The Era of Competitiveness is dead! It’s all about Brand Relevance 

The era of competitive brands is over! 

Each category has strong players from first to third. Today is not about competing but all about Brand Relevance.
In the past, I highlighted the difference between brands and commodities using local examples to illustrate my point. Until today, my region remains stuck in the commodity practice. I pray they evolve to brands soon. 

While design and message are part of brands’ fundamental development, the work becomes irrelevant if the strategic approach lacks foundations that is differential and keeps the brand sustainable. Most advert agencies and design studios discuss brand from design thinking while lacking key fundementals. 
Design and communication are important but only in light of a strategic approach which makes simply more than just logos and fancy taglines. 
Brands need to think of being relevant and stop focusing on their competitors’ strong holds. If you are a CEO or CMO of any company and you can’t “Create Your Space”, you’re doomed. 
Being brand relevant is much greater than being different. In fact, relevance delivers values that demonstrate your attributes during the journey. 
Today’s CEOs and CMOs speak of positioning differently, what does that mean? What is the use of positioning differently if the values remain the same?! Rabea Tea is an example of repositioning without evolving, they failed by repositioning to Lipton’s stronghold.

You are the enemy to your  Personal Brand! 

Fear is the enemy of growth and the best friend of remaining into safety. The fear of embracing trial and failure is the self inflected ego, which threathens growth  and nest in false bubble. 

You own your path everything up to fifteen years of age was dictated to you by family, social and school. You never owned your own thoughts and at twenty all your decisions are based on everyone’s opinion and that’s the heart of fear and extremely  threatens  growth. Fear becomes the pivot of all your actions. 
Tradition is tradition but tradition is not growth, librate yourself from one thousand yours old tradition. These traditions served their times not yours, embrace who you are with all your flaws but stand for the values you set no matter what and no matter who. 

To build your personal brand, you need a great fundamental that serves purpose and growth. You need to have the courage, be authentic, emrace your truth, become fearless and believe in yourself. It’s your vision and mission or else you’ll serve others visions and missions. 

If your heart is filled with fear and doubt, you need external assistance before you think on building your personal brand, confidence is sexy and beautiful


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Outdated Marketers 

Unfortunately, I had many discussions with marketing consultants in the region on Linkedin and offline. 
What concerns me, is that most are outdated with today’s changing environment. Many are still caught in the school of Kotler, seventies and eighties, I have great respect to Kotler but different times require different thoughts and if you failed to adjust you became Irrelevant. 

You can’t bring your outdated school of thought and shove it down today’s generations throat, that’s crazy and that’s the current nature. 
My suggestions is update yourself, go read, attend workshops, volunteer for international practice. If you can’t upscale yourself, you can’t help the company that’s close to lose its existence. I also suggest most of you to upgrade your thoughts on brand, it’s minimal or basic knowledge that you possess. 
If you can’t define the terms, then you’ll fail to understand what comes first, second or follows. 
You can’t just use your P&G experience or other multinationals in the region, that’s tactical and hardly any strategic approach which seems obvious for most work  delivered.

Saudi government is unconventional and private sector is conventional. 

Here is a prediction! 
The government in Saudi is developing very fast and hiring top local calibers. On the other hand the private sector, the partner in change is moving at a turtle speed. 

Those who will remain as is, are as good as dead by 2023 


If you don’t evolve within this coming two to three years with the changing foreign investment policies in the kingdom, you’re as good as history. 

Start with the fundamental change, some need transformation others evolution but if it’s not today, it’s never. 

procrastination, fear and lazy minds are the enemy of change. 

Leadership and love in one basket! 

Unfortunately the definition of leadership in our part of the world is self consumed, coated with envy, greed and exploiting short term opportunities that abuses the rights of generations in our region.
It’s not only management that excel the progress of players and employees but the set culture that serves both the purpose and goal. 
What I just shared here in words, to our management leadership in the region are words to others are light to move forward or bring change. 
If you can’t eradicate the existing mindset in the region across all, no vision will ever come to reality because it takes people to bring change not technology.

Strategy Vs Tactical, all get it wrong!

The reason why many companies go through trial\error and invest so much on tactical because they think tactical is strategy. Once they understand the value of the road map, then they invest in strategy.
Clearly it’s a mindset problem! Change is inevitable 
Case Examples
Apple built on long term strategy with clear vision. Key words are innovation, simplicity, selecting market place and employee collaboration which is the heart of Apple’s culture. Apple stuck to the vision and delivered key missions, which lead Apple to disrupt key industries using technology. On the other hand Microsoft under the previous CEO, felt threatened by Apple, instead of focusing on revisiting their outdated strategy, they resorted to tactical approach & replicated Apple’s great values.
Rabea Tea in Saudi Arabia one of my favorite case studies, we should all learn. 
Rabea Tea did select a market segment but was confused between strategy and tactical, business and brand strategy lead repositioning strategy not marketing. They approached the repositioning strategy with tactical thats why Rabea today depends on tactical spending to move products of the shelves.
majority in the Middle East remain same size after decades in business because they lack strategy or they think tactical is strategy.

Personal Branding vs Personal Brand 

Personal Brand Vs Personal Branding. ( let’s get the basic right first before we parachute to fame)    
Most people even professionals get personal brand and personal branding wrong. I understand that both terms are interchangeable but both play different roles. 
Personal Brand is your core, the values you are, your core truth of who you are. Personal branding is the activity you carry to deliver the values and your story to all stakeholders. Branding is constant and timeless but you must remain authentic. 
I recently saw a post here on Linkedin and someone said “ Your personal branding”, no! The core is your “personal brand” that’s who you are, personal branding is the relationships you create. 
If you plan to search google on the term, read what experts share not wikipedia. Wikipedia relies on volunteers and not subject matter experts. 
Be careful what you read, if we can’t get the basics right, certainly we won’t be able to build a lasting brand. 

Theory is great!!

Dear CEOs and Founders,


I know most of you do not like theories or theorists but allow me to shed some light on some pressing issues. Further discussion of these issues is essential so please participate and engage.

In any great organization, top management is usually made up of theorists and visionaries while middle and bottom management are packed with practitioners.

Set the case

In the Middle East generally, all levels of management are only practitioners. Therefore, the overarching attitude is short-sighted and limited to the scope of day-to-day deliverables.

What comes first: the the concept and theory behind the idea or the product? What comes first: the idea of the business and theory behind the business idea or the manufacturing plant and office building?

These are pressing questions but often left unanswered. Let me be the first to answer.

First, you need the idea, theory, and rational and well-strategized plan before you place a brick in your plant or buy an office building. Second, you need to look at the human capital and culture that will affect everyone, top to bottom.

So long you parachute to the bottom-line and skip all the necessary steps, your business will be focused on short term results, which is the status quo of business in the Middle East.

Before you exhaust your budget on the supply side of the business, you need to determine the demand first and how you will plan to allow your values penetrate on the short-, mid- and long- term.

Remember, Rome was not built overnight and certainly not even the most basic idea.

Rational thinking!

All biblical’s are theories sent from god and we practice everyday, what makes your business any different?  You lack Confidence  and belief, so how do you expect to succeed?

Looming Financial Crisis, Brands and Commodities

I don’t see the Financial Markets settling soon. Global Financial Markets will stay volatile till 2020, possibly beyond. It’s like a FINANCIAL BAZOOKA, like a train coming straight at you and you are not going to stop it by standing in its way. I see more financial bloodbath and rocky times ahead for many countries & their markets. Simple investors will have sleepless nights and smart investors will have peace of mind with their funds. But the question is where to park your funds when markets are so uncertain and unpredictable?

The Answer: Follow the basic rule of LIFE and invest in REAL ASSETS for Wealth Preservation. The global economy stands at a crossroad of growth and decline and few financial markets might even collapse. If we analyze economic history, we see that there is a recession in the global economy after every 7/8 years. So it’s long overdue now and which is why 2016 has started on a rocky note as markets went down in China, Europe, US and Asia. Financial markets look too choppy at the moment. According to Sam Zell—American Business magnate and Real Estate mogul:

US economy is knocking at the doors of deep recession in the next 7 to 11 months. Global economy is witnessing a bigger crisis which will last longer and perhaps will be more severe than the 1930s… History is repeating after 83 years and many investors are not aware of the gravity of the situation

So what’s a MARKETERS ROLE IN TOUGH TIMES? Consumers are very sensitive to Brands. FMCGs are much stable even in hard times when the economy hits rock bottom but the same doesn’t apply to Retail especially for Auto and Luxury markets as these two sectors suffer the most. The question that Economists frequently ask: Can Brands sustain themselves in times of hardship when companies cut their Marketing budgets?

The answer is simple; Brands can live long if they are real Brands (and not commodities) because of their relevance for and being the preference of their target segment. In a volatile Economy, Brands who share the same Category Values suffer the most because consumers end up making decisions based on Price. In these times, Marketers who depend on huge budgets suffer the most because they depend on Advertising as a means of influencing Consumer decisions unlike Brands which are grown organically and are sustainable in a recession economy simply because their consumers’ habits and reactions depend least on communications or any tools that influence their call to action. In tough times, Brands survive and thrive over commodities, for example: McDonald’s globally and Saudi Brands such as Al Baik and Al Marai will still perform well, like previous times

It is only in uncertain times that Marketers can innovate and come up with strategies to move ahead and support the companies’ reservation on spending

Shan Saeed is Chief Economist at IQI Holdings whose expert views have been aired on CNBC, Bloomberg and Al Jazeera English. He advises clients in the Middle East and South East Asia

Said Baaghil is the ‘Unconventional’ Branding and Marketing Adviser to reputable companies in the Middle East, an 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 renowned Brand Consultancy firm Siegel+Gale on Branding in the Middle East