Interview: Xavier Mah On The Importance Of Branding For Small Businesses

importance of branding by xavier mah

Branding is everything. 

According to Oberlo, branding is the process of creating a strong, positive perception of a company, its products or services. 

When you have strong branding, you can easily stand out from the crowd and build your own loyal, customer base. 

The reason people choose to walk into Starbucks instead of any other coffee joint in the block is because of branding. 

The reason people love flaunting those Nike shoes is because of branding. 

The same can be said for many other big brands like Apple, Under Armour, JBL, Teremana, Haig Club, and more. 

Just think of Under Armour, for example, what comes to your mind? It’s probably The Rock a.k.a Dwayne Johnson, hard work, and discipline. That’s branding. 

What about Apple? You probably think of words like class, exclusivity, and innovation. 

94% of the world’s population recognize the Coca-Cola logo

Coca-Cola

Having said that, it’s important to note that branding is not only for the big players. It’s equally important for small businesses. 

Today, we speak to Xavier Mah, a PR and branding expert – to discuss the importance of branding, how it can help your business during tough times, and some exclusive branding tips you can adopt for your business. 

Hi Xavier. Thank you for speaking with us today. Why don’t you tell us about yourself and how you started Xavier Mah Consultancy? 

I got my career kickstart when I was offered by ntv7 to work as an assistant producer for the ‘Top 10 Malaysian Hainan Chicken Rice’ programme and later moved on to being an assistant producer on gua.com.my. 

One year later, I decided to pursue my dream of doing Public Relations and I left my job to be the PR & Marketing Manager of  A Cut Above.

Two years later, I started my digital PR and Branding agency, Xavier Mah Consultancy, at the age of 25. 

With only RM5,000 in hand, I persevered and worked hard for the past 10 years to achieve the success I have within the industry now.

The recent pandemic was tough on everyone. How did it affect you & your business?

I made full use of my time in solitary with these 3 new experiences.

I have an oven at home, but I’ve never used it. And I always wanted to learn about baking so I started learning baking through Youtube tutorials. How amazing is that!

Tik Tok might be predominantly used by millennials and Gen Z, but age should never matter! It’s hard to keep up with the times, but that’s no excuse, especially for someone in the media industry. Follow me on Tik Tok now @xaviermah for some interesting content.

I’m not familiar with live interviews at all, but that’s exactly what I did. I managed to produce a few episodes throughout the MCO period where my invited guests shared about business, the media industry and social issues like the BLM movement.

Fortunately, I have been steering the company and our services towards digitalization long before the pandemic hit so that is how we are able to stay afloat.

I think for every business, it’s important to look far ahead into the future and try to be ready with a game plan for every worst case scenario.

What’s the new normal for your business post Covid 19? 

During the MCO, we started doing live Facebook interviews with prominent personalities and leaders in the media industry to address issues and topics that people might be interested in. 

Apart from that, we’ve also been posting a lot more content on our social media platforms and website. The pandemic has driven all of us online and I believe that thriving online is the way to go. 

Another thing that we’ve recently incorporated into our services is data storytelling. We are spending more time and resources in understanding a company’s target audience in terms of their demographic, characteristics and interests. 

From there, we are able to collect and utilise big data in our storytelling strategies to curate different types of content with the tone and language that appeals to the target audience.

You work with a lot of businesses. How did you help them adapt to the situation?

During the MCO period when physical events are impossible to organise. We helped one of our clients, Cosentino, to organise a virtual interview with 2 prominent interior designers, Alex Lee of Nu Infinity and Isaac Lim of Mieux Design to discuss the evolution of fine kitchens and baths in conjunction with Cosentino’s 40th anniversary.

Despite some challenges, the interview was well received by the audience due to the interactions and engagement throughout the live session.

We also work with quite a few property clients and we can see that the construction site has been badly affected. This has caused a slowdown in the property market and confidence amongst homebuyers has been shaken up. 

What about consumer behaviour post Covid 19?

Consumer behaviours are settling in while people learn to live with the reality of Covid-19.

Although most of the economic sectors in our country have reopened, many are still witnessing the drop in income. Hence, the most obvious trend that you can see in spending behaviour is the shift in value and essentials.

People are getting more mindful about their spendings and are opting for cheaper options for things.

Another change is the convenience in buying stuff. Online shopping has been around for years but now it’s not only limited to accessories and clothings – people are also going online to purchase their essentials.

Businesses have to put themselves online to reach their target market and stay in the game.

It’s difficult for small businesses to compete with the big players. As a personal branding coach, what is your advice to them?

My advice to them is to stop trying to catch up with the big players.

As much as we want to compete at the top, we have to take a step back and face reality. Because the reality is big industry players have limitless resources and manpower to work on their branding and marketing and it’s just not feasible for small businesses to keep to the same standard.

Analyse your resources and strengths and try to do the best that you can.

Don’t overlook your small achievements because even a little improvement every single day can go a long way in the long run.

It takes 5 to 7 impressions for people to remember a brand.

Pam Moore

People tend to think that branding isn’t that important for small businesses, especially home-based businesses.

Small businesses or home-based businesses does not mean that the business will ‘stay small’ forever.

Many well-known billion-dollar businesses like Apple, Amazon, Google, Under Armour, Microsoft and Disney started off as home businesses.

Your company is never too small or too trivial to be involved with branding.

Xavier Mah

After all, your company branding might be just the thing that will propel your business to success.

What are some inexpensive branding strategies you give to small businesses?

The magic of having an online network is how you can start your very own branding. The online world is a hassle-free platform for all businesses to get their name out there, so why not make use of it?

Here are 3 simple steps that you can take to elevate your brand presence:

  1. Get your business listed on Google. Google My Business makes it easier for your customer to find you, and it can also help improve your search ranking in Google if you have a business website.
  1. Leverage on social media. With billions of users worldwide, this is the cheapest and easiest way to reach your target market, as well as potential consumers. Produce more good quality, interactive and relevant content to appeal to your audience.
  1. Collaboration is key. No brand grows on its own, and that is exactly why good collaborations are made so that both parties can leverage on each other’s strengths. Find a good collaborator and work on a meaningful project, you will see how your brand will blossom.

What are some common branding mistakes that businesses make?

I’ve noticed that many brands are posting just for the sake of posting. Be sure to understand your audience’s needs and wants before curating content that adds value to them.

Additionally, small businesses might not have the manpower and team to produce content consistently. 

The key to maintaining good social media presence is by posting consistently, so small businesses must make a note to produce quality content consistently.

I find that all good content starts with good planning. So do create a social media calendar for your social media content to ensure that they are aligned with your values and direction.

How does branding help to foster customer loyalty?

Branding is all about understanding your own USPs and values that you can provide to customers.

Offering value-added products and services as well as an engaging profile will keep customers coming back for more.

Branding is also about storytelling. Stories help to evoke emotions and engage with customers in a more authentic way, that is how customers recognize you and that in turn will increase your revenue.

How does brand repositioning come in handy during a pandemic or any other setbacks?

Brand repositioning is the best response you can ever have to a pandemic/crisis.

All bad things will eventually come to an end. How you position your brand amidst the chaos will stick in your consumers’ minds forever.

Now is the time to prove that your brand truly cares about your consumers, don’t just tell them that you care – show them!

People are also calling out companies who are not delivering their promises and failing to live up to their standards.

So adapt, be authentic, or risk losing your business and a shaky future.

Any final words? 

Many people have the misconception that personal branding is all about shouting about yourself, or self promotion. Your personal brand should represent the value you are able to consistently deliver to those whom you are serving.

For CEOs, entrepreneurs and leaders, it is imperative that their personal brand is elevated and the onus is on them to add value to their organisation through their own beliefs.

Personal branding is a lifelong journey so be determined to make a change, and eventually, you’ll see tremendous changes.

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