Brand experience has a higher impact than advertising

brand+experience+quoteA brand experience is the total experience one has with an entity and the perception one has of that entity. One of the key areas where this experience is strengthened (or destroyed) is the way the brand’s eco system (its’ consumers, partners, vendors) perceive the employees of the brand they interact with.

And this has far greater an impact than the advertising of the brand.

In Asia current corporate cultures are still largely governed by command-and-control practices that alienate many of today’s employees. Whereas employees are (and should be) the key focal point for a brand in developing its relationships.

By putting employees at the center of the brand experience it changes the way senior management think about their organisational culture and the ways that the culture creates rewarding employee experiences which translate into positive and enduring customer experiences.

In-spite of all the talk of ‘people are our main asset’ the road to ‘employee-service-profit chain’ success is mired in obstacles!

If employees are distrusting and alienated from their organisations, what are the chances that they will provide customers and colleagues  with a positive brand experience? And a positive experience is a must in order to have a usage of the brand and, more importantly, to get referrals.

From the organizational perspective employees need to have emotional maturity to understand and align their individual professional goals with those of the business. Often times, emotional maturity is not on par with intelligence maturity in the employee. And knowledge, intelligence and skill are often confused with emotional maturity.

  1. How do we get employees to strengthen and increase their emotional maturity?
  2. How do we get employees to build trust with the brand in order to be  engaged and involved in the organisation’s growth plans?

Engagement programs are one solution. Unfortunately they are just what the term states—engagement, as perceived by the organisation,that is they provide a one-way street of communication. Commanding what should be the perceived brand image communication, providing content to gain a commitment. But not really providing any means of employee development or initiating engagement or involvement from the employee.

The missing element is involvement and having involvement is critical!

Intuitively we all understand what involvement is and how powerful it can be. When we are told to do something, we do it and then tend to forget about it. But when we are involved in something, we tend to be possessive and own it on an emotive level. And when emotion comes into play, passion is there. Where passion is present there is a strong, positive experience taking place.

This is the platform on which trust is built.

When trust grows, through engagement & involvement, the quality of the relationship increases rapidly on the positive scale leading to an enjoyable outcome of interaction between the brand custodians and its stakeholders. The cycle is completed when repeat usage and referrals occur.

This does occur simply because of human psychology. We like being around people who are collaborative, have a positive attitude and are helpful.

Thus when an organisation is managing cultural change a top priority is to have the employees’ involvement.

And this involvement requires that a strong group work process be in place. A process where the meetings and interactions take on a deeper meaning than just to meet in order to agree to the content of the meeting. A deeper meaning where one focuses more on honest conversation, high involvement and participation leading to strong, high trust relationships.

All  simple, effective and, yet in a corporate set up, at times, hard to do elements (for various reasons)

Once a strong group process is in place it leads to strong work relationships based on involvement to a common cause. Then implementing an engagement program, in terms of content and communication channels, is not hard as each independent employee, driving those functions, believes and own it. As a result of which, each interaction is on a more personal, emotive and honest platform.

All of which lead to having a positive brand experience output.


This Ramadan create your legacy

Ramadan Legacy

Finally it’s here!

In March I had written about a talented group of Muslims who had developed a RAP– Ramadan Action Plan. Read about it here.

Now the group has just launched a fabulous app– Ramadan Legacy app— the world’s first fully featured app for Ramadan that provides an excellent way of planning your Ramadan in the digital format. The app aims to enhance your experience of Ramadan through combining smart technology and beautiful design with spirituality and learning, all to help you organise your worship to make Ramadan easy and enjoyable.  It has launched on the Apple and Android App Store on Friday 12th June 2015.

“Ramadan Legacy is a tool that allows Muslims to create, track and build their Ramadan Legacy. Imagine in five years time looking back to see what you felt and achieved five years ago, in Ramadan. It combines smart technology and beautiful design with spirituality and learning, all to help you organise your worship to make Ramadan easy and enjoyable.”– Ramadan Legacy

Winds of change blowing on Islamic finance

A distinct trend emerging in the global Islamic finance industry is the rising number of professionals opting out of the corporate rat-race and entering entrepreneurship. 

The question is why?
  • Does this have a correlation with lack of talent development in the industry?
  • Or with the lack of Islamic finance being used by other industries?
  • Or a lack of professional standards where technical competencies are concerned?
  • Or a lack of vision within the industry?
  • Or the lack of convergence between Islamic finance & the Halal industry?
  • Or simply the lack of tangible progress?

Food for thought for  later as the global Islamic finance industry is, indeed, getting affected by all these issues and needs to address them quickly.

From the professional perspective, to get an insight into what’s driving professionals in the industry to trade-in a secure pay-check for the uncertainty and flux of entrepreneurship, I met up with Mr. Shakeeb Saqlain— CEO of IslamicBanker.com .

Here’s the interview published in Business & Finance April 2015 issue:

 

The Crying Child That Created a Mission

child

This is a re-post of an article by a dear friend of mine Marc Romano . I am sharing this in order to help Marc spread the word and assist him in obtaining the financial support the school requires. Please read on and do share with your social network.

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One-evening last week, while on a walk, I met a young child who was in tears and a mother who couldn’t seem to console her. I asked if she was okay and if there was any way I could help. The mother explained that her daughter was told her school, The Cobblestone School, would be closing down for good at the end of the month.

Cobblestone is an independent, Nonprofit school located in the heart of a historic part of our city. It is funded by its own resources and not tax dollars but depends greatly on charitable contributions. I was very familiar with the school and what it has represented to the children and the teachers who make it so special.

Click here to continue reading

Why You Should Undertake a Brand Risk Analysis

As brand marketing professionals we delve into the structural issues of developing a brand and often invest heavily in the brand building process but do not take into account the associated risks or undertake a Brand Risk Analysis on those risks .

As the importance of brand for an organisation has grown over the years, the risks too, have proportionately grown.

The global financial crisis triggered major socio- economic changes and issues of transparency and trust along with growth of social media usage, have been catalysts in moving brand risk to center stage and in the limelight.

Brand risk management should be identified, measured and managed within the enterprise risk management framework of an organisation.

Given that brand risk is multifaceted—strategic, operational, financial, regulatory and are often managed by organisations in individual silos or through departmental based planning– being able to get a true picture of potential brand risk is poor.

Brand risk evaluation and planning doesn’t deserve such silo based approach but a much more strategic and integrated approach.

Let’s start with “What is brand risk?”

Under traditional risk management, which is originally the domain of the finance department, brand risk has no definition. It comes across as an output from other identified risk areas such as lawsuits or adverse regulatory decisions or supply chain issues.

In layman terms we can define brand risk as threats to the brand equity or threats to the brand differentiators that make consumers choose one product or service over the other. Thus brand risk can be defined as anything that threatens:
1. The sustainability of current and future demand for a company’s product or service
2. The company’s commercial freedom

The key internal areas where brand risk is, usually, generated are:
1. Poor manufacturing quality
2. Poor customer service (brought about by dissatisfied or not-in-sync with the brand philosophy employees)

External areas are:

  1. Behaviour by consumers—boycotting the products or services of the company due to change in perception brought about either by a change in the brand differentiator communication or experience OR due to changing social values
  2. Retail space capturing, buying out of stocks, removing stocks on display etc tactics by competition
  3. Political or community opposition to the brand to do business within a geographical region which limits its ability to develop.

The value of approaching brand risk, in a comprehensive manner, by looking at the brand all round from the point of view of answering the question— “what can affect the sustainability of the brand?”– provides a useful framework for risk analysis.

Such an analysis can aid in corporate planning for business growth as well as in being a measurement for brand equity as a value.

Changing Islamic Finance

 

The growth of the global Islamic finance industry has created the need to review and implement change in a few key areas. One of these is the much debated topic of availability of competent talent and jobs for these talents.

Today the industry is in critical need of connecting the dots between itself, academia and students to ensure its long-term sustainability. There is a dire need for globally accepted professional standards that enables development of competent talent keeping the relevancy that industry needs along with strategic talent development and career planning within organisation of the industries.

I had the pleasure to interview two luminaries of the global industry–Mr. Daud Vicary Abdullah, President & CEO of INCEIF- The Global University of Islamic Finance–and Mr. Richard Thomas–Chief Representative of Gatehouse Bank in Kuala Lumpur– to get an understanding of how this can be addressed by academia and industry.

 

This article was first published in the Islamic Finance Today April 2015 issue.

Is the Islamic Economy for People?

It’s amazing how little we actually focus on ‘people’ in business in spite of the fact that it is people who make everything happen. An organisation exists because of its staff, partners, customers and other stakeholders, i.e. people. The value proposition of any organisation and any industry, for that matter, is totally dependent on the people involved.

Globally behaviour of people, across countries and across socio-economic strata has changed vastly. Impacted by financial crises and the rapid proliferation and use of social media, people are now interacting more and more as interest-based communities.

Where does the ‘Islamic economy’ fit in among all this?

Given the high growth in the Halal & Islamic finance industries the Islamic economy has come into the spotlight with Dubai’s announcement of re-inventing itself as an ‘Islamic economic center’.

This is great news for a variety of reasons:

  1. Business growth opportunities for corporates and entrepreneurs.
  2. The seven pillar strategy of UAE provides strong growth impetus to additional industries in the Halal sector.
  3. Increasing job opportunities which will then impact on increasing consumption.
  4. Increased requirements of up-skilling of industry professionals.

For organizations to capitalise on the opportunity a very tightly focused strategic approach needs to be there.

The driving force for the Islamic economy is the Islamic financial services & Halal. These would be in pole position whilst the powerhouse that would provide the fuel to these two sectors would have to be the education sector.

As one takes an overview across these two industries one notes that the approach to strategic development still appears to be using the classical method of having a ‘USP’ – unique selling proposition – i.e. developing strategy from a product perspective.

Not that this is wrong.

But given the massive behavioural changes that occurred in the last decade, not acknowledging the impact of those changes in business strategy is akin to ignoring reality.

For organisations, to be successful in establishing a robust Islamic economy, a very clear focus and emphasis on developing business strategies based on understanding their people who are involved in the business eco-system, has to come about.

There are two key points here:

  1. Robust economy: This means ensuring sustainability of each organisation’ earnings so that the organisation stays in existence and industry growth is maintained.
  2. Understanding People: Business is run by people – the organisations’ staff – for people – customers, vendors, partners. Without acknowledging and understanding what motivates people, business strategies would be way off mark.

Why is there a need to focus on people?

A focus on people has to be taken on board as the behaviour of the people impacts very heavily on an organisations’ ability to perform well.

Here’s how:

  1. Culture:
    With business growth opportunities shifting towards Asia and Africa, organisations are now faced with understanding what the new consumer behaviours is like in these new markets. Within such vast markets the end consumers’ behavioral patterns differ across and within countries. Simultaneously, organisations have had to look at on-boarding knowledge workers and millenials in their work-force in order to manage this growth. Knowledge workers and millenials have different behaviours based on age, experience and environmental background.
    So today the need of the hour for organisations is to take on board how these diverse behaviours from people connected to their business are affecting their performance and acceptance of their brands. Internally, these behaviours impact the work culture within an organisation. This culture, in turn, manifests externally, and focuses on the way relationships are built with the external stakeholders.
  2. Leadership & Engagement
    The people or staff of an organisation are the physical manifestation of that organisation. The behaviours the staff display are, in essence, a representation of the organisation’s culture and values. This brings to fore an emphasis, for the organisation, on its leadership and employee engagement.

    Increasingly, the demand on leadership is becoming one of creating influence and social buy-in or, in other words, developing engagement based on aligning personal values and mission (of an employee) with that of the organisation.
    Leading to having, as far as possible, engaged and happy employees in order to ensure the organisational brand is delivering authentic value.
  3. Involvement
    Engagement leads to having the employees at the center of the overall brand experience. This focus involves understanding the organisational culture prevailing, discussing change areas if needed, fine-tuning desired behaviour and communicating it to the employees in a manner that brings about acceptance. Active involvement of employees becomes critical as without this the brand vision and brand delivery cannot be achieved.

Going forward what can the organizations involved in the Islamic economy do?

Focusing on people means re-calibrating how business strategy is approached. Instead of a product-centric approach, one has to move into a people-centric or behaviour oriented approach that fits the environment.

Here’s how:

  1. Develop business strategy from a perspective of the purpose you are in business for and how that purpose fits the environment. This process will entail understanding the people, impacted upon by the business, and their needs. This entails understanding cultural behaviour of all the stakeholders and developing the strategy based on that understanding.
  2. Develop the organisations’ leadership & management strategies to fit the business strategy. This means have the right people in the right functions.
  3. Lastly undertake activities, as initiatives, which clearly show the organisations’ understanding of the cultural behavioural nuances of its stakeholder.

Organizations that do focus on such an approach will be the ones sustainable in the long run and with strong brand loyalty.

 

(This post was first published in Investvine in Apr 2014)