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Can Saudi firms be brand savvy?
Going public is forcing many of Saudi Arabia’s traditional family firms to take a more modern approach to branding, says Mohammed Abaalkheil.
February 2, 2010 10:37 by Mohammed Abaalkheil
Saudi Arabia is evolving quickly, with new trends emerging that are changing the face of business and society. There has been investment in new sectors of the economy, and women are entering the workforce and playing a more active role in society.
The doors of the Kingdom are opening to international companies through
active campaigning for foreign investment and development.
This advancement can be seen in the rapid expansion of the healthcare sector, the building of large scale, hugely ambitious economic “cities” and the growth of quality education through leading universities such as King Abdullah University of Science and Technology.
There is also evidence that the stalwarts of the economy – family businesses – are changing in keeping with the times. There is a drive to expand into new markets and to fund this expansion by going public. To attract investment, family businesses are becoming more transparent.
Many Saudi companies are realizing their brand should stand out from the crowd. They have come to value the importance of brand differentiation. Brands are beginning to explore their markets and how to reach their audiences. In the branding industry, there are some major trends that influence the way we help our clients position their brands.
In Saudi Arabia, family businesses are the norm, but over time they have become more sophisticated as educated members have brought in innovation.
Today, family businesses comprise almost 90 per cent of the total. Many of them are increasingly departing from the traditional ways in which they used to operate. Perhaps the most radical break is that family businesses are going public. This has helped them gain a larger market share, and expand regionally and even globally.
Going public requires family businesses to become more formal and professional. Unfortunately, their branding is extremely weak.
Their corporate identity is dated, there is little engagement among staff to deliver the brand experience, and a lack of cohesion among the operations within a company group is a source of confusion to clients and customers. But this is set to change as family-owned businesses realise the need to invest in their brands.
Recently, the Saudi government began encouraging global and regional brands to enter the Saudi market through organizations like SAGIA, which act as a single point of contact and simplify the setting up of businesses.
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