke to the founders of five Malaysian start-ups about their branding and image-building strategies.
These founders are among the 20 finalists of the Alliance Bank SME Innovation Challenge 2016, who are in the running to take their businesses to the next level with cash and media prizes worth RM 1,000,000.
There is not much one can do while stuck in traffic besides listening to music or staring at billboards. But what if you could earn money with all that “wasted” time you spend in a traffic jam?
Nadia Jalil and Dhanish Athif decided to seize this opportunity by combining the elements of billboards and cars to start MyBump.
MyBump is a crowdsourcing advertising platform where the everyday driver can opt to be any brand’s ambassador simply by signing up on the MyBump website and selecting a brand they resonate with.
All the driver has to do next is place the brand’s car sticker on the back windscreen of his or her car, take a selfie with it, publish that on their own social media profile, and drive about on their usual routes.
“We have over 12,000 drivers on our platform at the moment. Based on their frequent locations of travel, we match these drivers to the brands they opt for,” says Dhanish. He adds, “It’s a two-sided market—the advertisers, and the drivers as brand ambassadors.
Branding at the end of the day is not about how big the sticker is but about how many people you can impact.
Prathib Sooria, founder and CEO of Golfreserv started out with an interest in tourism.
He noticed how golf and tourism go hand in hand as many golfers travel to and from Malaysia and other countries to play this sport. This led him to start Golfreserv, an online booking platform that makes it convenient for golfers to reserve their tee-off times in advance and from anywhere in the world.
As Prathib candidly shared his point of view on the importance of branding, he elaborated on Golfreserv’s brand journey when they decided to rebrand the company with a new name to give customers a clearer understanding of what they do.
“Most founders think of their start-up as their baby and do not want to change it. But it is important to observe your market,” says Prathib, citing how even big companies like Coca-Cola see the need to rebrand themselves from time to time, particularly with their Coke Zero product.
While traditional media channels are good for certain target markets, Golfreserv uses digital branding to achieve far greater awareness among consumers. “When people see us at road shows, it helps when they mention that they have already seen or heard of us online.
I believe we need both traditional and digital methods when it comes to branding. And note that rebranding is not a problem. If it is needed, keep improving for the better.”
Having been a contractor himself for five years, Tan Yong Meng understands the issues many homeowners and contractors face when it comes to renovating and furnishing a space: deadlines, budgets, language barriers, expectations and other unexpected developments that come along with the process.
This led Tan to start BuildEasy, a convenient online and transparent solution to home design and renovation. The website provides free curated design templates with options for users to personalise their home finishing.
With every single project, BuildEasy practises accountability (100% satisfaction and a job well done) as well as integrity and transparency by making every price available online to owners. Home owners can be rest assured that prices are reflective of what they ask for during the renovation process as everything is confirmed from the beginning. No more “lump sum” needed!
When asked about BuildEasy’s branding, Tan had this to say: “Branding has to start from day one, because there is no better person than yourself to brand your company. The branding has to be based on the core values of the company.
And the core values of the company have to shine brightly in everything we do.
Therefore, every action and move we take has to reflect those core values and how we live those values out by walking the talk.
Instead of customers going to cafés, Teoh Teik Kheng decided to bring the café to customers through CoffeeTalk, a mobile food and coffee truck business often seen around Penang in northern Malaysia.
Coming from the food and beverage business and being a coffee lover himself, Teoh (also known as TK) started CoffeeTalk as a way to produce high-quality freshly-brewed coffee with an affordable price tag and a local Malaysian twist. CoffeeTalk aims to reflect the Malaysian culture through their localised menu, beverage names and overall service.
Teoh’s approach to branding is holistic yet down-to-earth and authentic. “When we think about branding, it’s not just about printing and distributing flyers. Your image reflects how you market yourself to your customers,” says Teoh.
“Once you have a concept, think about the structure and how it will benefit others. And when an idea strikes you, trademark it first. Pick a simple design for your logo, with less than three colours, so that it is easy to remember.
Also, understand your target audience. Branding may seem like just a part of your business to you as an owner, but it is everything through your customers’ eyes. Whatever mistake you make represents your brand and image to your customers.”
Borenos Fried Chicken is Sabah’s first local fast-food restaurant that combines quality with warm Sabahan hospitality. Borenos serves their beloved customers farm-fresh chicken daily. No frozen chicken here!
“The Borenos name stems from a combination of two words: Borneo and S for Sabah. We want Borenos to become the icon of Sabah. Just like when people go to Ipoh, they often think of Ipoh white coffee; we want people to connect Borenos to Sabah,” says Borenos sales director Janice Yeo.
As with most start-ups, Borenos did not have an easy beginning as a new brand in the industry. However, the company has since succeeded at setting itself apart through its people. Borenos staff pride themselves on providing excellent service and constantly seek feedback from customers to improve themselves.
This has paid off as Borenos consistently sees customers return with more friends to dine after initially discovering the restaurant through word of mouth and social media.
“Our staff are like our brand ambassadors. We love that they see themselves differently and feel a sense of pride working at Borenos,” Yeo adds.
Bringing it all together
Branding and image plays a key role to creating either an exceptional or unfavorable impression on consumers.
These finalists are proof that there are various methods of changing perception and reaching your audience in the best way possible. Their stories offer insights into brand-building approaches of the future and it can only get better from here.
Tamara was previously an assistant editor and writer with Leaderonomics. She loves thought-provoking conversations over cups of tea. If she is not writing, you might find her hiking up a mountain in search of a new waterfall to explore.