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Brands get personal
Many of the world’s biggest brands are helmed by charismatic and high-profile leaders. But why are regional examples so thin on the ground?
February 28, 2010 5:00 by Rania Habib
Lebanon also displays a lack of personalities behind brands, but for reasons different than those in the GCC, says Ibrahim Lahoud, director of strategy and brand communication at BrandCentral, a Beirut-based branding agency. He attributes the phenomenon to various reasons, including the indifference of Lebanese people to brands’ efforts to position themselves in the hearts and minds of consumers, not to mention the high number of brands that revolve around existing international formats.
“The secret of the people behind brands is innovation, and unfortunately, so far, that is one rare ingredient,” says Lahoud.
While politics (in the form of Sheikh Mohammed, for example) has been behind some brand personalities in the Gulf, it’s a different story in Lebanon. The nature of the divisive Lebanese political system can be a great setback for brands. Salim Wardy, owner of Domaine Wardy – a family business which specializes in the production and sale of wine and spirits – was recently elected as a minister representing the Lebanese Forces within the newly-founded government. Domaine Wardy has suddenly become affiliated with a certain political party, as opposed to being a brand that used to enjoy an independent nature.
Sinha says that the regional market is an “ambiguous” one for brands and their potential representative personalities for the cultural reasons he mentioned. But if he has to name standout personalities, he will cite Sheikh Ahmed Bin Saeed Al Maktoum, chairman of Emirates airline, or Mohamed Ali Alabbar, the man behind property developer Emaar.
“That said, the first rule of marketing is to have a great product,” says Sinha. “If I buy from Emaar, it’s not because of Alabbar, but because it’s a good brand.”