Storytelling of a legacy brand – by Al Ghurair Investment’s Sara O’hara

by Sara O’Hara, head of group communications, Al Ghurair Investment

Historically, the concept of ‘branding’ was considered a necessary – and often tactical – exercise undertaken by companies in response to changing consumer behaviours – driven by a desire to build and sustain customer loyalty, to feed the bottom line. However, in recent years, the approach to branding has evolved exponentially, with purpose and alignment to broader global interests increasingly built into brand strategies. In the United Arab Emirates, ‘branding’ has evolved to accommodate the government’s ambitious initiatives and its leaders’ visionary plans. Indeed, the country itself has become an exceptionally well-written tale of how ‘things’ can be done differently. Its own story speaks of how life can be elevated for citizens, residents, and businesses living and thriving in the nation, sparking inspiration for a wave of ‘brand transformation’ within companies across the region.

Over the next two decades, the United Arab Emirates has bold plans to transform by reshaping key industries and businesses across the nation – thus reshaping the brands that operate them. A vision that incorporates the economy, industrialisation, sustainability, mobility, energy, education, and healthcare in an all-encompassing list of key agenda items revolving around improving quality of life, and centred around people. Purpose-driven, this vision is carried forward by storytelling, an approach essential in this modern day. For real transformation to transpire, however, all those involved must play their parts, must assume their roles, and excel at doing so by bringing others aboard. But who, where, when, why, and most importantly: how?

The time is now. As the nation embarks on the journey towards the “next 50 years”, we must look closer into the fabric it is woven from, primarily at those who were there at the very beginning of it all. Those legacy companies, like Al Ghurair Investment, that have contributed to the country’s ecosystem of life, have prospered over the years by understanding that change is necessary for a rapidly developing environment, to preserve years of hard work, progress and brand building. Therefore, who better to lead this wave of ‘Brand Transformation’ than local family-owned business groups, given their significance to the nation’s economic development, fiscal growth and cultural preservation? After all, family businesses account for about 90 per cent of the private sector in the Emirates and contribute around 40 per cent of the country’s GDP. The tides remain high, however, and whilst family-owned conglomerates are best positioned to lead the wave, they are also challenged. 

Legacies infused with a rich heritage and culture are sustained by perseverance and ambition; but where they go in future must be driven by curiosity, potential, and a newfound voice. Yet, how does a family-owned conglomerate remain relevant and ‘rebrand’ without losing touch with a hard-built legacy. Al Ghurair Investment continues to write a story of a 60-year legacy, one of persistence and ambition, one that has seen it drive growth and development across various sectors with the purpose of ‘Enhancing Life’, whilst continuing to mirror the nation’s thirst for a better future through innovation. The story aims to remind people of the company’s foundation, weaving its core values into the great vision of our leaders – and more importantly to inspire, finding a way to carry them forward, introducing them to a new context, one that is relevant. 

Relevance is key in brand transformation as a vast majority of consumers (87 per cent) claim personally relevant content positively influences their feelings about a brand, and towards a brand. So, what is the way forward. It is taking new topics to the floor, those topics that are reshaping lives, perhaps technology and digital transformation, sustainability, and the circular economy, or simply speaking of a purpose that unites and inspires. A similar majority (86 per cent) stated that authenticity is a key reason to buy from a brand and what better way to be authentic than to be transparent. 

Share your goal. At Al Ghurair Investment, our goal is clear: becoming ‘future-proof’, or in other terms, ‘fit for future’. Understanding and narrating what we’ve done, do and are doing, followed by the how and why of it all. Look into your brand, its people and culture, governance and structure, and the innovation that drives it forward; weave them into a story, a narrative supported with a call to action, followed by action. Employing 70 per cent of the private sector workforce is an opportunity for family businesses, one to drive transformation; seize the day.

Proud of the past, living in the present, but driving towards the future. We’re all moving forward, and while this may apply to us all – brands, people, and government – for us, brands, we must transform whilst still carrying our legacies to the future, and do so driven with purpose, one that is shared through a well-developed narrative, a story. After all, what’s the journey, the legacy, if it is not memorable if it doesn’t create impact?