Mapping the Maze: The Basics of Branding

Whether it is in reality, fiction, film or a nightmare, we have all encountered mind boggling mazes. The only way to tame a maze is to be in possession of an accurate map. Some corporate reports too present themselves as perfectly structured maps to better understanding the maze that branding can sometimes be.

Today, while embracing the successful branding stories of Apple, GE and Virgin Atlantic, we also learn from Asia’s most successful corporates and how they steered their brands towards global success. Here’s a peek into some recent corporate reports inclusive of annual reports and sustainability reports with a focus on elements of branding strategies that shine through.

Who are you?
AmorePacific is a South Korean beauty and cosmetics conglomerate. Its story began seven decades ago in the modest kitchen of Yun Dok-Jeong amidst camellia oil fragrances and the focused gaze of Jeong’s second son. What began as the production and distribution of hair treatment and facial creams for the most stylish women in then undivided Korea is now the world’s 14th largest cosmetics company. Suh Kyung-Bae, Chairman of AmorePacific and one of Jeong’s grandsons is now the second richest man in South Korea.

The Company has opened outlets in upmarket department stores in the US and also has an unwavering position in China. However, the Company’s focus remains unchanged. Most products make use of natural ingredients unique to the region. AmorePacific takes pride in sharing Asian beauty secrets with the world. Its sustainability report 2015 captures the variety of brands introduced to markets around the world and provides a fixed answer to the question, ‘Who are you?’ But by reporting on its sustainability agenda which mentions the 681 sustainable products that are developed according to rigid guidelines and the female employees who have taken up managerial positions in the Company, it illustrates how the Company keeps enhancing its identity in the face of larger, global concerns as well.

Do you seek global recognition?
As a creator of telecommunications equipment and provider of communication services Huawei emerged triumphant amidst heavy competition and predictions of failure. Today more than 65% of the Company’s revenue comes from outside China. In 2014, Chen Lifang, Huawei’s senior vice president emphasised the need to penetrate the U.S. market and three years hence it has made an incredible breakthrough with it’s Honor brand. In its annual report 2016 Rotating and Acting CEO Xu Zhijun says, “In this age of great opportunity, patience and focus are more important than ever. As we stand at the threshold of this historic transformation, we will hold fast to customer-centricity, remain focused on ICT infrastructure and smart devices, invest patiently, and collaborate openly in a relentless effort to build a Better Connected World.”

On the journey towards global stardom, Huawei did not make revolutionary changes to its identity. As revealed in its annual report, the Company has steadily positioned itself in a sea of digital advancements that include cloud technology, Internet of Things and Artificial Intelligence. Last year it launched Honor Magic, the Company’s first AI-powered concept phone – the product of targeted exploration in artificial intelligence. Successful branding requires that you meet the needs of your target market, by adding value to your already established corporate identity.

How consistent is your work culture?
If your influence is expansive and your products are manufactured widely, how would you maintain standards and ensure consistency? Consider “The Toyota Way”. In an impressive annual report/ sustainable management report 2016 that is presented in the style of a car manual, the Company discusses three key aspects that will be the driving force for its future. While mobility for everyone is its primary concern, in the coming years the Company will focus largely on constructing cars in line with the Toyota New Global Architecture (TNGA) while setting goals for environmental protection. The annual report is a truly inspirational read and conveys that a successful branding strategy would ensure consistency in its products and services. This requires an inculcation of culture and standards in each and every employee stationed around the globe.

The market capitalisation of Toyota Motor is greater than that of General Motors, Ford and Honda combined. Given the global demand for its products Toyota also has manufacturing plants in America, Britain and France. While consistently focusing on innovation in its production system, Toyota also ensures that its employees live by “The Toyota Way”. Employees are completely immersed in the culture and make sure clients around the world experience the same level of satisfaction.

Branding is as complex as a maze and one that is not easy to comprehend. However, as seen through their annual reports and sustainability reports, the success stories of Asia’s leading corporates provide a certain guide to powerful branding strategies. You can start by asking yourself these questions and suggest other questions you think companies should ask themselves.

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© Copyright August 2017
The ideas discussed here may be used, adapted or built upon for academic or commercial purposes provided due credit is given to Smart Media The Annual Report Company as the originator of this work.