Consumers are Confused!

Consumers in Saudi Arabia and other parts of the Middle East are confused on how to distinguish between Supermarkets and Hypermarkets or to realize the end benefits, thereof

Hypermarkets are relatively new as a shopping culture and as an experience, to the region. Today, Hypermarkets are treated like Supermarkets and Consumers’ knowledge on the former is relatively new which also makes it irrelevant for them as a destination. Giants like Panda should set the leadership base to educate about consumers’ grocery experience across the industry

Brand leadership is best practiced through Knowledge, Self-esteem and Brand Relevance. Panda, the Brand, has the potential but I’m very much surprised as why it’s not championing the leadership opportunity that remains unexploited by its competitors?

Initiatives such as the ones mentioned above, create Brand Relevance that leads to Brand Dominance, making competition irrelevant

Said Baaghil is the ‘Unconventional’ Branding and Marketing Adviser to reputable companies in the Middle East, author of many reputable books including the ‘The Power of Belonging’ and a Speaker. Baaghil appeared in books published by America’s experts on Branding and Marketing such as Dan Hill and Libby Gill. Most recently Baaghil was interviewed by world renown Brand Consultancy firm Siegel+Gale on Branding in the Middle East

He can be reached on AskBaaghil.com

The article was first published on Linkedin Pulse on 2nd January, 2015

CAREEM and You’re There

What can we learn from Careem?

Careem is a mobile app to hire a chauffeur-driven car service. The app operates in most cities of the Gulf countries, as well as in Pakistan and Egypt. A brilliant idea similar to the US Brand Uber that also launched in the region, recently. So coming back to my question: What can we learn from Careem (i.e. its Brand Promise)?

  • Careem’s Business Strategy is crystal clear to passengers, travelling from one point to another through mobile app booking
  • The Business Strategy requires a Focused Brand with great Values. Careem’s customer experience starts from the moment the customer books a car online till the drop off
  • This leads to 2 types of experiences for the Customer/Passenger: Digital (the mobile app) and the Service (Chauffeur-driven Car)
  • Careem’s promise ‘And You’re There’ is simple yet precise and requires humans with basic skills and good behavior to deliver the experience. Great example on how Careem came up with a promise that balances across all touch points with minimal threats to the Brand
  • Careem can manage the Digital promise but not chauffeurs and/or cars. They’re 3rd party service providers but Careem was able to to train and share the Brand Values to ensure that the Brand Promise is a reality for their customers
  • If economy cars are not available to book, Careem ultimately finds the solution and sends Business Class cars
  • Careem’s Brand Promise struggles in areas such as King Khalid International Airport in Riyadh (a distant pick-up point within the city’s parameters). Hardly any driver is available in the area for a late night arrival and waiting for them could take up to an hour. It is in such locations, the Promise ‘And You’re There’ fails leading to frustrated users/passengers

Careem is a Focused Brand with great amount of simplicity. The Brand is perceived as some-what affluent. While Careem suffers from distant touch points, the company still manages to keep the promise intact

This is the difference between those that think of Brand as a promise to thier audience vs those that think of brands as mere logos used for Billboard/Out-door Advertising

Said Baaghil is the ‘Unconventional’ Branding and Marketing Adviser to reputable companies in the Middle East, author of many reputable books including the ‘The Power of Belonging’ and a Speaker. Baaghil appeared in books published by America’s experts on Branding and Marketing such as Dan Hill and Libby Gill. Most recently Baaghil was interviewed by world renown Brand Consultancy firm Siegel+Gale on Branding in the Middle East

He can be reached on AskBaaghil.com

The article was first published on Linkedin Pulse on 31st December, 2014

NCB, Realize your tomorrow

NCB recently launched their new promise to their customers, that promise is on every TV channel, Billboard, Digital, you name it and it’s there. After such an aggressive launch, I would expect the promise to be delivered in day to day operations but according to the image below it’s not

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One of NCB’s customers had to visit 3 different branches just to cash a cheque. Branch no. 1 excused itself by claiming that cheque processing staff is out for giving an exam, Branch no. 2 said the system was down while Branch No. 3 was where the customer found a friend who also was an NCB employee to help him out

On my previous post I have placed great reservations on such taglines, I said:

“It’s almost impossible to achieve such promise with the prevailing human caliber in our region, the promise is far too difficult to provide to your customers. The incident above just backfired on the promise made by NCB i.e. Realize your Tomorrow (when you can’t cash a cheque today)”

Previously STC went through the same exercise with ‘Easier life’, now it seems NBC is heading in the same direction. This leaves me with great reservations on the competency of many professionals to understand how ‘Brands work’. I would ask companies to hire Brand experts to walk them through before hiring agencies, I’m sure the head of Marketing at NCB did his audit prior to embracing such promises

Brands must learn to keep their PROMISE!

Said Baaghil is the ‘Unconventional’ Branding and Marketing Adviser to reputable companies in the Middle East, author of many reputable books including the ‘The Power of Belonging’ and a Speaker. Baaghil appeared in books published by America’s experts on Branding and Marketing such as Dan Hill and Libby Gill. Most recently Baaghil was interviewed by world renown Brand Consultancy firm Siegel+Gale on Branding in the Middle East

He can be reached on AskBaaghil.com

The article was first published on Linkedin Pulse on 29th December, 2014

Cofique: Brand or Commodity?

Why did Goody wait too long to evolve their ‘Cofique’ Brand?

I came to know Cofique when I saw an advert on a billboard in Tahlia Street, at first I thought it was Nescafé, little that I knew that I would be shocked to read the name Cofique, a ‘Me too Brand to Nescafé’. I immediately called few friends to investigate who is behind this new launch. I was shocked to find out that it was ‘Goody’ (Basamh Trading Co.’s Brand) which made me question as to why would it embark on such business move? The opportunity that arose from Nestlé and Basamh’s breakaway, left the market void of Nescafé, which Goody found as an opportunity to fill in as a ‘Me Too Brand’

Eventually few weeks down the line I had the opportunity to meet the head of Marketing and the Brand Manager of Cofique at their office to discuss my reservations, the second meeting took place at Starbucks in Tahlia, with a member of their Advertising agency. All my reservations were ignored and put aside, I guess they had a different perspective

Today, four years later after our first meeting, reality validated my reservations. Cofique went through several exercises to validate its existence but each path was faced with a challenge. I have always respected ‘Goody’ as a Brand but this strategy of ‘Me Too Brand’ made me wonder why would such company make a detrimental business mistake. The following points illustrates past and present of Cofique:

The Past

  • Launching as a ‘Me Too Brand to Nescafé’ validates the Brand Power of Nescafe. Literally, Cofique endorsed Nescafé
  • Cofique went on with a massive Advertising campaign during the first launch as a ‘Me Too Brand to Nescafé’, this campaign reminded the consumers of Nescafé, the category leader
  • When Nestlé was back as a Foreign Direct Investor in Saudi market, Nescafé filled the supermarket shelves, Cofique took the defensive approach and focused on the single Marketing Mix (Price) in order to compete
  • Cofique claimed 8% market share on their 3rd year. Well, in Instant Coffee category, only the first and second years matter. With Cofique being a look alike Brand to Nescafe, the 8% market share as a commodity makes 100% sense
  • Cofique is in a battle of being a Brand vs commodity, halfway through the journey they diverted from the ‘Me Too Brand’ idea by placing few design elements on their packaging

The Present

After 4 consecutive years, the management at Goody decided to take action to evolve Cofique from a ‘Me Too Brand’ to ‘Somewhat I’m different’. Clearly the re-positioning exercise missed many different attributes of change but again the end result in our region as ‘Brand’ is Design and Advertising. I still have to give Cofique the credit to the new offering which is not too distant from Nescafe’s offers

  • Cofique (the name) is well connected to ‘Me Too Brand of Nescafe’. Most Cofique consumers use Cofique as second choice to Nescafe, the name still validates Nescafé’s Brand attributes. Should the mission be evolution or revolution? Re-Branding, Re-Positioning or a whole new Brand altogether? Cofique’s management says ‘Equity’, well what is this equity associated with?
  • If we think of the recent changes that Cofique initiated, the question would be: Did Cofique needed a Re-Branding or a Re-Positioning exercise? If the strategy was to move completely away from Nescafé and create sub category then a new Brand was needed, if the reason is to identify market opportunity and fill the gap, then Re-positioning would be the best and still both type of evolution are dictated by the new business strategy. If Cofique re-positioned, GREAT! But to what? Flavored coffee? Instant coffee? The name is so much associated with Nescafé that the current SKUs are not too distant from Nescafe’s offerings; in fact I don’t see the Brand relevance
  • As much as I agree that Cofique needed to evolve from the ‘Me Too Brand’ taboo, I excepted a Revolution not an Evolution. Cofique needs a personal identity and a Value that will elevate the Brand from the shadow of Nescafé. The Goody coffee brand needed a new name but still holding on to the name ‘Cofique’ makes room for just another commodity, only
  • It’s clear to the management that Brand Equity is the priority, keeping the name Cofique is a must, it’s the Equity they care for but to us as Brand experts the name is a plague, it’s associated to Nescafé Brand Signals. Nescafé owns the SKU 3 in 1 and Cofique offers the same proposition so in terms of strategy, Cofique promotes Nescafe’s 3 in 1
  • Nescafé’s 3 in 1 makes Cofique the second choice based on Price (commodity)
  • Cofique will enjoy sales and gain market but not for long if the vision was to build a Brand rather than create just another commodity

So what is Cofique’s Re-Positioning besides following Nescafe’s Value and Re-Designed packaging? Will Cofique evolve further? Yes, plenty of money to be made as a second choice to Nescafé but only as a commodity and not as a Brand

I wish for Cofique and the management of Goody the best with the relaunch, their Marketing strategy and Brand strategy are worlds apart

Said Baaghil is the ‘Unconventional’ Branding and Marketing Adviser to reputable companies in the Middle East, author of many reputable books including the ‘The Power of Belonging’ and a Speaker. Baaghil appeared in books published by America’s experts on Branding and Marketing such as Dan Hill and Libby Gill. Most recently Baaghil was interviewed by world renown Brand Consultancy firm Siegel+Gale on Branding in the Middle East

He can be reached on AskBaaghil.com

The article was first published on Linkedin Pulse on 28th December, 2014

The most Infamous Promise: ‘Easier Life’

STC’s most infamous promise to their customers ‘Easier Life’ backfired as a Harder Life for them. This is a great Brand as well as a Branding exercise. Yes Brand and Branding both serve different purposes

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When the Saudi Communication Commission decided to merge all its services (mobile, landline and internet) under STC Corporate Brand, the company went through a full scale Brand and Branding exercise. 3 companies participated in both exercises, a Branding agency at development phase with several initiatives and 2 Communication agencies to roll out the promise. Through my findings, the communicated promise ‘Easier Life’ was developed by an Advertising agency and not by the Branding agency which initially had developed the strategy. This signals the disconnect between the Essence and the message

I have always wondered why would STC, after the merger of their services, embarked on a promise that is far impossible to achieve during the day to day operations. Secondly, did STC train their human resource prior to the launch? And if they did, how much was invested in their training? Third, was the organization aligned at all levels from bottom to top or from top to bottom on the promise? Last but not least, did STC hire experts on Brand and Branding as internal members to guide them through the journey? I doubt it. The deep understanding about Brand and Branding is relatively new to the region and very confusing, even to seasoned Marketers in the Middle East and business people in many parts of the world. Imagine a region that grasped business understanding out of trade, how will they perceive Brands. Most treat Brand and Branding as tangible deliverables such as logos, colors and fancy Taglines and in most cases the results are detrimental. STC ‘Easier Life’ Brand and Branding case is a perfect example on how things went wrong. In the following points I will illustrate what EXACTLY went wrong:

  • Clearly during that period the CEO,Board and head of Marketing had very basic understanding on Brand and Branding
  • The region’s culture on Communication is Advertising and seemed to be the most feasible approach to the management as Branding
  • STC’s positioning was clear: ‘Mobile, Landline, Internet everything revolves around you’
    Great positioning before other mobile providers had entered the market but the positioning failed on delivery
  • The Advertising agency developed Tagline, why? The head of Marketing at the time didn’t find the Branding agencies’ proposed Taglines fancy enough and decided to ask the Advertising agency to come up with a fancy one, what happened? STC raised their promise bar for an ‘Easier Life’ for their customers which became impossible to achieve
  • STC Operations failed to deliver the promise, a billing system with tremendous issues, customer were billed once every six months
  • STC retail experience was all about ‘Pretty Stores’ which were hard to produce emotional end benefit to their customers
  • STC decided to continue its promise even when customers expressed their frustration across all social media channels
  • Why didn’t STC hire an expert on Brand and Branding? Well, they depended on their head of Marketing to be informed on the subject, which is usually the case in our region. Most if not all heads of Marketing have a very basic Brand and Branding understanding and it’s clear from most launches taking place in the region apart from Brands straight out of Dubai

STC ‘s Branding exercise is a great case study for CEOs and heads of Marketing on how a good Brand strategy failed at implementation. I have many examples similar to STC, the misunderstanding of Brands on Value and Purpose can be very detrimental to any business

The heart of a Brand is the Promise and the Emotional Value the customer benefits from by using the product or service

Said Baaghil is the ‘Unconventional’ Branding and Marketing Adviser to reputable companies in the Middle East, author of many reputable books including the ‘The Power of Belonging’ and a Speaker. Baaghil appeared in books published by America’s experts on Branding and Marketing such as Dan Hill and Libby Gill. Most recently Baaghil was interviewed by world renown Brand Consultancy firm Siegel+Gale on Branding in the Middle East

He can be reached on AskBaaghil.com

The article was first published on Linkedin Pulse on 25th December, 2014

Nas Air: Between ‘This’ n ‘That’

Nas airlines is in a battle between being an LCC and a full fledged airlines. It offers the same airfare as Saudia, in fact sometimes a bit higher. In order for Nas to claim itself as a low cost carrier (LCC), the positioning needs to reflect the Price as well as other elements of Marketing Mix. Let’s look at the points as to why Nas airlines is struggling, positioning wise:

  • The airline offers a Budget Airline in-flight experience, Advertising on almost every space, food sold on-board and few seats with leg space
  • The airline’s airfare is close to Saudia’s airfare (the national airlines of Saudi Arabia). Here’s a thought: Your positioning should reflect on your Marketing Mix and that doesn’t seem to be the case with Nas. So what is Nas (an LCC or a full fledged air carrier)?
  • The airline recently went through a Re-Branding exercise (visual) which hardly addresses their Market Positioning or the Brand Promise
  • The current travellers’ demands pressure Nas to be ‘This’ and ‘That’ but eventually, this will hurt Nas in the long run
  • What is Nas today? No clue
  • The Board seems to pressure the management to increase revenue while on the other hand, the management has lost focus on the Brand ‘Nas’ and has decided to sell seats instead

Nas’ prices are distant from being a Budget Airlines, while the in-flight experience indicates that of a low cost airlines. In order for Nas to offer the the low cost carrier experience, its fuel costs need to be subsidized like the national carrier Saudia which is why I think Saudia has a better opportunity of being a Budget Airline than Nas

Nas Air or flynas.com disregarded its Brand and decided to turn its airline into a commodity due to incredible demands of travelers but not too long from now Saudi airspace will witness two additional players, so where will Nas be by that time?

Said Baaghil is the ‘Unconventional’ Branding and Marketing Adviser to reputable companies in the Middle East, author of many reputable books including the ‘The Power of Belonging’ and a Speaker. Baaghil appeared in books published by America’s experts on Branding and Marketing such as Dan Hill and Libby Gill. Most recently Baaghil was interviewed by world renown Brand Consultancy firm Siegel+Gale on Branding in the Middle East

He can be reached on AskBaaghil.com

The article was first published on Linkedin Pulse on 21st December, 2014

Is Advertising the only tool in Communication?

Next time someone tells me that Advertising is a Strategy I will tell him: No! It’s a tactic

Communication is the Strategy. Advertising is part of Communication and every other Communication tool helps in delivering the Brand Awareness not necessarily Advertising. One more thing, Advertising helps in creating Awareness not necessarily in building the Brand. I have region and international clients that used Advertising as Brand champion and failed to deliver the purpose or felt that they wasted their Communication budget. I also have clients that used Advertising in the right medias with minimal spending as part of the general Communication and worked beautifully. So is Advertising the single awareness tool or Communication? NO. That’s why at AskBaaghil.com’s Strategy sessions we demand that CEOs to be coached on Brand, Branding and Communication because they are the champions not the heads of Marketing when it comes to their Brand(s). Very few CEO’s in the region are aware on how Brands work or which Communication strategy would best serve them

Said Baaghil is the ‘Unconventional’ Branding and Marketing Adviser to reputable companies in the Middle East, author of many reputable books including the ‘The Power of Belonging’ and a Speaker. Baaghil appeared in books published by America’s experts on Branding and Marketing such as Dan Hill and Libby Gill. Most recently Baaghil was interviewed by world renown Brand Consultancy firm Siegel+Gale on Branding in the Middle East

He can be reached on AskBaaghil.com

The article was first published on Linkedin Pulse on 18th October, 2014

Strategy vs Tactics

One of my crucial findings in the Middle East with Marketing professionals and CEOs is the confusion between the overall Strategic approach vs Tactical approach when it comes to Marketing. The struggle of knowing when the two are used and the values they bring. Most witness regional level Tactical Marketing followed by Tactical Advertising in which most are calling it Strategy. You can’t ‘Build Brands’ on Tactical Marketing, this why most are treated as Commodities

In FMCG sector, the constant use of tactical drives the organization’s mindset championed by the CEO or even the board in most cases to think tactical and extend the portfolio to enormous amount of SKUs only to achieve tactical goals (Seasonal Sales as they are known) but not to build sustainable Brands. If you look at the Brand portfolios of most FMCG companies, you’ll find two things:

  • Brand out of focus, ruined by Advertising that keeps reminding the audience about the Brand
  • These Brands are treated like commodities. The single reason for audience engagement is ‘Price’. Advertising benefits when Brands are treated like commodities (Price-driven)

To build GREAT Brands you need the entire organization to be of one single mindset and that’s rarely the reality with Family-owned or managed businesses in the Middle East

Said Baaghil is the ‘Unconventional’ Branding and Marketing Adviser to reputable companies in the Middle East, author of many reputable books including the ‘The Power of Belonging’ and a Speaker. Baaghil appeared in books published by America’s experts on Branding and Marketing such as Dan Hill and Libby Gill. Most recently Baaghil was interviewed by world renown Brand Consultancy firm Siegel+Gale on Branding in the Middle East

He can be reached on AskBaaghil.com

The article was first published on Linkedin Pulse on 27th July, 2014

The Symbol

What is Rabea Tea’s core initiative? I’m sure it is a great cause however the Brand’s elements are confusing. The fist symbol which looks like a symbol for Political Revolution or Solidarity Movements, is commonly used by Social and/or Political groups during protests. The symbol displays anger or power and I don’t think Rabea Tea is mad at the society (well, I certainly hope not!)

Their message translates a call of action which shows kindness but the symbol that represents the cause comes off as ‘too aggressive’. This creates a clear disconnect between the cause and what the Brand translates itself as. With regards to color coordination in communication, green represents ‘freshness’, ‘environmental friendliness’, ‘nature’. Kindness and goodwill are spiritual acts that are best represented in white

In a nutshell, my concern is: if Rabea Tea is putting forward an initiative which acknowledges kindness, helping people, caring for the elderly etc., what message are they really trying to send using such a symbol?

Said Baaghil is the ‘Unconventional’ Branding and Marketing Adviser to reputable companies in the Middle East, author of many reputable books including the ‘The Power of Belonging’ and a Speaker. Baaghil appeared in books published by America’s experts on Branding and Marketing such as Dan Hill and Libby Gill. Most recently Baaghil was interviewed by world renown Brand Consultancy firm Siegel+Gale on Branding in the Middle East

He can be reached on AskBaaghil.com

The article was first published on Linkedin Pulse on 1st July, 2014

Who is flyNAS?

The recent brand evolution of Saudi Arabia’s NAS Airlines to flyNAS seems logical, but I have to wonder if NAS is still a Budget Airline. Their in-flight Value Proposition indicates they are a Budget airline, but their Ticket Prices tell a different story. So I have to ask: Has NAS airlines evolved from their previous Business strategy? Or is this statement a predetermined description of a Budget Airline? It’s unclear from their description what NAS’ new positioning is and whether that strategy is clearly reflected in their current Marketing Mix

Budget airlines require very distinctive parameters to operate with low fares as a specific aircraft type in flight offerings. In the US, Southwest Airlines is the perfect example of a well-rounded and well thought success story, as its Brand does serve its Business strategy. Every part of a holistic strategy can affect the single unit strategy. The essence of any Business strategy is to be the champion of the holistic approach. The Business and Brand strategies of NAS are not intertwined well enough, so again, one must ask whether NAS is still a budget airline because their price structure implies differently, while the airlines’ booking and in-flight experience does indicate they are a Budget Airline

NAS needs to address the following:

  1. Revisit the entire Business Model and gradually move away from a Budget Airline focus, unless fuel is subsidized to support that model. Otherwise, it will be difficult for NAS to sustain the Budget Airline Model
  2. Identify a precise target group. Saudi airspace will be saturated before the end of the current year due to 2 additional airlines. Al Maha airlines (Qatar Airways) will target the higher end of the market, while SaudiGulf will take a chunk from Saudi airlines’ domestic traffic. Both incoming and existing airlines will face difficult times competing with Saudia Airlines on Price, as it gets subsidized fuel for its fleet
  3. The single Value they offered in the past was Price, that’s not a valid Value today
  4. NAS needs to align its Channels of Communication, as their strength lies in their Digital platforms. They can dominate in that medium if they invest heavily today. Their brand no longer speaks of uniqueness, which is why the question is exactly who is NAS or flyNAS? The 1st Budget Airline in Saudi Arabia? Not anymore

    The airline clearly needs to identify their Brand’s Essence, so the public can relate to NAS in very precise terms

NAS Airlines has an unprecedented opportunity. The size of the Saudi Air market is massive, both in terms of domestic and international routes. The current demand for domestic routes is greater than the supply available, based on just two local operating licenses. The Saudi Market will evolve enormously in the Air Transport industry, and numerous new upcoming airports and NAS must be ready to inaugurate that new era

He can be reached on AskBaaghil.com

The article was first published on Linkedin Pulse on 26th June, 2014

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