8 November 2014

Asian brand heroes recount brand journeys

Influential Brands, a programme by Brand Alliance, celebrated the achievements of top brands in Singapore at the 2014 Influential Brands conference: Celebrating brand leadership and Asia brand heroes on November 7. A number of the brand heroes talked about their brand journeys during a panel discussion at the event.

The panel discussion featured from left, a moderator, Amy Lim, Founder, Brand Alliance, Mrs Esther Tang-Loo, Executive Director of Focus Network Agencies, Han Keen Juan, Old Chang Kee Group’s Executive Chairman, Debra Soon, MD, Channel NewsAsia, Woon Tai Ho, Director for Media and Marketing, Singapore’s National Art Gallery, Allen Law, Group Chief Executive of the Park Hotel Group, and Dr Ting Choon Meng, Founder and CEO, HealthStats International.

Mrs Esther Tang-Loo, Executive Director of Focus Network Agencies (FNA), talked about how The Cocoa Trees came about as a brand. The company, which has grown from S$2 million to S$220 million in sales, had wanted something that would identify them better with the confectionery business than the FNA name, she shared.

“We wanted a good brand, a wholesome image,” she said. ‘The Cocoa Trees’, suggested by brand consultancy Brand Alliance stood out for FNA. The plural ‘trees’ suggested abundance, the leaves provided shade, while the roots of the trees signified a foundation, she explained.

“The Cocoa Trees image is almost like our face. It is our pride,” she said.

David Chiem, Group CEO and Chairman, MindChamps, also talked about the genesis of his brand. “The name has to say who we are, what we are about,” he said. It had to be two syllables because names with more syllables such as ‘Los Angeles’ tended to be abbreviated to two syllables (‘LA’), he said. In MindChamps’ case, the company discovered its tagline first, and the tagline – discover the champion in you – suggested the brand.

Allen Law, Group Chief Executive of the Park Hotel Group, which grew from one to ten hotels in ten years (excluding the two added last week), said that his tagline is “Discover love”. “What’s most important is how (staff) are living it and delivering it on a daily basis,” he said, explaining that any guest to a Park hotel should feel as the same care and concern from staff as if they are family.

Dr Ting Choon Meng, Founder and CEO, HealthStats International, which offers a new method to measure blood pressure, recalled scepticism that Singaporeans could invent anything earth-shattering when he first started building the brand. He found becoming a brand personality to evangelise the brand came with its own set of challenges.

"I became synonymous with blood pressure monitoring instead of BPro," he said. He has since distanced himself from being so closely associated with the brand, and reported that ‘BPro’ is now used as a verb by the medical community in the UK, where it has done very well.

Debra Soon, MD, Channel NewsAsia, noted that a brand relies on many people. “Success is the team’s effort. Failure is the failure of the leader,” she said. “It is a lot of hard work, it is not glamorous.”

Several brand heroes provided tips for aspiring entrepreneurs.

“If you can think of it, it exists,” said Woon Tai Ho, Director for Media and Marketing, Singapore’s National Art Gallery and the Founder of Channel NewsAsia.

Law shared the words of his late grandfather, who founded Bossini: “First you must dare to dream big. Most importantly, follow your heart. Follow your dream, don’t give up,” he said.

Han Keen Juan, Old Chang Kee Group’s Executive Chairman, advised aspiring entrepreneurs to be focused. “Make up your mind. When your commander says ‘Attack the island’, there is no way to come back. You had better make it,” he said, using a military analogy.

Old Chang Kee, HealthStats, The Cocoa Trees and the Park Hotel Group are featured in a book launched at the same event, Influential Brands: A documentary of their heroic rise. 

Read more about the book here.