The Art of Brand Building: The Old Science of Survival

If you think that the idea of branding is modern, then you are mistaken. Since the time people created goods to trade or sell, or as far back in time as when people owned cattle, there have been trademarks, symbols, signs or posters, pictorials, and hawkers. In order to distinguish their goods, craftsmen imprinted trademarks on their goods and creations to signify the maker and origin. Ultimately, trademarks assured the buyer or trader of the quality of the merchandise. To denote ownership of property, at first cattle were branded with paint or pine tar; later, unfortunately, as seen in the history of our forefathers, cattle and sheep were branded with hot irons. Sadly, humans were also branded for various reasons. Slaves were branded to mark ownership; criminals were branded with disgrace.

Times have changed. In the 1800s, people bought goods out of need through barter trade. As the years passed, towards the end of the 19th Century, we saw a massive shift in attitudes to products and purchasing of things. This push was led by a collection of new technology and methods of communication such as the invention of mail order catalogues, the advancement of railways and the expansion of the postal service. The age of communication was born, giving people the ability to shape their worlds. The population was empowered to buy status. By the 1920’s, especially in the West, society evolved from a culture of need to a culture of desire.

The end of the Second World War saw a manufacturing boom as many factories, which were set up in order to produce military equipment, could now be used to manufacture products. With the mass production capability, brands could now reach most of the population. By 1960s, the stiff competition had begun and companies had to distinguish themselves from competition through unique key selling points. Companies had to differentiate their services and their identities in terms of logos and slogans. During the 1980s era, brands began to personify themselves to the consumers as offering more than just a product. Brands began communicating aspiration and identity.

Today, brands have built emotional connections by meeting human needs. We have thousands of companies, with thousands of taglines and logos, each calling out to the attention of the consumer. Our attention spans are incredibly short and brands are dying to capture us with their adverts, billboards and communications. In the age of technology, unfortunately, brands live and die by the will of the consumer in an instant.

The rise of mass media in industrialized countries contributed greatly to the rise of a “brand world” and a desire for brands. The psychology of brand communication has influenced the growth of brand name. We believe that brand name X cleans your clothes better than the others…the power of branding. We spend millions of shillings on commercial spots, exhibitions, marketing collateral so that we can resonate with a consumer-top of mind awareness through a consistent look, style, image and personality of the brand.

But what is in a name you may ask? Everything! A great name identifies you. A great name speaks for you. It offers the unusual. Building a name, a brand… takes time and effort. It is not a quick fix; brands have been built before. It requires dedication, money and love. You cannot build what you do not believe in.

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Take a look at the Java House Brand that has consistently grown to be a homegrown brand. Every corner of Nairobi, now has a Java House, making it one of the favourite coffee spots for business meetings, lovers or just people looking to find a chill spot.

Everyone has sampled the ‘coke side of life’. The Coca-Cola brand is present in every country and arguably it’s the world’s first true global brand having started from humble beginnings through a Pharmacist, John Pemberton. Coca-Cola began its marketing through a newspaper advert that invited people to try the new and popular soda fountain drink. The brand began with a great vision and soon communicated this through a marketing campaign. Look at the brand now, it keeps reinventing itself, currently focusing on promoting global happiness, communication that is focused on tying its brand association to happy feelings.

Another global giant is Google. Google began its mission of organizing the world’s information and making it accessible and useful. Google has redefined the world of the internet space. The key to the growth of this brand has been tapping into the consumer’s needs. How can we make the user experience smoother and enjoyable? The consistency of the brand through Google Images, Google Stories, Google News, Gmail among others, and integrating these services has grown the brand to great levels globally.

Other great brands such as Virgin, Apple, Cytonn, P&G, among others, have one thing in common-blending analytics, strategy and creativity.

There is no successful recipe to building a great brand; it lies in innovating yourself for the future. The challenge for today’s brands is designing brand experiences that are strategic and relevant to the consumer—and that is simply the smart business of creating clients, actually partners for life.

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CRISIS- A PR PROFESSIONAL’S WORST NIGHTMARE

Well, for most of us PR professionals I am sure you can relate to the above heading. Crisis can be as dramatic as that headline. The unexpected will always happen. The balance between credibility and acting with speed to avoid speculation from your audiences is the intricate balance that theories, books, lectures cannot teach us. It requires personal experience where we burn our fingers and learn or dive into the deep end and emerge a hero.

 

Brad Phillips clearly outlines that crisis has moved beyond traditional forms and we are relying more on digital platforms for our hunger for news, customer service, relationships and the desire for fame.

“You need to be prepared for today’s media culture, in which a tweet can become newsworthy and a news interview can become tweet-worthy.” – Brad Phillips of Phillips Media Relations

However, a holding statement is a critical communique that the communications team must churn out fast. What does it cover? Well, 5W, 1H is our daily bread- Who, What, Why, When, Where and How.

The holding statement should at least cover the following:

  • The date should always be indicated
  • Always have a well thought through factual headline
  • Only outline confirmed and true details to avoid opening another pandora box
  • Assure the audience with actions that your organisation is taking to mitigate the risks
  • Always employ empathy. Humans speak to humans- heart to heart
  • Avoid blame game or speculative kind of information
  • Do not respond to unsubstantiated rumours
  • Avoid names of victims of death if any
  • Contact details of the PR person/ spokesperson of the firm

Well looks simple, however, this is a simple guide. The pressure that comes with a crisis is not as straightforward as above. However, at least you have the guide.

All the best. Remember, every crisis is a learning point…it is how you handle yourself as a professional that will give you space at the table.

Office Politics: The Blame Game

Ever been in an office where doing a good job is like wetting your pants in a dark suit. You get a warm feeling about it but no one else notices. All the employees look forward to is the WEEKEND ( read as time away from toxic work environment).

 

'That's our mission statement.'
Source: Online – Cartoonstock.com

This is a growing menace that is slowly eating up productivity levels and blocking energy and innovation levels in the 21st-century office set ups.  It results in emotional stress and creates biases. New graduates, fresh to the working career life, are adopting blame game as the ideal work culture and ethics.

The culture of blame game is an individual vice where one tries to protect his image and ego at the expense of anything or anyone.

Office politics for the purposes of this article refers to backstabbing, power grabbing, gossiping, idea stealing, sabotage/withholding information among other vices.

 

 

Take a scenario of the Boss. The Boss has the key role of creating a synergy of efforts of all the team players, identifying weaknesses of the team and using her position to address that and strengthening the strong points of her team members. However, if he or she has the “blame game virus” then such will not be accomplished, instead, he/she will kill the freedom of expression, innovation levels of the team and thus morale of the team.

The end goal of any team leader is to have evidence of great work done.

Unfortunately, blame game only manifests when a mistake is done. In fact, when a good deed is done, most types of such character will not give credit where it is due.

Ownership of failure builds loyalty within a team and gives an employee somewhat confidence levels in dealing with their colleagues. It is also a key learning experience for the individual and for the team.

So how do you deal with this menace:

 

  1. Check your ego. Find solutions and always learn
  2. Use effective communication techniques which consider other perspectives and check assumptions before reacting.Email communication is the official platform of communicating business matters.
  3. Be a source of good energy and make your choices in terms of ethics. Let is it be known ( especially if in a position of power) that blame game is not a solution
  4. Use HR and internal communications training and efforts to curb the menace

When leaders focus on values, behaviours, processes, shared purpose and communicating effectively – blame based behaviours gradually lessen over time.  Trust among team members gradually grows over time as a result and staff can begin focusing on hitting targets and hitting them well 🙂

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To get the best results, you have to get the best out of people in your human resource management processes. To do this, you have to inculcate the best culture in your people.

 

Updated Skill : Resident Juggler?

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So what’s really in a job description? It does not help productivity at all when you are constantly wondering if you are the Personal Assistant to your line manager, the front-office handler, the ‘go out and increase our network’ person or the one playing the role they actually signed up for. Not only is it not productive, such situations literally drain the life out of you. I know multi-tasking  is a well-quoted skill but even the world’s juggling record is currently capped at 11 balls, and even then, the juggler only managed 23 consecutive catches. So what can we learn from this chief juggler?

For the Team Leader:

It is probably true that you are under a lot of pressure to keep everything running even in choppy waters. You may not be able to make all the calls but you have a voice heard more than others. This is your ship – look into what each role is expected to fulfill and ask yourself if it is in the realms of reasonable, actionable and effective for the organization and the job taker’s growth and functonality. However, if you have no option but to sign off on bloated job expectations, you can:

  • Constantly seek opportunities to empower your charges. Foster the teamwork spirit so that each team member feels allowed to chip in and help especially during larger scaled events.
  • Celebrate your team players and their achievements because when it comes to recognition, even a little goes a long way.
  • You may not be able to tip the scale on the pay packages but, how about looking for ways to enhace the work space? Even a fresh coat of paint, fixing the leaking plumbing, providing for adequate office supplies and finally getting that office microwave all go into making a difference. Start small and build from there.
  • But most importantly, give clear leadership, offer support and let the people have the space to do their jobs – not the other ten tasks they can do because you say so but really shouldn’t because they will divert their focus from their core business entirely.
  • Also, when you can (and this is more often than not always), do make your own cup of tea. Getting pulled out of a line of thought to fix you a cuppa is not really one of the ways to keep your team members’ momentum running. Just saying.

 

For the HR Associate: Define, Define, Define

With the shifting funding landscape across the sectors, coupled with a stricter focus on the bottom lines, there seems to be an increasing amount of pressure to fit as much stuffing into one turkey as one can. I am currently on the look-out for new career opportunities, and the number of bloated and sometimes, unrelated and unrealistic job descriptions I have come across is surprising. I am often left wondering if said position is just after a glorified tea girl with super powers or an actual professional equipped to man said vacant front. It is quite confusing I must say. It is, in fact, the responsibility of the HR Associate to advise management on the definition and combination of roles to be allocated to given positions. If this is not strongly emphasised, I fear we will breed a task force compelled to be so diversified that a play of musical chairs will come into effect. Why? There will always be a drive to keep searching for where one feels they will have a better, more defined fit. After the 23 consecutive catches, the balls will drop, and no matter how good one is, one will have to take a bow.

For You: Choose a Struggle

Do you really want to spend every working day trying to figure out when to develop those survey training tools, schedule productive field work for some program beneficiary interaction, plan a site visit for the incoming delegation, do some possible donor research and mapping, start working on the newsletters, coordinate the vendor deliveries, edit a couple of reports and still serve your boss a well-laid tea tray? I would think not. Don’t even get me started on the ‘any other duties allocated from time to time’.

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In essence, you can program your mind and your days into bursting at the seams with activity. However, never have activity and productivity bore the same meaning. What will eventually happen is a drop in your strong suites. Your attention to detail will blur because there’s so much to deliver and so much demanding your attention that surely, some details will fall through the cracks. Your creativity will be forced to wear a strait jacket because creative thinking needs time and space. You will not have much of either. You will slave. Yes, slave is the word that best describes putting in a solid day’s worth of work, overtime and then some more hours at home later with the telly on for company.

And no, this is not a millennial ‘I want it now on a silver platter, take me as I am, this is too much work to get to the top’ kind of speak. I recognise the place of hard work in building your stance in a chosen profession. I do. What I choose to fight is the notion that you need to take up a ridiculous number of roles, be efficient and grow professionally when a second look deciphers the obvious. That there are limits to what any juggler can do. Lastly, you will lose your spark, and above all else, I believe this to be the worst pitfall. I know that we need to start

Lastly, you will lose your spark and above all else, I believe this to be the worst pitfall. I know that we need to start somewhere in order to get the experience we need to take that next step. What I would like you to choose when the opportunity presents itself is yourself. Speak clearly and objectively about the role you feel you have been called to play. Lay out what you feel are the bloated issues on your JD and seek your supervisor’s address on the same. This is not complaining, this is levelling the play field because you will be assessed based on all 42 pages of your job description if you are not quick to point out areas that would be best restructured for funtion. It would be great to go intdiscussioncussion with a couple of solutions too – maybe enlarge the internship program so you have those to delegate tasks to or suggest the hiring of a full time assistant should the budgetary limits allow. However way you go about it, choose a struggle. Both you and the organization stand to benefit a great deal.

 

Are Performance Appraisals really the Grinch that Stole Christmas?

Truth be told, I am yet to meet a team all eager and waiting for their appraisals – work or otherwise really. Whether it’s the weekly touch base with a line manager, a monthly evaluation or annual overview, most do not look forward to appraisals. Maybe it’s because it has become an opening for something other than an actual review:

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Or perhaps it’s the fear of failing as one would a test. A fear ingrained in us since we were old enough to know you get a cookie when you shine and a pass, or worse, when you do not. So possibly it is more psychological than anything else. However, it could also be largely because most performance appraisals are becoming less and less holistic. However, performance management is, by all means, a necessary evil so to speak.

We need to know how we are doing if we are ever to get what we want to be done: done – are we heading in the direction that we ought to be? Do we have all we need and do we know what we need to do? (Unfortunately, in most cases, the latter two are seldom given as much consideration as the former). The race to continually achieve meaningful bottom lines and the increasing need to throw in words like ‘streamlined’ and ‘successfully delivered’ into every board meeting power point presentation means we are prone to focus less and less on the people and more on the systems, tasks and duties. All these despite the fact that the people are in the real sense a constant, major determinant of the overall performance.

The bottom line is and always should be, people matter and not at the expense of the organisation or as much as the organisation because it’s really not a matter of one or the other if the people are the organisation, now is it?

So how do we change this narrative?

Today’s fast paced work culture gives quite the thriving ground for orderly amnesia – everything moves so fast that it becomes increasingly difficult to remember every detail. Remember that thing you did that got you a string of glowing congratulatory emails, and maybe even a mention in the office newsletter or the top boss’ address for the quarter? Remember that idea you had that saved the business a lot of time and money or that extra hour you pitched in to help the team get the annual sales reports ready for the big presentation the next morning?

Well, if it takes you more than a minute to list a couple of your ‘fireworks’ moments in the last year, I can only guess that some of them missed their appearance on your annual appraisal. They were not included in your review because you couldn’t recall all of them well enough to document them and most likely, neither did your boss. Your achievements, though well deserved, were recorded in the annual reviews and appraisals somewhere but perhaps, with little or no credit to you or worse, to someone else entirely. Sound familiar?

You cannot recall in great detail all the pros you piled in a fiscal year at its end, great as one mind can be. Unknown to many, lacking material to toot your own horn when needed works retrogressively. If you can’t remember what highs you attained, you don’t suppose your line manager – also supervising x number of employees under his docket to remember; now do you?

So when that annual self-evaluation form is sent around at some point of the year, and you cannot adequately defend your turf what happens? Mostly two things really. First, you lose out on credible career mileage and second, always risk having your achievement passed as either someone else’s (malicious intent or otherwise) or an overall team result which honestly leans more in favour of management often without due recognition to the individual (who did not remember to claim it anyways). And therein comes the spanner in the works. You get frustrated for not receiving due recognition. Whether in the form of an end year performance based bump or that move to the next pay grade. Maybe even that corner space you’ve been eyeing that someone ‘less deserving’ just negotiated for because they mentioned they came in early two days in a row to help on a project you have been volunteering on also – every morning for a month now. But who knew?

For anyone interested in mobility, upward or otherwise, recalling and openly expressing past victories or challenges overcome whether at a job interview or appraisal can be one of the things to let you on the other side of the door. It’s not a call to memorise events, but one to recognise that you are best placed to be your cheerleader. How? These may be a good place to start.

For you:

  • Document, Document, Document

Whatever means you will prefer to use, keep tabs on your own progress. We have been cultured to shy away from clearly stating what we are good at and what we have accomplished because it is many times mistaken for a show of pride. However, you are your best advocate, and you need to speak up for yourself more. Not for pride but for progress. When given the platform, you need to be able to have the information you need to toot your own horn. For what use is a horn no one blows through?

  • Use the Data

The documented milestones, good and bad, can be very helpful in charting one’s course. We need to understand ourselves better and what better way to do this than to consider our triggers for success and failure?  The workplace is becoming increasingly competitive, and you need to chart your own growth. Using the data trends from your own self-observation is a good way to have a clearer vision of what contributions you have made to the department, let you know if  and where you’re slacking, help you think of other ways to engage and of course, give you useful information to defend your turf and even ask for improved terms when the opportunity presents itself.

  • Recognize others

Never shy away from sharing the stage. Many feats will not be accomplished alone. It is not only just but rewarding to acknowledge those with whom you toiled; even when the event could pass as your own. In the long run, a good turn will deserve another, and you need to remember that one does not soil the plate he will need tomorrow. People give to people so appreciate those you scale the mountains with for a time will some when the same people will give you your leg up.

For the manager:

  • Be proactive and list it:

We get it; you have a lot on your plate. But how about listing at least two highlights of each of your employees’ achievements in the fiscal year. No one expects you to have every detail done but being equipped to give a thought through appraisal when called for not only guides an employees career growth curve but also, reflects well on your interpersonal and management skills. It also encourages you to actively engage and observe your team through the year and in so doing; you garner a lot of information about the processes and the team dynamics that feed into your planning and klanking processes as well. Win-Win, no?

  • Ditch the critical incident approach to evaluations:

It does boost team morale to have a manager who sees each team player holistically and does not selectively consider events therefore only focusing on the most recent success or failures.

  • Boost your own morale:

At the end of the day, having enough ammunition on what your team achieved under your guidance not only looks good on you but the department as well. This may open up opportunities for greater responsibilities for you and broader horizons for the team due to demonstrated stewardship. Say no to amnesia, know how well your team is playing and be ready to show it.

Do I think performance appraisals should be done away with? Not at all. I firmly believe they can be a critical tool in strategic management if considerable thought is put in its structuring. If we all care enough to let it work for us. Even more so, what I do think is needful, is an evaluation of what we believe to be our role in the process. Performance appraisals are not necessarily the Grinch that stole Christmas. Whether in management or not, we all need to understand that the process can work for us, if we choose to use it and not passively watch it influence our flow.

 

Work and Life…and Unicorns

 

‘I will have a life with a side order of work.’ Said no one ever. We all want to avoid being the people that sacrificed everything at the corporate altar. But how?

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Most of our lives are broken down into bits of five to six working days a week, seven for some, every week for most of the year. If you were to quantify a workday as a span of, say, 7.5hrs, it would mean that at least 37.5 hours of the 120 hours between Monday and Friday are spent on the grind leaving us with about 82.5 hours holding all factors constant. This, of course, is before we factor in about 30 hours of sleep (going by a 6 hour minimum per night) and several more to cater for the time we spend on the daily commute – often in endless traffic. So we have about 47.5 hours left if we take traffic as a one hour a day affair. That means we have about nine and a half hours left each day to have a thriving life. Possible? Realistic? Not so much.

There is no such thing as work-life balance. Everything worth fighting for unbalances your life.

Alaine de Botton

Between juggling additional jobs, part time classes, family and relationships, parenting and everything else (not to mention the fatigue that keeping everything running brings up), the average employee has just less than three hours of sanity a day – if they are lucky. Earlier in my career, I could hardly understand what the fuss around a work life balance was all about. I remember thinking, many times that, people just need to ‘man up’, put a little more into it and quit with the complaining already. In retrospect, my lack of experience fed my ignorance to grand proportions. I remember reading and not understanding this one article by a working parent in which an employee said that to get a few minutes of lucidity, they would drive home each day and not leave the car for about 15 – 20 minutes. These being the only minutes they could breathe before they transitioned from a worker to a parent – another full-time job. Several years later, the light bulb flicked on. Now I get it. It often, if not always, takes more than wishing to keep your head on straight on such overstuffed schedules and if the general dislike for Mondays is anything to go by, we constantly feel that there should be more to living than this repetitive cycle that we have come to know as life. The questions remain, how and where is the time?

Don’t just climb the ladder of success – a ladder that leads, after all, to higher and higher levels of stress and burnout – but chart a new path to success, remaking it in a way that includes not just the conventional metrics of money and power, but a third metric that includes well-being, wisdom, wonder and giving, so that the goal is not just to succeed but to thrive.

Arianna Huffington

In essence work and life should not be, as it would seem, at loggerheads. But gone are the days when slow paced living made that a possibility. As it stands, more and more people are involuntarily forced to make a choice between the two. Whoever said that we could have it all, apparently, did not know such times were ahead. I do not have any solid answers for our big question either but what I do know is more often than not, the scales will tip towards one side, and sometimes, we get to choose which side that will be. It is never a simple decision to take. Irrespective of your place in the cycle of life – starter, working parent, established business mogul, start-up entrepreneur, farmer: anyone, there comes a time when the crossroads finally turn up and attempts to walk down both roads, though possibly successful at first can kill you in the long run.

What often remains unsaid is that no sacrifice is lesser than the other. The choice to pursue a life is often misconstrued as being the easier way out or as giving up. Be that your childhood dream to backpack all over the continent, that short or long trip across town to visit with friends and family, start/ nurture a family or turning that idea into your business start-up. You may even have a couple of friends, colleagues or family hold an intervention – largely because most of us have been cultured to know that adults must work to earn a living – which although mostly right, many times acts as our single story. I juggled a year of school and work a while back and to be honest; something had to give. In my case, work was relatively good (because we can only multi-task efficiently for a while) and life shrivelled. Now? I am almost done with school and working on watering both – it is not easy. It makes me think of what I will choose at the end when the crossroads draw near. Do we have to choose? Can we have both? Or are we the doe-eyed hopefuls searching for the unicorn we think not to exist?

NIVEA Expands Market Share with a new Deodorant line with Protective Care

Image Courtesy

NIVEA unveiled the very first deodorant brand in Kenya to offer the perfect balance between a long lasting protection and care without stinging, itching or causing an irritation effect on the skin at an event yesterday at Eka Hotel.

The new Protect & Care Deodorant with signature NIVEA Crème fragrance and ingredients
Image Courtesy

“With the deodorant market in Kenya at Ksh 1.4 billion, NIVEA is competitively offering our consumers compelling and innovative skin care products with modern skin care technology,” said Alex Reindler, General Manager, Beiersdorf – Central, East & West Africa(Cewa) speaking during the launch event. “As the market leader in the deodorant category with 32.1% market share, our strategy in remaining at the top is to continuously improve on our technology to cater for the consumers’ needs such as this new Protect & Care Antiperspirant, and continuously reinvent our go to market strategy in order to remain a household brand,” he added.

The New NIVEA Protect & Care Antiperspirant is dermatologically proven to leave the underarm skin soft and beautiful with no sticky skin feeling. It absorbs quickly into the skin for an instant dry skin feeling. With the alcohol-free mild formula, the new Protect & Care deodorant promises a non-irritating feeling after its use as it is well tolerated by the delicate skin.

“Today’s woman wants a deodorant that will fully protect them while at the same time caring for their underarm skin that is delicate and exposed to the harsh effects of hair removal, friction, and humidity caused by tight clothing. NIVEA Protect & Care is the first deodorant that brings the perfect balance of fighting odour and sweat while caring for one’s skin at the same time,” said Francis Afulani, Beiersdorf’s Marketing Director for Central, East & West Africa. “Now consumers do not have to compromise on reliable deodorant and caring for their skin,” added Francis Afulani.

NIVEA Protect & Care comes with the signature NIVEA Crème fragrance and ingredients. The product retails at a pocket-friendly price of Ksh 280 for the 50ml roll-on and Ksh 325 for the 150ml aerosol at all supermarkets and retail stores across Kenya.

Nivea has greatly enjoyed great brand trust in Kenya in lip care, skin care, and deodorant categories.