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Forbes Arabia recently released its list of top Arab brands for 2008, and half of the top ten spots are occupied by media.
February 2, 2009 10:11 by Rania Habib
Al Omian attributes the popularity of media in the Arab world to the region’s political turmoil, while Behrens also justifies it with a growing need and desire for freedom of speech and information across the Arab world. “The Al Jazeera management works very hard to present the channel as a global brand name,” explains Al Omian.
But Behrens also uses the channel as an example of what people have called the dilution of Arab brands. “One of the greatest tradeoffs that brands need to consider is how they retain their Arabian provenance while broadening their appeal to wider audiences,” he says. “In effect, brands will need to become ‘international’ Arab. With Arabic media leading the Middle East brand charge due to increasingly free speech and demand from a young and media-hungry audience, we need to ask ourselves whether these brands could become global.”
Moving on up. Brands that have significantly moved up the top 40 list or made new entries into it include LBC, Melody, Etisalat, Saudi Arabian Airlines and telecommunications company Zain. “We’re surprised by Zain [formerly known as MTC,]” explains Al Omian. “A year ago, no one knew about it. Now that it has rebranded with a catchy name and colors, and has spent a lot of money on advertising and expanding to many Arab countries, it is doing very well, and it’s number 15 in our survey.”
However, other brands aren’t doing so well. Burj Al Arab moved down 17 places, and Etihad Airways was knocked off the list, as were Splash and Jashanmal. “There are some surprises,” says Behrens. “Like the entry of Saudi Arabian Airlines, who finally have some competition in the Saudi market but have not improved their standards or customer service, whereas airlines like Etihad and Emirates have dropped off the list and fallen down the list respectively, despite continued building of their services, brands, profile and routes.
“This may be as a result of a research sample change from 2006 to 2008 with greater emphasis coming out of Saudi as the major market in the region. Also, it is very surprising not to see Burj Dubai and Nakheel, as these are two iconic and much-known brands within Dubai and the Middle East. It’s also surprising to see that Jumeirah is not on that list.”
Forbes Arabia plans on releasing an annual Top 40 Arab brands survey, to keep the competition healthy.
Behrens believes that while no Arab brand has reached internationally market-leading standards yet, the region’s marketers have the potential to broaden their appeal to regional markets. “Their challenge is to clearly understand the market through real insight and to establish what value they can add to these markets before entering,” he says. “A category comparison of Arabic brands versus global brands would be good to benchmark global brands operating in Arabia, and see how and why the Arabic brands are competing and try to ascertain the big question: Who will be the first Arabic brand to effectively dethrone an existing global brand?”
First seen in Communicate magazine
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