Building Brands in the Age of Digitalisation

The age of digitalisation has brought new technologies and opportunities. At the same time, it brings many established and traditional business and brands to a situation of losslessness. Artificial Intelligence and Blockchain becomes the buzzword and looking to drive the world’s future.

How Are SMEs Going To Survive?

It is extremely terrifying to imagine how brands can survive this inevitable revolution. Intellectual Property can potentially give businesses a breath of new hope. For the last two decades, Singapore has been investing in branding, and many local SMEs have to embrace IP as away to grow their businesses.

Statistics released by IPOS has shown that there is significant growth for trademarks, patent, design mark filing for the last 10 years. This growth does not limit to B2C but also to B2B brands. Brands like BreadTalk, Charles and Keith, Hegen, SkinInc, Fargadalar and Sunray developed a culture of continuous innovation to grow its IPs, to grow and expand their businesses overseas.

With the government investing itself into an IP hub, Singapore is transforming itself into this exciting times where innovation drives our economy. It sets the pace for local enterprises to embrace and increase their values by building their businesses around intangible assets such as brands, content, proprietary technologies, data and capabilities.

Domination of Artificial Intelligence

In 1998, William Ryan of Niehaus Group had claimed that "branding is dead". He followed by saying that applying brand-marketing methodology no longer work because the “Mind-space is getting crowded”, and brands need to differentiate to stand out. One needs to be a “Hot Brand”.

Twenty years forward, Scott Calloway, Founder of L2, too, forecast that branding will soon become insignificant due to the advent of artificial intelligence and voice-activated technologies. AI will create a new reality of "frictionless, brand-less means of ordering all the stuff you need in your household”. Only the "hot brands" will remain.

Amazon is leveraging voice enabled technology with artificial intelligence to monetise their business and create new values for the consumers. Alexa pushes voice capable devices beyond the limit of just receiving task commands and gathering information. It now helps the consumer to shop and make “best” recommendations by analysing customers' purchasing preference.

As AI continuously learn the consumers’ preferences, companies that deploy such technology are capable of creating a biased recommendation. Eventually, established brands are dropped off from the recommendation and be replaced by in-house brand products eliminating choices.

Three key shakers we must first recognise and understand:

1. Value Deliveries

The rise of technologies and social media created a tectonic shift in how consumers experience consumerism. Owning is antiquated. Experiencing product/service at a fraction of cost is the new norm. Hence it forces businesses to change their revenue model. Sharing economy disrupts the value chain. Consumer’s perception of service and product shift dynamically.

The movie, music and hospitality industries are great examples of such disruption. Artists and filmmakers can produce and distribute directly with content delivery platforms, by-passing traditional channel. Travellers today can plan their unique travel experiences over mobile application platforms without staying in traditional accommodations.

2. The Connected Consumers

Television is no longer the only mean to brand engagement. Social platforms give rise to social connection and social broadcasting. Everyone can be a brand curator, and it happens at a speed of light. Dynamic customer engagement is paramount.

Connectedness ushers new concerns but also creates immense opportunities for established and new brands. As such, the new marketplace equalises the playing field by allowing businesses to create new shopping experiences. When convenience and immediacy add to this experience, consumers become empowered.

3. Competition Cooperation

With an evolving landscape from mass market to customer-centric network, businesses must expect some loss of control of their product/services experience. Low customer dissatisfaction can no longer be viewed as statistical inconsequential.

Businesses must gear up to the rise of a consumer revolution by delivering a positive branding experience. While competition remains, businesses will need to enhance mutual collaboration to ensure survivability for the industry.

Importance of IP in Branding Strategies

The role of IP is critical to the growth and evergreen of an enterprise. The success and failures of enterprise exploiting (the not) trademark and IP will determine their growth. Businesses can grow exponentially or be exploited by competitions to hinder growth.

Companies who exploit their IPs can accomplish exponential growth. Their capability is protected and filed before the product/services are made available. It brings protection as well as blocking competitors from infringing and unauthorised proliferation.

When local enterprises failed to align their IP strategies with their growth plans during overseas expansion, they hit roadblocks. Many either retreat or face lawsuits that caused significantly lose financially and restrict their growth opportunities.

Embrace and Innovate

To ensure future growth and sustainability, SMEs must unify brand and IP strategies with the overall business strategy. Embracing the new market trend and continuously innovating with well manage intellectual property ensures future revenue flow. Innovation will disrupt as much as brings new opportunities.

Adapting one’s value delivery process with technologies such as AI and social media will satisfy the customers’ expectation of immediacy and convenience. The holistic brand experience becomes synonymous with quality product and service. Proactive customer engagement brings constant insights into customers’ mind, building relationship and enhance product development process.

The future does not just need a brand to create an identity for the product. Rather, one must be a hot brand to differentiate itself in the soulless world of Artificial Intelligence.

Luke Lim, Louken Group, Founder & Group CEO