Enhancing MSMEs growth through branding

BRANDING has become an integral part of marketing management hence, Zimbabwe’s micro-small to medium enterprises (MSMEs) need to embrace it in order to position themselves in a competitive environment.

Market leaders, especially, multinationals and major corporates are rightly spending lavishly on branding, which is why they are boasting of equitable brands.

Their generosity towards branding augurs well with a modern branding maxim that says; “a good brand is priceless to any business.”

Recent reports show that MSMEs are fast becoming a key economic player in Zimbabwe. Not only does the sector create jobs for thousands of unemployed ordinary people in a difficult economic environment, it also assists in poverty alleviation.

The 2012 Finscope Survey revealed that MSMEs in Zimbabwe employ approximately 5.7 million people, a majority of whom are women. In addition, it is estimated that the MSMEs sector is contributing more than 60 percent to the country’s GDP.

Small to Medium Enterprises and Co-operative Development Minister, Sithembiso Nyoni, has poignantly stated that MSMEs are really doing a splendid job but they are invisible.

“I was amazed at the quality of production by SMEs in Bulawayo particularly those at the CIPF Industrial Park and also the railway and here (Lobengula Square popularly known as Egodini) where I toured the vendors. SMEs are really doing a splendid job but they are invisible,” she said recently.

“The other reason why I am touring is because I would like to see graduation from vending to production, to proper marketing. I have identified some of the SMEs that are playing a bigger role here, they started as vendors . . . once they engage into production and also a value chain that is making them a lot of money they move away from vending but I also found out that vending can be a dignified thing.”

There is plenty of evidence to prove that customers will pay a substantial price for a good brand and remain loyal to that brand. Good examples are exotic brands, which will continue to bully most indigenous brands, whose custodians erroneously think branding is extravagant.

Multinationals are already a step ahead because of the exotic and “mystic aura” that is associated with their brands while most indigenous brands lag behind with their “nameless” companies and products. An optimistic mind will note that all modest and large corporates have the capacity to achieve parity with the multinationals. They can as well endow their products with that “mystic aura” through branding.

Despite the notion that vending can be a dignified thing, modest and large businesses should take cognisance that customers’ attitudes towards a product and their willingness to buy it tend to be heavily influenced by what they associate with the place where it was designed, is sold from, packaged and manufactured. It is important, therefore, to understand what products and brands are and why branding is important.

A product is a produced item always possessing these characteristics of tangibility, attributes and features. The word “brand”, when used in its noun form, refers to a company name, product name, or a unique identifier such as a logo or trademark.

Branding in its antiquated form has a background in ranching, where a rancher branded, or marked, their cattle so they could distinguish their herd from another’s.

The concept of product branding was also notable among craftsmen who desired to place a mark or identifier on their work without deforming the aesthetics of their products. The brand or mark was usually put in a low visibility place of the product.

Nowadays, branding is prevalent in the consumer packaged goods industry. It suffices to say businesses that are spending on branding get value for their money while those that do not are left to grapple for meagre profits, remnant in product markets.

This is because branding as a process now includes much more than just creating a way to identify a product or company, but to create emotional attachment to products and companies.

Branding efforts create in the consumer a feeling of involvement. It fosters in them a made-for-me attitude, a sense of higher quality, and an aura of intangible qualities that surround the brand name, mark, or symbol.

Consumers feel loyal to brands so much so that the mere sight of it has them instinctively reaching into their pockets to buy such products.

A “brand” has become a mindset, which forms as consumers see or experience certain features of a product that are valuable to them and are not found in other products of the same category.

This mindset begins with the effort the manufacturer takes on the product that adds other dimensions that differentiate it in some way from other products designed to satisfy the same need.

The dimensions of a uniquely branded product have psychological and physiological effects on the minds of the consumers who are committed to it. It is important to note that the psychological response to a brand can be as important as the physiological response.

Truly, speaking, it is difficult for a competing brand to break a consumer’s brand commitment — the degree to which a customer is committed to a given brand in that they are likely to repurchase or reuse in the future.

Precisely, the level of commitment indicates the degree to which a brand’s customer franchise is protected from competitors. By and large, branding is the sum of all communications and experiences received by the consumer and customer resulting in a distinctive image in their “mind set” based on perceived emotional and functional benefits. So we can say in short a “brand” is a name, term, sign, symbol, design, or some combination that identifies the products of a firm. Brands are a means of differentiating a company’s products and services from those of its competitors.–chroncile