HOW does one Caribbean island paradise stand out from the crowd of other Caribbean island paradises? Spice up the brand, that???s how.
Marketing guru Jack Trout told a forum in Singapore yesterday that the way the West Indian island of Grenada re-invented its image is as good a lesson as any in the need for a product to ensure its brand stands out among its rivals.
The "tyranny of choice" enjoyed by consumers means that successful products - from tourist resorts to baked beans - need a compelling brand, he said.
He cited the work he did for Grenada, which had styled itself as "the isle of spice" but was still facing a shortage of tourists. It needed, in short, to find a way to avoid being labelled as "just another island in the Caribbean". "There was a problem with its slogan," said Mr Trout, who has written several acclaimed books on marketing. "Nobody was going to travel a great distance just to see cocoa, nutmeg and mace."
But unlike some of its neighbours, Grenada could boast unspoiled beaches and pristine natural parks. That, according to Mr Trout, was the differentiating factor.
So he proposed that Grenada brand itself as "the Caribbean the way it used to be", with advertisements carrying lines such as "Beaches. Untouched by developers." The tourists started returning to the island.
A similar branding approach is necessary even among small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), so long as there is competition, he told The Straits Times on the sidelines of the Global Brand Forum.
"A lot of SMEs are too busy surviving. They also tend to be family-owned and managed businesses. They don't think in terms of differentiation or marketing," said Mr Trout, who has done consultancy work for companies such as AT&T, IBM, Proctor & Gamble as well as the US State Department on Brand America. He said that while it would be "very hard" for SMEs to go global, they must think in terms of marketing and innovation, rather than performance, organisation and sales, if they aspire to be regional players.
And they do not even need to have a lot of money to brand their products successfully. They just need to put the difference into everything they do, such as packaging and printed literature.
"SMEs should differentiate themselves by being specialists, and no matter how successful they become, they should never act like the leader because once a guerilla, always a guerilla," he added.
But branding is only half the story, as brand strategy guru David Aaker, professor emeritus of marketing strategy at the University of California, Berkeley, pointed out. "Great products are not enough. You have to make those that customers will buy," said Prof Aaker.
Companies should also decide on the "personalities" they want out of their brands and work on enhancing these "associations", rather than focus only on marketing the products.
For instance, a brand could evoke a serious, warm, humorous tone, or a confident, competent and caring one.
"Look at BP, which people associate with being green and environmentally sensitive. It gives you the sense that the company is one that you will respect and admire," Prof Aaker said.
This story was first published in The Straits Times on 7 Nov 2006.