The next big challenge for Indonesian brands
Thomas Sutton, Country Director, Landor Indonesia
Turning a local brand into an international brand is becoming an achievable goal for a growing number of Indonesian businesses. International trade barriers have come down and the internet is enabling small and medium-sized companies to compete more effectively on the global stage. But with an international presence comes the need to act like a global brand.
As brands look to target new markets, it’s not uncommon to hear things like: “That’s the way we’ve always done it.” But the fact that a strategy has worked before is no guarantee of future success, particularly in a new market, where you don’t have the same advantage of familiarity. Just as in human relationships we’re more tolerant and forgiving of our family and friends, making new friends – or new customers – takes a lot more effort. Consumers don’t owe brands the benefit of the doubt, and while curiosity and novelty can encourage people to try new brands, what is it that best sparks that curiosity?
“Products are made in the factory, but brands are created in the mind”, Walter Landor once said. Whilst nowadays we may take this for granted, many Indonesian companies still need to make a shift from a manufacturing to a marketing mindset, and in turn get closer to the consumer – in whichever market they may be.
It’s true that people will often buy something in a particular category simply because they need it. But when there’s a choice, the reason for choosing one brand over another is steeped in emotive affiliation. Consumers don’t choose you for what you do; they choose you for why you do it.
Every organization can tell you what product they make or service they provide. Most can even describe how they do it through a proprietary process or a USP for example. But very few can articulate, why they do what they do. The “why” is not just to make money, it’s about their purpose, their cause, and their belief. If you don’t know the “why” of your brand, you can’t expect anyone else to. When a brand has a purpose and a strongly held belief that consumers share or admire, that’s more powerful than a positioning statement or vacuous brand promise could ever be.
Most Apple customers, for example, are buying more than a practically or sensually designed product. They are buying into a deeper brand belief. Apple’s agile brand platform has allowed them to innovate and diversify their product portfolio whilst delivering a consistent trademark experience. They’ve balanced being highly adaptive with being highly principled – a commitment we can all surely agree has paid off for them.
The North Face’s “never stop exploring” ethos is driven by an authentic belief in the wonder of the outdoors. They see it as their mission in life to get as many citizens of the world engaged with the outdoor life as possible. As a result, this brand is seen as genuine and made of real stuff.
These brands do not seek indiscriminate mass appeal, but cater instead to specific needs or audiences. They are brands for anyone, but not for everyone. That’s authentic.
This authenticity is especially important as growing numbers of brands come to understand that their target market is dominated by millennials. Pundits everywhere are postulating on what makes these people tick, and one thing we know for sure is that millennials, in whichever country they’re in, seek authenticity in every interaction they have.
They may get to know a brand online for example, but want to engage with it in a more tactile way in the real world in a way that makes it more meaningful to them. Amazon, the Black Death of the bricks-and-mortar bookstore, have themselves just opened a bricks-and-mortar bookstore in Seattle, satisfying millennials’ craving for real-world, engaging experiences.
When a business enters a new market, they need to ask themselves “why should consumers in this market care that I exist?” The chances are that there are similar products or services in that market already. By elevating the “why” question, it enables a higher level of connection with consumers in the new market, and potentially a more authentic one.
For brands looking to take that first step on to the international stage, they should pause to ask both the “why” question, and how can they represent something that consumers can truly believe in.