Business Today

A can of Asian Brand-worms

Joseph Baladi is not going to be very popular with Asian CEOs after this book, says Harish Bijoor

Print Edition: March 20, 2011

The Brutal Truth About Asian Branding and How to Break the Vicious Cycle
By Joseph Baladi
Publisher: John Wiley & Sons
Pages: 280
Price: Rs 1,360

This is a mouthful of a book. At least the title is: The Brutal Truth About Asian Branding and How to Break the Vicious Cycle. The author, Joseph Baladi, is a writer-thinker-practitioner raised in South America, educated in Australia and has worked in New York, Mexico City, Tokyo and Singapore.

The book challenges CEO myopia in the region, just as it challenges the status quo of a low-value brand quotient 
He has a cogent set of thoughts, strong thoughts that will stir up a hornet's nest, if not a CEO's. The premise of the book is laid out in the title itself. There is a brutal truth about Asian branding that has brands from the region on the back foot. A premise that seems to begin with the Newsweek cover story of July 27, 2009, that screamed: "Name a global brand that is Chinese. Can't do it? Here's why".

Baladi will take you through the pages, telling you why. Somewhere on the way, he will tell you what you must do if you are one of those blinkered CEOs who refuse to accept the truth.

Baladi seems to be my soulmate in the realm of branding, and really knows what he is writing about. And he writes it, never mind what every defensive Asian CEO will have to say. Or not say, for that matter.

In many ways, Baladi strikes the right chord on issues that trouble branding across the region, more so in India and China, the two biggies occupying the firmament of fastpaced growth. The centre of power is shifting from the West to the East, and the developed nations are struggling with low rates of GDP growth. In this context, Baladi urges Asia to wake up and let go of old notions that seem to defy the science of branding more than embrace it.

The book challenges CEO myopia in the region, just as it challenges the status quo of a low-value brand quotient that needs to nudge itself onto the track of a higher common value for the good of all. Baladi makes a passionate case for the centrality of the brand and the interconnected nature of its essence, when it comes to corporate organisation and the many pieces of the corporate jigsaw.

Just somewhere in the conclusion to the book and what it champions, Baladi quotes Paul Valery, the French poet and philosopher, who died in 1945: "The trouble with our times is that the future is not what it used to be." The relevance of this comment for our today and tomorrow is possibly the least understood and the most under-focused point of brand effort across Asia. Baladi champions this. Reading what he writes, I appreciate his frustration as he gets pompous CEOs across the region to wake up and call a spade a spade, rather than an ear-bud.

Baladi is not going to be a very popular man in Asia after this book. And then Baladi is going to be a popular man after this book, after all. Both true. The first is true because plenty of insecure advertising people, myopic brand people and even more myopic CEOs are going to feel a lot more insecure after this tome, which has opened the can of quietly wriggling worms of Asian branding (and let's leave Japan out of this altogether). The second is true because a whole host of really savvy and non-pompous CEOs across Asia sit up and smell the coffee. And, hopefully, act.

The author is a brand-strategy specialist & CEO, Harish Bijoor Consults Inc.


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