The other day I was giving a talk on “How to build a Competitive brand” to a group of CEOs and one asked how come there were so few great Malaysian brands. I thought about for a second and then answered, “because companies here aren’t willing to pay for branding”

Malaysian entreprenuers often think branding or advertising is easy and therefore be done in-house. There is that make-do mentality that is a double edged sword. On one hand, it makes us immensely creative in cutting corners and bending rules, but in the long run, these creative measures don’t quite provide the foundation needed to anchor and create a long lasting brand that resonates beyond our shores. We are great do-ers and thrive on quick fixes and quick wins. We desperately need to see some results by the 1st quarter or within 3 months, hence we become a very sales driven culture of push, push, push as oppose to creating a brand centric pull culture.

So when entreprenuers and CEOs of SMEs get presented with a proposal for an integrated communications campaign, they will more often than not, go straight to the last page, check out the cost and if it does not fall within their spend (yes often times, in the marketing brief, Agencies are never given a budget and we have to play a guessing game), the whole presentation is over. Or they will sit in the presentation mentally working out how they can reduce the proposed scope of work in order to make it fit their budget. so it becomes like a bargain basement affair where the big picture goes out the window and what becomes important is they get a campaign that fits the budget and meets some kind short term ROI. Or you may get some who feel that all the cost is absolutely unjustified and unnecessary and then proceeds to set up their own graphic department comprising 1 to 2 designers who either are fresh out of design school or are those who can’t seem to get employment in design firms. Currently this in-house approach, is also being applied to digital communications.

If you look at some of the greatest brands to emerge in the last 5 decades – Apple, Lexus, Starbucks; their success is not just because they had great products, (in fact some would argue that Starbucks’ coffee is really quite mediocre) it was an astute combination of good product + great design + great advertising + great PR. All of them had one thing in common, they had the good sense to partner with the best agencies and then cleverly got out of the way.

So for the next few blogs, I shall be posting amazing stories of how teams of passionate advertisers and communicators helped build some of the world greatest brands.

The following Forbes story titled: The Real Story behind the Think Different campaign written by Rob Siltanen previously of TBWA/Chiat/Day chronicles the amazing journey that led to the creation of a campaign that turned Apple around.