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Brands without borders


Said Aghil Baaghil, brand marketing strategy consultant, and Amal Almudaifa,
junior marketing strategist at Baaghil Marketing, discuss how local firms need to get out of their comfort zones

March 17, 2014 5:27 by




A few decades ago, through the spread of multinational organisations, the region witnessed the start of operational marketing. The concept of marketing was relatively strange to average minds and ears. By being regionally present, these organisations set their ultimate objective to serving their global financial goals.


It is not by any coincidence that brands within the region are not recognised as valuable brands globally. One may ask why Arab and regional brands have failed to catch up. The answer is simple; the misconception of marketing, sales, advertising and branding has led local brands to assert success only within their borders. Numerous opportunities have been overseen, due to a lack of planning and misconceptions of ideas. Many CEOs and marketing executives rush towards the end-of-product margins and results.  We have looked at various companies in the region and found the following issues to be the main inhibitors of borderless brand growth:


  • There is a common misunderstanding that brands are all about the logo. This is not true. Firms spend a lot of time and money for creating a logo, however none on illustrating brands essence. This results in a brand that lacks core values, thereby making up a hefty proportion of the brands in the region


  • Marketing is often seen as an operational function and expense recorded in the company’s financial statements. However, big brands consider the strategic impact of marketing and integrate that into business operations, thereby revealing that marketing is not just an art, but also a science


  • Marketing is a strategic tool often confused with creativity.  This leads to extensive focus provided to the novelty of a campaign, while basic strategic elements within the marketing mix remain undefined


  • The marketing mix is often misunderstood. Each part of the mix is a part of a brand’s holistic strategy and it is essential to integrate everything. For instance, if a product has a low price and is being promoted as a high-quality good, it must be acknowledged that price and quality usually have a negative correlation. Therefore, it is important for the other elements of the mix to address that issue


  • Marketing is no longer a one-way communication tool; consumers now want to be involved as well. With so many brands forming relationships with their customers, no brand can afford not to. Social media is a sophisticated tool that can aid two-way communication, however it is only effective if it is used correctly


  • Companies often engage in advertising for the wrong reasons and through the wrong mediums. A banner on a highway is a waste of money when an advert is text heavy. Therefore, it is important to establish a marketing mix before selecting an advertising channel. Making the decision to advertise is a strategic choice depending on a company’s marketing mix and not all companies need to advertise


  • Firms must realise that we are not in the 1950s anymore. Companies can no longer dictate how consumers think and act. Thus, market research should not start from testing consumers’ reactions to a product, but, instead, by finding out what consumers want


  • It is often assumed that the most expensive or advanced part of a product is the differentiator, which makes up the main value proposition. However, it is likely that consumers allocate more value to other components, hence firms must have a consumer-centric view on the value being offered


  • Short-termism is highly evident in the region. Branding is a slow process and big borderless brands are not born overnight. Brands, such as Coca-Cola, took years to establish their positioning with well-thought-out strategies. It is important for companies to plan their marketing strategies in order to meet their long- and short-term objectives


  • Companies in the region get stuck in a rut and do what they have always been doing; pour large sums of money into advertising. Doing so without measuring the outcome of these efforts is useless


  • Legal, cultural and local customs act as barriers that make it difficult for brands to become borderless. Firms in the region must realise that they are powerful players in the market and should leverage that by trying to demolish these barriers, instead of constantly having to conform to them


  • Companies think local, while brands are global. No matter where one comes from, everyone knows that Disney is a fun brand. That is the power of tapping into universal emotions and ideas that can transcend beyond borders, instead of remaining trapped within a local mindset


The lack of innovation is also a big contributor towards the points discussed. The region is saturated with market leaders that have found comfort within their positioning and, hence, stick with safe options, rather than going above and beyond with their capabilities.


Do not underestimate what a strong borderless brand can achieve. Start local, grow regional and pave the way for a global presence. It is important for every business to develop a strategic focus within shaping the branding and marketing strategies in a timely manner in order to avoid brand erosion and confusion. Remember, Rome was not built in a day.

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