In the third of a six-part series on the retail sector in Singapore, Esther Teo discovers that companies require both consistency and vision to build a strong brand
When Scanteak’s founder Lim Pok Chin coined the new name of his company in 1988, no one realised that the easy-to-recall portmanteau of the company’s wares — Scandinavian-design teak furniture — could be bad for business.
“People usually associate teak wood with very traditional or old-fashioned furniture,” explains Ms Jamie Lim, his daughter and regional marketing director of the company.
Instead of a name change, the company homed in on its unique selling proposition, and made teak — a durable, tropical hardwood native to South and South-east of Asia — trendy again with stylish designs and quality finishing.
Its strong branding, established over its 42-year history, has carried the home-grown business far and wide.
Today, Scanteak is one of Singapore’s largest furniture chain store retailers with over 14 showrooms across the island. Its global footprint consists of more than 100 retail outlets and flagship stores in Brunei, Japan, Taiwan, Germany, Canada and the United States.
Says Ms Lim: “Since the beginning, we have made teak our niche. We coupled the timeless beauty of simple, clean lines, together with the quality and durability of the hardwood.
“Now, when a customer thinks of wood or teak furniture, Scanteak is top of mind.”
Many local companies are missing out on building a great brand due to a narrow definition of what brand building can involve, says MrKhin Ng, founder and director of branding consultancy Tangible.
“Many still see brand building as merely a logo or ‘communications thing’ best delegated to the marketing department,” he observes.
“However, if a company wants to be more competitive and innovative, brand building needs to be championed by the management of the company and involve a re-definition of the business proposition. Other aspects — marketing, service culture, product offering or customer experience — should also change to support this proposition.
“The winners get repeat business by being consistent in delivering their brand’s promise,” he adds.
Scanteak’s branding philosophy goes beyond creating an eye-catching logo.
“Our brand culture, ‘Feel at home’, is the face and character of all our products, something our stakeholders identify with. It is about trust and value, and carries a promise about our high standards,” says Ms Lim.
Scanteak has undergone several brand enhancements over the years to appeal more to increasingly affluent as well as design- and lifestyle-conscious customers.
Four years ago, it opened its first Scanteak Signature concept store, which features the brand’s exclusive design ranges Prologue and Holm (launched just last year). Both collections are research- and development- intensive collaborations with international award-winning design collective Outofstock Design.
The Prologue collection, popular among younger customers aged from late 20s to 30s, has become Scanteak’s top-selling range here and won several high-profile awards for design last year.
Another retailer making waves around the region with strong branding is leading local fashion label In Good Company (IGC).
Established in 2012, IGC brands itself as a purveyor of quality, well-designed and contemporary ready-to-wear apparel at accessible price points.
In late 2014, the label made its foray overseas to Hong Kong with Kapok, a curated multi-label store as its stockist.
Last year, with the support of Spring Singapore, the label strengthened its branding and e-commerce capabilities and set up its first flagship store in premier shopping mall ION Orchard.
Conceived as a lifestyle concept store, the sprawling 3,300 sqft space features the label’s main line as well as finds from other indie brands.
It also houses Café by Plain Vanilla, so shoppers can have their fill of both couture as well as confectionery.
“Having a good brand concept, as expressed in our ION store, has opened doors for us and generated various leads for potential overseas partnerships,” says the label’s co-founder and managing director Jaclyn Teo.
IGC — which is already stocked at major retail players such as Tangs in Singapore and SOGO as well as Galeries Lafayette in Jakarta — will be extending its market reach with its first store opening in Bangkok next month.
As Scanteak expands its physical presence and introduces new lines of furniture and mattresses in Singapore and beyond, it also tapped Spring’s support to implement e-commerce as well as augmented reality enhancements in its shopping experience.
The retailer, which is currently on Facebook and Instagram and has a mobile responsive website, intends to bone up on its digital marketing capabilities.
“Gone are the days when you just put out your products and expected people to like them,” says Ms Lim.
“Consumers now want to know more — your story, where your products are made, if your materials are ethically sourced, what level of service to expect. They want to know if your brand’s values align with their own.
“A well-developed brand provides any company with an advantage against competitors,” she adds.
The Singapore Productivity Centre (SPC) and Boston Consulting Group (BCG) have launched the Retail Best Practices Masterclass Series for retailers in Singapore.
It aims to help retailers capitalise on market opportunities by facilitating access to world-class tools in decision sciences, data analytics and insights to solve business challenges more quickly and effectively. Masterclass 2 on Outlet Portfolio and Maintenance will be held on Sept 5 and 6, while Masterclass 3 on Labour and Performance Management will be held on Sept 19 and 20.
The 25th annual Singapore Retail Industry Conference will be held on Sept 15, co-organised by the Singapore Productivity Centre and the Singapore Retailers Association. It promises to inspire companies to achieve greater sustainable growth through innovation and best practices through sharing international and local experts and key players.
Visit SGPC’s website for more information.