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WEDF 2014 session report - Parallel session V: Building a brand - Export marketing for developing countries

  • Parallel V


    • Mr. Bandula Egodage, Chairman and CEO, Sri Lanka Export Development Board
    • Mr. Marcus Höpperger, Director, Law and Legislative Advice Division, WIPO
    • Ms. Mary Petitt, Global Coffee Issues Advisor, USA
    • Ms. Janet Nkubana, Managing Director and Co-Founder, Gahaya Links, Rwanda
    • Moderator: Ms. Agatha Nderitu, Danida Regional Integration Advisor, Regional Economic Integration Support Programme in East Africa (REISP); Senior Consultant, Saana Consulting Ltd.


    Several developing countries, industry associations and SMEs have employed branding strategies to increase sales and client loyalty. The panel looked at success stories, particularly in branding indigenous products, and how effective branding and marketing are instrumental in taking businesses to regional and global levels.


    • Success in branding requires long term attention to quality and understanding of markets and customers; brand positioning is important to prepare and build from the beginning of an export strategy.
    • Commitment to branding is essential to market goods and services internationally and to improve the profitability and growth potential of exports.
    • SMEs can take on large brands by smart marketing: adapting lessons learned from multinational corporations, combined with local responsiveness and innovation.
    • Trademarks and collective marks are important tools to establish ownership: to be effective in increasing margins, they must be accompanied by a branding and marketing strategy.


    • Powerful brands (such as the Colombian Coffee brand and its “Juan Valdez” logo) are based on authenticity, which stems from an understanding of its heritage and how it is seen in the eyes of customers.
    • Distinct and valuable positioning is built over many years and depends on persistence and resourcefulness: the first, to overcome barriers; and the second, to seize entrepreneurial opportunities.
    • Brands have tangible and intangible aspects: the physical characteristics that make the product distinctive, and those that drive the emotional reaction.
    • SMEs need to understand the return on investment in branding; they need to be trained on how to evaluate the financial returns on investing in the creation of brands.
    • Registering the intellectual property belonging to brands (most commonly in the form of trademarks) is vital to ensure that the brand is not misappropriated by a competitor or others.
    • For small businesses one of the most successful methods of branding is in the personality and presence of the founder.
    • Registering trademarks across multiple countries in Africa is possible through the services of OAPI, the African Intellectual Property Organization, or ARIPO, the African Regional Intellectual Property Organization.

    Speakers' key messages

    • Ms. Petitt
      “There are things you need and things you want: effective branding touches your emotions in order to influence your wants.”
      “Persistence and resourcefulness are the two most important qualities for building a long term sustainable brand.”
      “Before considering any branding campaign, do the homework to understand what makes you special.”
    • Mr. Egodage
      “SMEs need to be guided in their evaluation of whether to invest in brand building: very often it is the least of their concerns, but when done successfully, it can allow them to capture higher prices.”
      “The Dilmah tea brand is a fine example from Sri Lanka of what can be done when an SME turns away from selling its produce as a commodity and invests in branding and packaging. This family owned company has grown over the last few decades to be the sixth largest tea brand in the world and shows many aspects of excellence in branding.”
    • Ms. Nkubana
      “By ignoring that it had any importance or value, I became a victim of the success of my own brand: others started selling Rwandan baskets copying our business.”
      “Be your brand! People began to know me as the “basket lady” and it was an image that was known in international media like CNN. I am proud to wear my products, I am proud to talk about my products. I wear clashing colours that stand out: everybody asks me where my clothes came from, and it creates an opportunity to introduce our company.”
      “For our first sales exhibition in Macy’s in New York, our products arrived in the boxes that I had managed to assemble for the shipping: old TV boxes and some which had contained diapers. I was so ashamed, until our President Paul Kagame showed up. Even without a clear brand, he was my brand.”
    • Mr. Höpperger
      “Avoid surprises and difficulties later: ensure that you register the IP behind your branding early in the process of its development.”
      “Registering a mark associated with a whole country may be legally and practically difficult: quality and identity has many variations within a country.”
      “It is almost certainly more efficient and effective to register a mark belonging to a single entity, such as an enterprise, rather than relying on collective marks such as geographical indications.”

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