“Take Ownership of Your Brand.” – DrKKJohan

Full Transcript of Dr. KKJohan's speech at The BrandLaureate SMEs BestBrands Gala Dinner 2016-2017

Good evening ladies and gentlemen, welcome to The BrandLaureate SMEs BestBrands Awards 2016, the 10th series of The BrandLaureate SMEs Awards. Yes, the SMEs BestBrands Awards celebrates its tenth anniversary this year. Last year, 2016, The BrandLaureate Awards, the award for multinationals, large corporations, public listed and government linked companies celebrated its 10th anniversary.

After a successful start to The BrandLaureate Awards in 2006, we were asked to organize the SMEs Awards and the first Award took place in 2007. It was conceptualized to recognize leading SMEs in Malaysia that has successfully built their brands and make Malaysia proud with their quality products and services. These SMEs have also contributed to the economic growth of the country.

As you are all aware, SMEs are engines of growth and development, fountains of entrepreneurship and every successful nation has a pool of SMEs that contribute significantly to its GDP. No developed nation would be where it is if it does not have a strong SME base and no successful brand would be where they are if they did not start their brand journey as a SME.

Yes, SMEs, as the acronym denotes, you may be a small and medium enterprise but you play a strong and significant role with your enterprise and entrepreneurial spirit.
Like the first The BrandLaureate Awards that took the nation by storm, likewise the first SMEs Awards was a spectacular success. I can go on and on to speak about its success but that is not what the Asia Pacific Brands Foundation and The BrandLaureate is here for. We are here for a good and greater cause, one that is of nation branding and nation building.

In launching The BrandLaureate Awards, we have created the awareness and importance of building brands and branding. We have created the buzz in the country on a very important subject matter, which was talked about but not well understood.
Ladies and gentlemen, let me tell you that 10 years ago when we mentioned about brands and branding, the most common reaction was that it was all about advertising and promotions.

To many companies, especially the SMEs it was a subject matter that was irrelevant to them, as they feel they were just small enterprises. There was no need to brand as it was not important to them.
It was a discipline for the big boys. But even where the big boys were concerned, some were not bothered as they thought they are market leaders and strong enough to withstand the competition. Many were outright arrogant, that I can tell you.

On the other hand, some of the big boys were grasping away, not knowing what to do. Many spent millions of dollars doing rebranding, hiring consultants that set new vision and mission statements for them, refreshed their logos and upgrade their façade, branches, take media advertisements that cost RM30,000 –RM40,000 per insertion to announce the new logo and so forth.

At the end of the day, it is only the physical changes but what about the internal changes, which is really the core and soul of the brand. Call these companies and you get the same indifferent response from the receptionist to the customer service team. In short, the rebranding exercise has not been successful because the buy-in from the staff is not there.
Why the need to pay millions of dollars to ad consultants under the guise of branding the company. The company, its CEO and management should take charge of the brand, set its vision and mission, brand values and grow its brand culture. That is the job of the CEO and not an external brand consultant.


The APBF through its many write ups, seminars and even during the Awards has highlighted the importance of taking charge and taking responsibility of your brand. And this year, being the 10th anniversary of the SMEs Award, we once again would like to remind all of you that brand success is in your hands. You have to Take Ownership of Your Brand, For Your Brand Sustainability and Continuity, which is the theme of this year’s award.
None of us are born successful. Success is a commitment, the more committed we are, the greater the rate of achievement. Likewise, brand success is a journey, where you as the brand guardian must drive the brand to its desired level of success. Successful businesses have strong brands and if you want your business to be successful, you need to work on your brand.

Taking ownership of one’s brand shows your leadership and commitment to the brand and business. Remember the early days when you started your business and brand, when no one knows you and you had to stand up and stand out to be seen and heard. Remember, the early days, when you were a newbie and no one trusted you and you had to win the trust of your customers by walking the extra mile.

Remember, the early days when your competitors look down on you and said that you were no threat to them.Well, all of you have persevered and driven the brand with your tenacity and enterprise. Each cycle of hardship that you faced, has made your stronger and you have built on your brand sustainability. You have overtaken the competition and you have won the loyalty of your customers with your commitment and sincerity to the brand.
This can only happen when you take ownership of your brand. Many of you do not realize it, but when you take ownership of your brand, you become the brand too. When this happens, you will do what is necessary to ensure that every action and step taken for your brand is the best to ensure its success and sustainability. For if the brand fails, then you fail too.
We must not be afraid to do the unheard or unconventional way to drive our brand success. The true and trusted way is not going to make your brand great and create the oomph which is so needed in this competitive time.
Successful brand leaders are those who has no fear and who will go out of their ways with their out of the box ideas and eccentricity to build their brands. You may call them nerds, jerks, idiots or madmen. But these madmen eventually rule the world and bring changes which impact their brands, communities and the world at large.

The strange thing is that no one really gives a hoot to these madmen when they expound their thoughts and ideas. We think they are mad, they are incompetent, they have no knowledge of the industry and they talk mad thinks.
Our mindset is that we can only trust genius but if we look around us, it doesn’t need a genius to achieve great things. It needs someone who is passionate about his cause, who is fearless and who dare to dream the impossible and scale the tallest building without looking down at all. Just look up and up towards the sky to reach the highest level … this is what is epitomized in the visual of our SME 2016 brochure (show image).

Reaching for the sky is what all of you SMEs must do and should do. Don’t be restricted by conventional guidelines that restrict your mindset. Soar high with your ideas and realize it. Put wings into your brand and your personal self and take the world by storm and create phenomenon to build your legacy.


Life is short, time and tide waits for no man and no brand. You either do it or be done and I am sure you do not want to be done and away with.
You should be like the cockerel that wakes up the whole village every morning, in this instance the whole world. In reference to the year of the cockerel, well it is a tough and difficult year, but we must be like the cockerel, crows every morning, so in this weak market sentiment, your brand should crow and not snooze or moan or groan.

Take Charge, Take Ownership and overcome the current odds to build on your brand leadership. Seize the day, everyday no matter how hard it is.


Be the nerd or madman, don’t be intimidated. Instead intimidate and make your brand heard or seen.

Donald Trump did not win by being quiet and nice, Duterte shocked the world with his speech and Jack Ma could not even speak English when he was young. Look at them now, they are rocking the world with their brands.

You can do it and you must do it.




No Comment

Leave a Reply



Latest Articles


  • CAN YOU feel it, can you see it, you are the Brand! Inspiring, innovative, ingenious, and impactful  indeed, these are the words that capture the celebration and grandeur of...
  • For so many years, it has been the dream of The BrandLaureate to come out with its own corporate theme song — to share its vision and mission to...
  • Air Max is a way of life, an obsession, a form of self expression. Some have amassed thousands of Air Max, while others possess some of the rarest collaborations...
  • Lifeblood is spilt, fighting hard to retain heat on its definitive fall to the inert ground; A battlefield laden with nauseating gunpowder, explosive mines, splintered bones and a million screams now...