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Spreading the Word

Spreading the Word

Companies in the Middle East are getting a crash course on the advantages of branding, thanks to global firms operating in the region.

February 28, 2011 3:38 by

What do the U.A.E. vice-president, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Queen Rania, Emirates airlines, the Burj Khalifa, Al Jazeera, and Kingdom Holding have in common? They are all global brand names.

Companies in the Arab world are increasingly working toward creating brands that are recognized at the global level. The power of a brand helps create awareness about a company, product or personality. Microsoft’s Bill Gates may not have visited every country, but he is a brand name, recognized all around the world.

The same is true for Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Nike, Toyota, and other such brands. The lead strategist and partner at Wolff Olins, Charles Wright, says people don’t believe what you say, but what you do. “So we use brands to help clients do things, such as entering new businesses, creating new experiences, and finding new relationships,” he says. Conventional wisdom says branding is an integral part of marketing strategy. This is indeed true for product brands. But it is debatable for service brands, where staff is an intrinsic part of brand delivery.

Branding, however, is a concept not very well understood by many players in the business community. The chief executive of Singapore-based VentureRepublic, Martin Roll, says branding is a widely misused and misunderstood term, applied to everything related only vaguely to strategy, marketing, and communication. Technically, branding is an investment that must be perceived as such, and is required to deliver a return on investment and shareholder value like any other feasible business activity, Roll says. It must appear on the left side of the balance sheet as an intangible asset, and its value is subject to change upwards and
potentially downwards, he adds.

In the Middle Eastern business culture, branding is picking up. Realizing this, Wolff Olins, which has offices in New York and London, set up its third hub in Dubai. Regarding the future of branding, Wright, who speaks Arabic fluently, says big players in the region have so far used their logos to reflect success. “The next phase is to use the power of brand – not logo, I must stress here – to drive the future business ambition. I say this based on the briefs, which indicate a shift in
sentiment,” he says.

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