What's in a Brand?

July 2013

'The promotion of a brand can't rely only on advertising. If the quality of the product is not up to it, a large spending on advertisement will only expose and spread its inadequacy far and wide so that it will die a quick death,' thus warned Prof. Andrew C.F. Chan, professor in the Department of Marketing and director of EMBA programme, Faculty of Business Administration, CUHK. Based on his experience and research, he pointed out some popular misconceptions in brand building and added that it was more important to identify the needs of the target buyers and the strengths and weaknesses of the product, with a view to improving the product or finding a suitable market for it.

On 27 July, Professor Chan shared with about 200 participants on brand image building in the fourth CUHK 50th Anniversary Public Lecture entitled, 'Strategies for Building Successful Brand Image', held at the Hong Kong Central Library. With his experience as a radio programme host, Professor Chan brought charm and vivacity to his presentation of marketing theories and examples to the members of the audience.

In the lecture, Professor Chan introduced his left-right circle theory first developed in 1992. Put simply, the left circle represents the needs of the buyers while the right one represents the edge of the company or the product. The overlapped area of the two circles represents the degree to which the company or product could satisfy the buyers. Other factors such as the emergence of competitors, changes in the market and any product improvement would affect how the two circles interact. Taking as an example CUHK's EMBA programme pioneered in Hong Kong in 2003, in order to distinguish the programme itself among others in executive education, Professor Chan had done much work in surveying potential clients' opinions, enhancing the curriculum in terms of practicality, inviting experienced practitioners and introducing other elements such as leadership training and overseas exchange tours. Now, the CUHK EMBA is a well-recognized programme reaching No. 17 in global ranking.

Professor Chan gave another example from his experience as a Cantonese opera enthusiast. He said that the applause he got from his Cantonese opera performance could not be transferred to the lecture theatre. 'This is not a matter of whether you perform in this room as well as on stage. But people signed up for this lecture because they wanted to hear about brand building. You cannot deliver it by singing a few Cantonese opera classics. It's about expectation.'

In the Q&A session, a participant asked whether customer's needs could be created. He wondered if those who did not buy mooncakes would change their minds because the mooncakes had received celebrity endorsement. Professor Chan gave a firm answer that needs could not be created this way but could be shifted. He explained, those who did not take to mooncakes might still buy them for their relatives and friends for the Mid-autumn Festival. What they bought was not so much the cakes themselves but the meaning behind——it represented care, respect and thanksgiving. When building a brand image, one should identify and target the specific needs of the customers and see which aspects or features of the product could fulfill those needs so that a niche could be carved out for the product.