Invaluable Intangibles

Kanchana Ratwatte elaborates on how branding came to be acknowledged by local corporates

Compiled by Yamini Sequeira

“Understanding the purpose of the existence of a brand is at the core of enhancing brand value because it sets the direction for everything else,” asserts Kanchana Ratwatte, adding: “Marketing and operational strategies can then be developed efficiently around the core.”

He continues: “These strategies should always go hand in hand for both to be effective and efficient.”

In his opinion, the annual publication of Sri Lanka’s Most Valuable Brands in the Brands Annual – now in its 18th year – has paved the way for local corporates to establish a prestigious benchmark for measuring their brand value.

Ratwatte notes that at the organisational level, the annual special edition has presented comprehensive insights that have enabled businesses to understand their brand purpose through the eyes of the consumer, thereby helping them build responsive and effective strategies to engage customers to a higher degree.

Most importantly, it has provided meaning to the most important intangible asset of an organisation – i.e. the brand – and recognised its value among peers.

“At the time, Brand Finance and LMD embarked on this venture with an unquantifiable brand value and made it a quantifiable entity,” he says, explaining that “from its inception, Bank of Ceylon obtained the best possible services of this benchmarking and has consistently been in the top tier of the rankings.”

As for industries, the Brands Annual has helped develop standards through strong business intelligence, backed by compelling market data to manoeuvre industry dynamics, he adds.

Ratwatte elaborates: “This has truly elevated industry readiness to meet stakeholder expectations. As Sri Lankan industries are becoming future ready to compete internationally, publications such as the Brands Annual are expected to provide the required momentum.”

“I am certain that 18 years of study has led to a profound accumulation of knowledge; and I sincerely believe that over the years, the Brands Annual will continue to create synergy within the Sri Lankan ‘brandscape’,” he asserts.

Commenting on why a gap exists between marketing and finance, Ratwatte explains: “The perceptual gap between these functions is closing rapidly. Organisations have understood that marketing and branding taken together is an essential investment.”

“We see that many companies are making substantial investments in their marketing and branding, and have been successful in sustaining growth targets in terms of brand value, profits and expansion,” he observes.

He goes on to say that there could be instances where some may not see a direct correlation between the marketing and finance functions, simply because certain marketing activities may not generate instant and tangible outcomes in the same way operational activities would.

“However, strategically executed marketing activities can be measured for their ROI based on quality and quantity over time,” he maintains.

Ratwatte sheds more light on this: “The prerequisite is to formulate the measurement criteria at the beginning in alignment with the objectives and strategic plan. If a business cannot identify this correlation, it is advisable to go back, and revisit its objectives and strategic plan formulation.”

On the matter of improving marketing efficiencies, understanding the intended audience is always the priority, he stresses. With thorough market analyses, organisations can come to an understanding where the purpose of the brand can build a meaningful value proposition for intended customers.

“Thereafter, a strategic marketing plan with an integrated marketing communications mechanism set out with clear objectives is the winning formula to improve marketing efficiency,” Ratwatte concludes.

Kanchana Ratwatte is the Chairman of Bank of Ceylon.