The Shape of An SME. #MCSpeaks

Posted by ABND on April 24, 2018

The other day, in conversation with a potential client, he kept harping two words — ‘idea’ and ‘shape’.

To elucidate, the ‘idea’ referred to the development of brand positioning and the ‘shape’ referred to the laundry-list of deliverables like the logo, visual language, brochure, leaflet, packaging, etc.

On the face of it, it may sound hilarious. But he understood what brand development was about. It was only his language that belied him. But then that is something that we must give it as an understanding to a small and medium enterprise (SME). Or so we thought until he stumped us.

He postulated that he had no brand despite being in business for years. Therefore, to make the best choice, he insisted we present to him two positioning routes and four packaging options. Ok, we continued listening.

Further conversation said since there is no brand, we eliminate any market visits or observational studies. In fact, ‘honest’ input from company honchos would be enough to develop the positioning.

And of course, the ‘shape of my brand’ was the most critical deliverable. But irony struck again when he broke down the cost of ‘idea’ and ‘shape’. ‘Idea’ was valued higher than ‘shape’. So did it mean that the client understood the importance of strategy development and creating a strong positioning? Maybe yes. Maybe No. We couldn’t determine. What we realised was that he calculated the deliverables of the ‘shape of my brand’ as a rounded cumulative of ‘5000 for leaflet’, ‘15000 for packaging’, ‘2000 for one-page design’, etc.

That’s when we were forced to ask ‘WHAT IS THE SHAPE OF AN SME?’

As an organisation, Small and Medium Enterprises are our focus. We believe in branding being an asset to them which they can harness to make more profit, and outlast competitors. Yet every conversation with an SME comes with its set of surprises.

We may agree that the average SME may have mostly nothing common to The Coca-cola Company or Apple or Google or Unilever. Many of the SMEs are into the Business-2-Business (B-2-B) space, where logos or brochures may be the least of the concerns.

With buyers who reject you on basis of price or do business with you because they know you as ‘Hasmukh Bhai’ or ‘Garodia No Dikro’ (Garodia’s son), the concern is operations and timely delivery. Of course, it won’t matter if the concept of jugaad — while widely appreciated across the globe — is haphazardly employed to finish the ‘dhandho’ (business). What matters is ‘paiso’ (money).

For them, branding is possibly branding junk. For the first generation business owner, definitely, it is. There is a great exposure of the second-generation, but keenness to use branding for business growth is still low.

We will acknowledge that for us too it is not easy to figure out the exact ‘shape’ of an SME. Yet we laud this potential client we spoke about earlier. At least he sees strategy as an ‘idea’ and the brand collaterals making up the ‘shape’ i.e. the visible image of his brand.

The vocabulary of the SME business owner notwithstanding, the greater onus is on us as brand practitioners to keep educating, to keep trying and most importantly, work toward building SMEs into profitable brands, and not just peddle our wares.

SME business owners are moving beyond the logo. And that makes this a great time to meet the fuel that drives Indian growth story — the SMEs — to define their ‘idea’ and craft their ‘shape’.

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