In 2017, the speaker at the FMCG Summit in Skopje was Zenel Batagelj – director of the research agency “Valicon”, which for years has been compiling the list of top 25 brands in the market of the former Yugoslavia. Given that no Macedonian brand has ever appeared on this list, we invited Zenel to speak at the summit on the topic “How can Macedonian brands reach the Valicon list of top 25 brands?”
As always, Zenel was charming and interesting, but as the presentation went on, I started to worry because he did not say any information that was in favor of the Macedonian brands. It culminates with his question: How can Macedonian brands reach the list of most desired brands in the former Yugoslavia, and his answer: None! Thank God, the presentation ended positively, by saying that Macedonian brands should compete farther, wider, in Europe and the world, and not only target the markets of the former Yugoslavia, as a market nearby.
The reasons Zenel pointed out as why we should not expect too much from the former Yugoslav market were mostly due to the size of those markets, the strong domestic brands they have and the preferences to choose the domestic products first.
As an example for a Macedonian brand, he pointed out Vlatko Stefanovski, Tikves, Mama’s and the Macedonian tomato. These are the Macedonian brands that are recognizable in Slovenia and that they know are of high quality.
Yes, it is possible to build and break through a Macedonian brand, but for that it is necessary to have a vision and to work strategically, dedicated and long-term for its realization. Let’s start from the beginning, from the vision. What do Macedonian producers want? Do they want to have a strong and internationally recognized brand or do they want to produce relatively cheap products that they think will be easier to sell due to the low price? Do they want to have a recognizable brand or do they want to produce private labels?
It depends on the answers to these questions whether they will focus on the production of high quality products or will try to achieve a satisfactory level of quality in order to achieve a relatively affordable price. And everything depends on this decision. A brand is not just a nice logo. A brand is more than a nicely packaged product.
The brand is a high quality product, with a great design, with its own original story, with a recognizable message that is part of every communication that the brand has with the target audience. The brand has a soul, it has style, and it has its own values in which its fans recognize themselves.
Of course, to achieve all this, to build a real brand, requires commitment from the whole company, primarily from the top management. The strategic decision to create a brand must come from the top of the company, which will clearly state the direction in which they want to move.
One of the basic preconditions for the management to decide to invest in the development of the brand is the understanding that it is an investment, not an expense. Branding, like advertising, is an investment whose goal is not to make a profit quickly, but to contribute to long-term, continuous growth of the brand image, brand awareness, increase in the number of fans of the brand, and of course all this will contribute to sales growth.
Investing in brand development is profitable many times over. At a time when it is becoming increasingly difficult to find a place on the shelf, listing a brand is much easier than listing a “no name” product. At each expansion of the range of related products, the new products will be accepted much faster from those who already believe in the brand. The higher price of branded products allows greater investment in marketing. The higher the price, the higher the earnings. The total value of the company grows in parallel with the growth of the value of the brand.
I do not know exactly how the Macedonian brands developed that Zenel mentioned in his presentation, but I can tell from personal experience how the latest brand on the Macedonian market – Gurmano – developed. Great, simple and successful story.
“Krivogashtani Promet” is a company that has been producing ajvar and other pepper and tomato products for more than 7 years, for many other brands, before the owners Goran and Sime decided that they should invest in the development of their own brand. We met with Sime on a short meeting where he explained to me their vision for developing his own brand, he told me about their products, gave me several products to make sure of their impeccable quality and we agreed on a three-week period in which we (“Kliker Marketing”) will design a name, logo and label design. After three weeks we went to “Krivogashtani Promet” to present the two proposals we had. The two were completely different in style, which would lead to a completely different communication later. It only took Sime and Goran a few days to decide on Gurmano’s name and branding.
As easy as our cooperation started, it continues all these years. “Krivogashtani Promet” is not a huge company with a whole marketing sector. Because of that, they left the entire trust for the management of the brand to us. Trust, mutual respect and partnership is what makes this cooperation so successful.
“Krivogashtani Promet” has grown by 65% since the introduction of its brand in the portfolio, three and a half years ago. Gurmano sales now account for 45% of total sales. Gurmano is sold in 16 markets. “Krivogashtani Promet” gained recognition, visibility, the value of the whole company grew compared to the period when it produced only private trademarks.
We had really quality products that were appreciated by everyone we worked with. They developed their brands based on our quality. So we decided that we should invest in the development of our own brand. Investing in Gurmano is one of the best decisions we have made, Sime Stancheski, co-owner of the Gurmano brand.
Brand development is not an easily achievable and close destination. It is a journey that lasts as long as the brand lasts.