All the seats were taken, but students of Peking University HSBC Business School (PHBS) were still frantically crowding into the conference room to find a spot to listen to the speaker, Ms. Madelyn Postman (美德玲•普斯德). She is a woman with an impressive marketing career and a passport filled with country stamps. Ms. Postman was in Shenzhen to deliver her talk on “How to Build a Brand”, organized by the MBA Office of PHBS on March 1.
Ms. Postman has worked in Italy, the United Kingdom, China, and the United States, where she specialized in branding, digital marketing, naming, and visual identity. Her career developed while working with and for Gucci Group, Sergio Rossi, Nokia, Burberry, Richemont, and Sunglass Hut as employers and clients. Later, she leveraged her specialization in luxury fashion and beauty brands to provide consulting services to foundations, schools, membership and trade organizations in line with her values. She is now Managing Director of Leidar London, part of the international advocacy, branding and communications consultancy headquarted in Geneva with a presence in Brussels, Oslo, and Dubai.
This depth of experience is evident in the expansive range of insights she is able to share. During her visits to universities, trade shows, and corporate events, Madelyn tailors the content for the specific audience and never delivers the same presentation twice. She had just been in Guangzhou a few days earlier to present the positioning and brand marketing of Chinese and Western beauty brands at the trade show of Personal Care and Homecare Ingredients (PCHi).
She is also a public and media speaker, commenting on everything related to brands and marketing for the BBC.
If you couldn’t be there, here are some key points to remember from the conference:
#1 “Knowledge of the target consumer provides a significant competitive advantage”
Once you know what your consumer wants, it becomes much easier to deliver a successful product. For example, being well aware of your international consumers’ lifestyle and culture will help you decide on the right local models to promote your product, the best language to communicate with them, the trends to follow, the technologies to use and so on.
We must not forget that companies, even very different ones, can fight for the same discretionary yuan. We must then be certain the product meets the conscious and unconscious criteria of the consumer.
Ms. Postman also had a reading recommendation for companies who want to sell globally: “The Culture Map: Breaking Through the Invisible Boundaries of Global Business” by Erin Meyer (2014).
#2 “See branding as one of your most important investments”
What image do you want to present? Do you want to be perceived as a friendly and approachable brand or rather a serious and luxurious one? In order for the consumer to register your brand image in their brain, it has to be clear and reinforced in every facet of consumer engagement—from your logo to the box you’ll send the product in.
You want your brand to stand out in the market. Branding is a rigorous process that requires advanced expertise and know-how, but once you have that covered, you can lay all your future decisions on a solid foundation. It involves a lot of research about what competitors are offering and what has not been done already. If your brand is right, it will not look like any others.
Aspects to consider: color palette, identity, values, personality, language, trademarks, price
#3 “Do not underestimate the investment needed to launch an online-only brand”
Opening an online store does not guarantee that any potential customer will visit or revisit the store. In the face of tough competition and well-established big names, it is necessary to renew presence in order to be known. It takes banner advertising, the push of influencers, potentially a pop-up shop. Many companies underestimate the marketing investment needed to drive online sales, which makes sustainability much harder to reach.
# 4 “Make sure everything is legally backed up”
It is also crucial to think about legality in branding. Someone may already have the same brand name trademarked in a targeted territory. It is often wise to work with an expert agency and lawyer who will make sure everything is in order.
Ms. Postman is now also devoting her personal time to a new project. She is writing a book called “Sixteen Stories”, chronicling her research on her family’s roots in China, Poland, Lithuania, and California. The day after the conference, she went to visit other Chinese cities while pursuing the desire to know more about her family history. She even visited Long Tau Wan Zhou Xiong Primary School, named after her great-grandfather and established in 1928. You can follow her journey on her Instagram account: the16stories.
By Anabelle Dagenais