Strategic Planning – Understanding the Competitive Value of Your Brand

Brand IS a competitive advantageOne of the most commonly overlooked sources of competitive advantage is brand. Branding is not just advertising, nor is it simply a catchy name for a company or product. The most important value in a brand is the value that it holds for actual customers. This value is very difficult and expensive to build – and fragile and easy to destroy. The difficulty of building and maintaining a brand is one reason why managers the world over tend to avoid spending much time or money on branding – especially in smaller companies. This is a shame, because a well-managed brand is so powerful that it can overcome almost any other competitive advantage. This one fact is the reason why larger companies with lots of managerial horsepower tend to spend a lot of time and money on branding.What makes a brand valuable?Brands are valuable simply because they cause customers to be inclined to purchase your product rather than someone else’s. In a way, a brand is shorthand for the things the customer can expect from your product. In products that hold little meaning for the customer, this might be worth less, but in markets where the customer invests his or her ego in the purchase of a particular brand, that meaning can be priceless. Let’s look at some examples to see where branding may or may not be important.First of all, let’s look at some examples of brands with tremendous pull. These brands will sell well just about anywhere they show up, because the customer associates the brand with qualities they prefer. Examples include:DisneyNintendoSonyHarley DavidsonAppleInterestingly, none of these brands has universal appeal, in that not every possible customer will prefer the attributes of the brand over their alternatives. For example, the Disney brand is applied to many products:Theme ParksMoviesLicensed products such as clothing and toysComputer gamesTime sharesCruise lineBroadway showsTelevision programmingIn each of these very different product areas, the Disney brand means something a little different. For example, in theme parks, Disney means clean, family-oriented, creatively designed, expensive and (to many) crowded. The negative elements of the Disney branding in their theme park business are inevitable – you always have to accept the negative with the positive. But the positive elements are so compelling that millions of people from around the world spend a significant portion of their income to travel to a Disney theme park.The Apple brand has a similar story. Apple carries a number of meanings, including well designed, easy to use, less popular and expensive. As with any great brand, this brand has a lot of ego invested in it for some people. This aspect of branding is more visible in computers because it is significantly more difficult and time consuming to use a computer operating system that isn’t the most popular (in other words, Microsoft). Despite this difficulty, Apple has a hard core of fans who wouldn’t think of using another brand, given a choice. Clearly, this doesn’t translate into top market share for Apple, but it is a significant advantage that has clearly kept the Apple name alive when others have fallen by the wayside. Apple’s newer products – notable the iPod – have drawn upon the positive elements of the Apple brand. The negative elements of the Apple brand have been far less problematic for the iPod because it is competing in a new product area where niche status has not been seen as a drawback. This is an excellent example of using a brand to grow beyond the core product line.Why branding is important in the global marketplaceIn an increasingly global market, branding can serve two distinct functions that may be useful to you: first, a “local” brand gives you and entrenched customer base that is more difficult (and expensive) to displace, and second, a “global” brand can give you a foot in the door when seeking to enter new geographic areas. Be forewarned: building a “global” brand is expensive, and often a “local” brand can be just as costly. Even so, the brand can be a useful offensive tool and defensive tool when you are competing with non-local companies.There is one reason why “local” brands can be more cost-effective, and a good tool for defending your home turf from foreign competition: brand success is built upon three critical factors:1. Understanding the key values in the mind of your customer2. Knowing how to put the customer’s values into your product or service3. Effectively associating your brand with those valuesTwo of these factors, understanding your customer and associating your brand with values, are very much defined by culture. Thus, someone from outside your culture – and this could even be someone who speaks the same language from a different region – will find it much more difficult to get an accurate read on what your customer’s key values are, and how to convince the customer that his product or service embodies those values. This is not saying that a foreign competitor cannot do this – just that it’s a lot more expensive and difficult.How to evaluate your brandObjectively evaluating your brand is difficult, especially if you want to put an exact dollar number on it. Fortunately, this is usually not required for good strategic decision making. Still, it’s a good idea to have at least a general concept of the value of your brand when you are considering strategic options.The most objective way to evaluate your brand is to measure the outcomes that occur with and without the use of your brand. Sometimes this is simple, because the way you market may well lend itself to testing different hypothesis about your brand. For example, a seminar company might test mailing brochures that feature (or don’t feature) specific brands, to find out the extent to which one of those brands is pulling in attendees at the seminars. Likewise, if you have the wherewithal, you might go so far as to test selling a “generic” version of your product in the marketplace to see if it can carry the same price as your current brand – at acceptable volumes. This is a little more difficult with retail products, as some retailers will insist on only stocking brand name products on their shelves. In addition, retail stores – especially large chains – typically demand some kind of compensation for the use of their shelf space, which makes retail brand testing quite expensive.If testing is out of the question, you can also approximate brand value by looking at the popularity and price of competing brands with little or no brand power. If you don’t have an absolutely generic “no-name” competitor, it can be difficult to be objective about this – after all, how do you decide which competitor has the least brand power? Also, there may be some confusion about value because there are several components to the success of a brand:Brand Sales = (Cost + Margin) * VolumeIf you were to attempt a calculation of brand value, you would be faced with extracting non-brand factors which affect these three numbers. For example, cost can go up or down depending on operation skills, management, underlying cost structure, and purchasing skills. Margin may be driven by brand power, pricing skill, and power in the distribution/retail channels. And volume can be affected by both cost and margin, brand power, and distribution network, as well as underlying demand for the products or services being offered.Even so, at the end of the day your brand gets you one of two measurable outcomes: margin or volume. Comparing your margins to the competition is one way to assess the value of your brand, if you take heed of the caveat about other factors which may change margin. Comparing volume is less likely to yield a good estimate of brand value, because you can – in many markets – drive higher volumes with no brand value at all by charging lower prices. This, by the way, is a terrible strategy to be following if you are concerned about cheaper foreign competition, because there are significant costs that you simply will not be able to beat your foreign competitors on.So your brand isn’t that valuable – is there hope?In some cases, companies run into a “brick wall” when they objectively evaluate their own brand. This can be caused by a number of factors, but the outcome is the same: some brands just don’t mean anything to the customer, and so do not carry any premium in the marketplace. Naturally, such brands offer little defense against inexpensive foreign competition, and companies that rely too heavily on brand power that doesn’t really exist inevitably get into hot water as foreign competition uses its compelling power – the lower price – to erode the market share of domestic competitors.Is there a “crash course” way to build brand? Yes – but it’s inherently risky and not for the faint of heart. This is because branding is driven by the brains of our customers, not our desires. In order to build a strong, positive awareness of your brand in a hurry, you will have to do something that stands out. By “stands out” we don’t mean “is a bit better” – we mean something that is truly remarkable, or, in other words “worthy of remark”. Customers don’t make remarks about brands that are a little better – they remark on differences that they find really interesting.An excellent example of something remarkable is the Honda Element. This is a truly distinctive design in the overcrowded sport utility vehicle market. The design is, in fact, so unusual that it almost never made it into production. Marketing people at Honda were extremely uncomfortable that the design was so different from any other brand in the SUV market that they wanted to scrap it. The designers won the fight to manufacture a small number of Elements as a “niche” product, along with a more mainstream design. By the end of the first year of production, the Element was outselling the “safe” design by five to one!The lesson here is clear: if you are behind some savvy competitors, you should be prepared to seriously consider strategic options that make you uncomfortable. We wouldn’t recommend betting the farm on outlandish new brands – in most cases – but we would suggest that having one or two every couple of years might just push your brand into the lead by giving you a reputation for having edgy, innovative products.Copyright 2007 by Center for Simplified Strategic Planning, Inc., Ann Arbor, Michigan – Reprint permission granted with full attribution.

Vision Management Concept

Management is termed as the process which starts from planning and moves to organizing, leading and controlling (Robbins (2008).). The management is a vast concept and can be viewed from many prospectives; the management is generally referred with Marketing Management, Financial Management, Human Resource Management and Operations Management etc.One of the traits of leaders is vision that is having a dream for future scenario; the vision statement is present at the profile of every company. It is so important for individuals, groups and corporations that the success and growth is not possible without a vision.It is important to have a vision but it is more critical to manage it. Vision management means managing the vision to achieve the desired outcome. Vision management includes all the activities of planning, organizing, leading and controlling.It is said, “Leaders do the right things and managers do the things right.” Leaders have a vision for future scenario to bring a change to improve a situation. But how a change will come? How a situation will be improved? The answers to these questions come from the concept of vision management. With vision management activities, actions are taken to move the things into favorable situations in order to achieve the vision.Let’s look at the each step in detail.VisionIt is generally said that management starts with planning (Robbins, 2008), but in real situation management starts with a vision, if there is no vision, for which the management activities will take place? It is first thing after which all other actions take place. Like in the organizations, whenever the change occurs, it comes from the top management. Through the vision of the top management and determination to manage the vision, market position of the organizations can be changed. There are lot of examples in Pakistan, like “niralla sweets”, it was started as a very small business now through the vision; it is now a million dollars business. Vision is given by leaders who want to bring change or improve the situation or change the attitude of the people. When people rather mangers have vision, they start other activities to achieve it.The vision is not always realistic; it is made realistic through vision management. ( Maaz Syed)PlanningAfter the vision, planning is done about how to achieve it, what is required to make the situation in favor, what resources are required to achieve the vision and what should be eliminated.Planning for resources is very important but it is also critical to eliminate or minimize unfavorable circumstances, because if these are not minimized, even the abundant resource will not help in achieving the favorable results. Planning includes planning of physical resources, financial resources and human resources (Robbins,2008). Planning is very important after having a vision, because if planning is dumb than all is not well; even best vision and affluent resources will not be useful if there is poor or dumb planning.Planning is very important activity and we all are involved in planning in our daily life, the planning can be short-term or long-term. In Pakistan the planning is generally not given the importance it deserves; especially in public sector because there is no vision so there is no planning.Planning is always made by keeping vision in mind, during planning there should be minimum deviation from the vision; vision should be always in mind to make the planning.OrganizingOrganizing comes next to planning. Organizing refers to organizing the physical, financial and human resources. It is very critical to make the right use of resources.Organizing is linked with vision, in vision management, organizing not just mean organizing resources it also means organizing the series of events that will direct the situation in the favor of vision.Organizing is also very important for vision management; unless resources and scenarios are not organized the vision cannot be achieved, it is the task of managers to organize and make the aisle clear without any obstruction.The vision is well-managed when every thing is organized and there is no hurdle or obstruction in the way, it does not mean that there should be no problem; it means that when there comes any problem, the managers solve the problem immediately and turn the situation in favor to carry out the vision. The independence of Pakistan in 1947 is a bright example of vision management. Quaid-i-Azam had vision and the party members (managers) helped in achieving it, the struggle for independence is a bright example of vision management. We can take this example and implement the lessons in businesses, to achieve a certain position in market, hard work, efforts, competencies, determined people and above all a vision is required.LeadingLeading comes next to organizing in vision management. Leading means leading the people i.e. make people behave and work according to the plan in order to achieve it. The concept of behavior modification is important in leading the vision.Leading the people includes changing behavior of people and make use of their knowledge, skills and abilities in order to achieve the desired outcome. The people use their knowledge and skills and work for the vision which is provided by leaders thus are very critical to vision management. It should be kept in mind that the leaders have vision, they communicate it to the people, but it is achieved by people. The people work according to plan and thus help in achieving the vision. Vision management is not possible without people and thus vision cannot be achieved without people.Leader gives directions and vision and people follow the vision to achieve the leader’s vision and goal. Even competent and most intelligent people cannot work at full capacity unless they have clear direction and a vision to follow. The example of ¬©Microsoft is an example, the company is losing its market position because of low innovation, the people are same, there working has affected the reason is that the company’s vision in obsolete now and the workforce do not have any vision to follow which has caused company to lose its market position. This shows that vision is very important for the success of the companies.ControllingControlling is considered as final activity in management (Robbins (2008.).) and thus it is final activity in vision management.In vision management just like a project, the controlling is a continuous activity and it remains throughout the process of vision management.In vision management, controlling refers to the controlling of every single step that nothing should deviate from the vision. Controlling also refers to controlling the physical resources, finance and behaviors of people so that not a single thing should deviate from the vision.Controlling is the job of leaders and the managers to whom the authority is dedicated by the leader.ConclusionVision management is thus the combination of various management activities which leads to the achievement of vision provided by leaders. Vision management is very important and present every where but it has not been given due consideration. Awareness to vision management will helps the organizations to improve their operations and working environment to better achieve the company’s vision.

The Footprints of Fabric Wholesale: Azam Cloth Market

The shopkeepers of Azam Cloth market pride themselves on, and they like to stress this vehemently, being a part of ‘the biggest cloth market in Asia.” While snaking your way through the many winding alleys lined with shops of various sizes you do tend to lose track of both time and space. The market is a collage of many small interlinked bazaars where the daylight doesn’t always seep in and the damp musty odor of history prevails.Situated in the walled city of Lahore, the Azam cloth market is the hub that has been handling wholesale distribution of cloth and ready-to-wear for the last six decades. From khaddar to silk, ready- to-wear to clothing fabrics, casual wear to bridal wear, the market has something for every apparel retailer.According to Mohd Amjad Sheikh, who has been in the wholesale apparel business since 1974, the Azam cloth market caters to a wide customer based both in Pakistan and abroad. “Retailers from all over Pakistan, Dubai, and UK visit us for their stock purchases. However, the recent security issues have had their impact on the business. Our customer base from India and Afghanistan has dwindled to almost zero. We hope once the situation improves retailers from all neighboring countries will find it comfortable to visit us.”The merchants of the market are well versed in the history of the place, and every shopkeeper can recount how when the market was created and named. There was a small market near Wazir Khan Mosque; in 1953 when a road had to be widened the market was shifted to its current location by General Azam who gave his own name to the market. Over the decades, the small market extended and now has numerous interlinked blocks or bazaars all dealing in wholesaling of various types of clothing fabrics and lines.How many interlinked bazaars are there in the market? There is no consensus as such but gathering from the comments of various shop owners the number must be somewhere between 15 and 20′It’s an Institution.’All the bazaars of Azam market are linked and managed by a board of directors. “You won’t find a more well managed institution in Lahore. We have our own constitution with a specific set of rules. Every bazaar has its own president who in turn is answerable to the president of the board. Elections of the board are held every three years to elect resident of the board. Security and administrative decisions made by the board are binding upon the market community,” the business community of the market proudly spells out details of the ‘institution.’ Fire extinguishers, security guards and clean lanes show an active involvement of the board that runs on self-help basis. Every shop owner pays monthly charges of about 200-300 rupees to form a combined pool that helps meet the maintenance expenses.Nawab Bazaar: The oldest block of Azam Cloth MarketWhile it is difficult to explore every bazaar in a single visit, every first time visitor should stroll in the Nawab bazaar to get a feel of the place. Nawab bazaar is the first and the oldest block of Azam cloth market. Its open cool spaces invite the customers to linger and shop at their own pace. The shop owners are friendly and there is an overall ambiance of good cheer.’What’s in the name?’Two different versions prevail in the market about the history of block’s name. One interesting story traces origins of the name to the first generation of business men who started their businesses in this market.According to this version, this first generation of wholesalers liked to arrive late in the markets and opened their shops around noon. So people started calling them nawabs (nawab connotes a laid-back almost royal attitude) and the market came to be known as Nawab bazaar.Javed sahib, the president of Nawab bazaar, however, strongly disagrees: “My, father, Haji Nawab Deen, was the first generation of wholesalers who established businesses in this block, and the bazaar is name after my father,” he states.Whatever the real history of the name, the different versions add to the aura of antiquity surrounding the market.It’s a Man’s WorldThe wholesale business is dominated by men. Not only there are no female shop owners but you encounter female customers. Occasionally you can run into a lone female retailer traversing the narrow alleys of the market. Razia is one such brave woman I met while combing through the glittering, colorful shops of women’s apparel.”I have nine children and my husband is a ‘home-tailor’ who works at his clients’ places. To make ends meet, I have started this business. I purchase ready-to-wear female kurtis from this market and my husband takes them to his clients’ houses and sells them. We get to save 100 to 200 rupees on every kurta. It isn’t much but it helps,” Razia explains her ‘business model.’First Time visitorsWhether you are a retailer, a casual visitor, or a customer who wants to get good bargains, try to heading for the market between 9:30 am to 10:30 am. This is the time when the traffic is not too heavy and it is still quiet in the throbbing, congested lanes of the market. Visiting the market early will save you half of the hassle of long traffic jams. The other half, while going back, you will have to bear. Another advantage of visiting the market early is that once you are there you can shop at leisure and will even have time to haggle with the shopkeepers. As the day advances the business activity picks up pace, the market gets too crowded.Parking your vehicle is now easy as there is a huge parking plaza near the market. However, the plaza doesn’t have a lift and once you park the car you will have to walk all the way down and then walk all the way up to get the car. It is bit of an exertion and would help if you are in the mood for some exercise.Azam Cloth Market is surrounded by many other wholesale and retail markets, and while you are there you can have quick round of the other markets and schedule your next visit to one you like.