What’s in a Name?

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George SyliangcoHaving a catchy name just isn’t enough to capture the market anymore.

“The best test of success is when consumers go back and buy your product,” marketing strategist George T. Syliangco tells attendees of the Anvil Business Club Exchange Forum. He points out that putting a name on a product doesn’t make it a brand. After all, you don’t make money on the first sale, but on repeated sales.

Syliangco is introduced by club director Reginald Yu as one of the best resource persons to validate the power of branding. With two decades as a “strategist behind the advertising agency” under his belt, Syliangco knows what he’s talking about.

Beyond gimmicks and witty wordplay, quality, service, and value in a product are the three qualities of branding which must be established all the time, he says.

“I’ve met huge clients. They would brand a product, put a price on it, and place it in a market. Then they would tell me, ‘Ayan ang brand, gagalaw ‘yan (That’s the brand that will succeed.)’,” he says, recounting the familiar story of brands failing to invest in their products.

“Of course not. You have to figure out how you want to position your brand in the market.”

The Key, the Reason
Syliangco emphasizes that differentiation, or what it takes for the consumers to buy the product, is the key in successful branding. The buyers should have a reason to choose a particular product over the competition.

“Because if you don’t (find the reason for people to purchase your product), they will buy you once, then that’s it,” he reasons. “Whatever it is, you have to find it.”

Launching a product that people have no reason to patronize is called brand awareness, he says. But that is the first step, the second is competence. He says that with a great selection of brands in the market, differentiation may be “very, very difficult,” but it is not impossible especially if businessmen will look at the product categories they are in.

Categorization, Realization
Syliangco shares his experiences in the company he owns, the Royal One International Footwear Corporation. He admits that he had a hard time when he first entered the shoe market. He thought that since sneakers have been a trend, and since he was the greatest marketing person in town, he would make it big. He lost money for two years. “That was the easiest part, losing money.

The hard part was reevaluating his brand and repositioning his products. Since he could not hope compete with the low-priced sneaker market, he went high end. He decided the category to put his brand was in the premium market. Today, his shoes come with a price tag starting at 4,000 pesos. “I had no choice,” he shares. “I had to go up, otherwise, if I forced myself to compete with others, I was going to be in big trouble.”

Intangible Reality, Being Unreal
According to him, there are two ways business men can go for differentiation: tangible—by using unique material—and emotional. He says that the latter is the hardest to do since most people buy based on emotion, and not on logic. This is especially true in the fashion industry, he says.

Take one shirt worth US$50 and another worth US$5, he says. The cloth and style are just the same, but people would still opt to buy the more expensive one since it has an alligator on it. “That’s fantastic marketing,” he says of iconic apparel brand Lacoste.

“It takes a genius to make people like you, graduates of college courses, and some may even have master’s degrees, to buy their shirt. Aren’t they great?”

When it comes to advertising, Syliangco says that what’s in the ad must be true. After all, the market is not stupid. Consumers can easily sniff out a lie, and once the trust is broken, it’s hard to win back.

Cutthroat Cutting Off
Sometimes, when a product has no clear differentiation, cutting price can be the answer to getting consumers’ attention. Syliangco warns, though, that this is not a healthy position, and borders on insanity.

“If the guy next to you has a pencil, and can mark down his price faster than you do, you’ll be ruined,” he says. “Especially when you’re up against the big ones.”

Cutting prices could also backfire, he warns, because the customers may even think the quality of your product is bad, and you’re desperate to get rid of bad stock.

“It can be done. There are examples in this country. There are brands that have positioned themselves only on the basis of (having a lower) price, and they’ve done a good job. It’s just a very very difficult strategy to sustain,” he says.

Syliangco, a veteran of branding campaigns, says that creating a strong brand takes time, dedication, cunning, and perseverance. It’s not impossible, but neither is it just a matter of creating a slogan and getting a celebrity endorser.

“It ́s not magic. It takes a while to learn. Be patient and then you ́ll build your brand,” he says.

Print ed: 01/10