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Injecting the “I Can” Spirit into Branding

Every company has a brand story to tell. But to get this right, a clear business infrastructure and brand value proposition are needed. I Can Read (Total English Learning Global Pte Ltd) recounts its nine-month branding journey across 80 centres and seven countries, and the lessons learnt along the way.


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Published by SPRING Singapore
on 13 Sep 2016

I can Read

It has been quite a journey for I Can Read – an education centre that specialises in building children’s reading, writing, speaking and listening skills. Developed by educational psychologists Antony Earnshaw and Annabel Seargeant, the company’s “I Can Read” English Literacy System has developed a strong reputation and following among Singaporean and Asian parents over the years.

Interest in the company and its offerings were high, and this eventually led to an acquisition by franchise owner Mr Tan Aik Ping and his two partners Ms Chan Huang Yee and Mr Ngo Tong Yong.

Soon after taking over the helm, the three directors realised that the company was facing a brand identity crisis. “We needed a consistent brand story as there were multiple names and logos used for the company and its courses,” explains Ms Chan.

The company engaged a brand agency to review and refine its brand. Ms Chan notes, “Through our agency, we realised that what was needed was more than simply changing our logo. We had to first establish a brand strategy, and that started with understanding the behaviours and perceptions of key stakeholders through focus group discussions and research interviews.”

The impact of the branding revamp is undeniable says Ms Chan. “Besides attaining a clear brand strategy and brand personality that helps us improve our employee and customer engagements, there are tangible financial benefits – we’ve seen student enrolment increase by 20 percent as a result of our rebranding exercise.”

Having gone through a thorough branding exercise, Ms Chan shares key learnings that her company gained from the whole process:

1.       Focus On Your Company’s Core Business Infrastructure First

“Don’t put the cart before the horse,” Ms Chan emphasises. In the early days the partners made a conscious effort to focus on the company’s infrastructure first, increasing the overall headcount, building an in-house marketing team and bolstering operations.

2.       Commit the Time, Budget and Manpower

Branding requires a lot of time and commitment from senior management, who should lead the project. “The deadlines and pressure are very tough, and branding is costly. Be prepared for all this,” says Ms Chan.

3.       Select the Right Agency

“After seeing a lot of different agencies, we chose a start-up that had a good synergy with us. Go with a company that takes the time to understand your company and your brand,” says Ms Chan.

4.       Recruit Like-Minded Staff

Staff had to fit in with the new brand strategy and personality. To this end, the company came up with hiring profiles for all job positions, including the teachers and customer-facing staff. All 25 staff in the company headquarters were involved in the branding process.

5.       Keep Your Pulse on What Is Relevant to Your Market

This way, your brand can easily be identified. Ms Chan elaborates, “Icons can get out of date and will have to be refreshed.” To stay in touch with customers’ preferences and needs, I Can Read involves students and their parents in the brand development process. For instance, the company recently held some events where the students created some new branding icons that will be used when needed.

6.       Get the Right Partners on Board

Talk to companies that have already gone through a branding exercise. Says Ms Chan: “Don’t forget government agencies like SPRING and IE Singapore, which strongly support SME growth and can point companies in the right direction. Think beyond a grant, because it’s much more than that. We would have gone ahead with our branding exercise even without it because we knew rebranding was a necessity for us.”

7.       Understand That Branding Is an Ongoing Process

Appoint brand custodians within your company who will oversee the implementation of the brand on all platforms and collateral such as the company website, social media, stationery, stock photos or images and even the furniture purchased.

8.       Communicate

“Compared to our new franchise partners, we found that our existing partners posed a tougher challenge in changing mindset to branding. Communication, education, investment of time and training are very important here,” says Ms Chan.

Visit www.spring.gov.sg/CDG to find out how the Capability Development Grant can support your branding projects.

Last Modified Date: 12 Apr 2017



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