Never before have brands in the Middle East attracted as much attention for creativity and commercial success as they are garnering now. We are witnessing a significant shift towards sophistication and investment in brands and their ecosystems and it is very exciting to witness the exponential growth of entrepreneurialism and capital investment in the region.
Over the past five years we have seen international heavyweights like Amazon and Uber purchase Middle Eastern brands Souq.com and Careem respectively.
Homegrown and incubated brands are ‘coming of age’ and are delivering value to end users and shareholders alike. Yet, too often I hear the value of brand building being questioned and what a brand is being mis-understood.
I believe that the special balance between magic and logic is where true brand equity lies.
What is the logic of brands?
The logic of a brand is all about the numbers. It is seen in the hard numbers that showcase how brands drive value. Strong brands have proven to create commercial impact. They command a 13% average price premium compared to weak brands**, and they capture, on average, three times the sales volume of weak brands***.
When it comes to business valuation, a company’s brand can represents 20% of a company’s market capitalisation when compared to the Interbrand and other brand value league tables.
What is the magic of a brand?
Magic is what makes a consumer say ‘I am obsessed with brand x, y or z’.
For me, there are many wonderful brands across the MENA region that I can say I am obsessed with but my first love remains Emirates Airlines – the brand that reinvented the ‘Joy of Travel’ for me through every step of the journey and beyond.
Antonio Damasio, a renowned neuroscientist declares “We are not thinking machines. We are feeling machines that think.” His research demonstrated that we make decisions with an interplay of the emotional governing centres in our brain. Therefore, making an emotional connection is essential to creating an effective brand.
The magic of a brand lies in the hard-to-value elements that live in people’s heads – memories, associations, feelings, values and personality. A brand exists so that consumers remember your product in a favourable way, which makes them more likely to decide to buy it.
Being distinctive and standing for something is also key. Emaar excels in this area if you think of their memorable brand experiences such as the Burj Khalifa at Dubai Mall. Majid Al Futtaim also created a distinctive experience for consumers when they brought ski slopes to the desert over twenty years ago!
Innovation can be found throughout the Middle East as it has always been a hotbed of entrepreneurs. One of my favourite ‘start-ups to watch’ is Bekia which has a unique way of dealing with everyday waste. This ‘waste material’ exchange uses behavioural triggers to encourage positive and sustainable consumer activity. What they have done exceptionally well is articulate a clear mission and core brand values to their consumer. They have touched on the zeitgeist relevant to their audience and rewarded behaviours that might seem difficult to form at first.
Etisalat is one of the Middle East’s strongest brands and the strongest brand in the Telecommunications sector globally with a brand value estimated at US$10.1 billion. Their brand campaign “Together Matters”, combined with the real-life experience of the power of their network at Expo 2020, offered Etisalat the platform to demonstrate itself as a powerful facilitator of the UAE’s digital transformation. Their relentless focus on enhancing customer experience and really believing in providing the best service they could as a provider helped them break into the Top 20 Strongest Brands globally, claiming 18th place.
Why do brands matter?
Your brand is vital as it allows you to funnel as many people as possible towards your product or service and then to let the product or service do the talking. It is the overall experience that a customer has with your organisation.
It is essential that business leaders do not equate their brand with their visual identity alone. A brand identity’s purpose is to elevate what you stand for, your values, and messages. It is a core element in bringing your brand to life.
To create strong foundations for commercial success, it is important to invest in your brand early and continuously. Clearly communicate who you are and what you stand for. Work at finding the right balance between identity, value and connection. When that harmony is found, massive tail wins appear and facilitate the success of your business.
My motto for a brand is: “Be different. Be remembered. Make a connection.”