Brand Strategy vs Absolutely No Clue

Background:
A few years ago, João and I had a debate on “How art as a design is more relevant than the strategy”, at the Chamber of Commerce, in Riyadh. The audience had ambivalent feelings, some agreeing with it while others disagreeing. João and I always had our differences. I never seem to agree on his field of advertising while he never agrees on my field of strategy

I’m a hard believer that advertising has failed or the advertising we knew has failed to evolve because of its continuation of false claims. I asked João to write an open letter with his views on Brand Strategy. Even though, I do not fully agree with what he has to say, I would like to, nevertheless, share his thoughts which are as follows:

The Rise and HARD fall of the Brand Strategist
by João Almeida

The trendy – short lived – age of the Brand strategist is coming to an end. Faster than you can say ‘Brand Evangelist’. Traditional advertising is already dead, an outcome welcomed and brought forward by many Brand experts. But little did they know, the death of the ‘Mad Men’ also meant the death of the ‘Strategy Men’

So you may ask who’s going to replace all those wonderful ‘what-people-think-and-how-to-make customers-feel-the-brand’ experts? The answer: Mathematics, Statistics and AI software

In a not so far away future, software algorithms will be able to personalize ads not for the 1%, but for the .0001% of consumers. This means strategy for the ‘long term’ will be redundant. Decisions will be made in a millisecond. Content, stories and ads will be delivered to you (and you specifically) without the need of human planning or strategic input. Facebook is already doing this to some extent. It’s still in its beginning stage, but imagine a brand story being told differently to a vast audience. Imagine that an ad seen by you will only also be seen by 50 other people (who share your statistical history). That’s 50 out of almost 2 billion FB users! That’s a strategy no human mind can beat

So who’s left? The content creators and the storytellers will survive the Brandpocalypse. Everyone else needs to start re-branding

Here are my thoughts:

The Fall Of Advertising and Design (Art) without The Essence of Strategy
by Said Baaghil

Let’s be serious, whatever we do as strategists and advertisers is for the purpose of the brand which is the business. Things need to be have a logical business model for any brand to work. As a strategist, on brand and marketing and even branding, the first and foremost thing we need to think of is the business model and then align the rest according to that model. The thought of a beautiful logo and art is irrelevant to support any business sense, João said. In fact, he claimed, it’s irrational and may produce high a level of business threats. Also the death of human expertise and the drive of technology as the core thinker to support the business line is crazy!!!

João debates, in a not so far away future, software algorithms will be able to personalize ads not for the 1%, but for the .0001% of consumers. The first question is would a software be continually able to understand the human senses? No matter how things evolve, human to human will remain the best practice for brands to thrive. Brands are like humans,they live and die so they continually need to evolve to sustain growth

When you look at McDonald’s and compare it to Five Guys and the health movement that’s revolutionizing the industry, what impression would it give to you if everything is automated including the communication? We are speaking here of the customer senses. Even if technology massively evolved in the communication platform, you still need a human brand strategist to deal with the evolving needs of people

No matter what happens to our world as technology changes, brands are like humans. They grow and die, unless they evolve. This is why they need to have the human experience for it to be logical and make sense to the customers

João Almeida is a Creative Professional with over 15 years experience in leading multi-disciplinary, multi-national teams both in Europe and the Middle East that have helped in developing successful Brands and Business Strategies across different industries

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

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

What comes first: Category or Brand?

Most confuse the process as they think that Brand comes before the Category. We’ve seen so many battles with this thought as most focus on the Brand than the Category while consumers think of the Category instead of Brand. Do you say I need to buy a new phone or an iPhone? Do you say I need to travel or I need Expedia or Thomas Cook? The strongest Brand will be the reference to a category. So what comes first: Brand or Category? Category comes first not the Brand. Whenever we say tissue we think of Kleenex, whenever when we think of information or search we think of Google, whenever we think of tablets we think of iPad and the story continues. Some of these Brands created their respective Categories and they’re the dominant players thereof

Let’s think how Brands can evolve a Category to own. The best example is Yahoo vs Google, Yahoo created the Search Engine, it was the reference before Google but Yahoo was everything not just search engine, the management decided to expand the portal and be the One-source Destination. Google came in with a new experience to search with great sets of values but Google (unlike its competitor) was focused on search and became relevant and preferred which is why today everyone says Google it, not search it. Yahoo Mail and hotmail faced the same scenario as that of search, Gmail came with new sets of values and took over which is why today Gmail is the largest Free Web based Email

Categories are created through Values, followed by Brand as a reference. Brands are ideas with sets of values as their core. If the Brand offers great sets of values as well as a very unique experience to consumers/users then the Brand is the reference to the Category

For example: in the US, the courier category within the shipping industry had many players till the mid-90s (Brands like DHL, Airborne Express, TNT and FedEx). When FedEx introduced the great value of delivering package overnight and before 10 am, it took over much of the local market making it the Category Reference. No one today says ship/courier the document in the US anymore; everyone says: FedEx It! Since then FedEx grew enormously and as a result DHL stopped serving the local US market while others like Airborne Express folded. FedEx evolved the category to own and they own it to this day

Today when we think of the category of smartphones, both iPhone and Samsung occupy our minds and not the operating systems iOS, Android or Windows. The Power of the Category serves the Brand in many ways as each of these Brands i.e. iPhone and Samsung; address two different target audiences. iPhone is more chic and appeals to intellectual and deep pocket users whereas Samsung appeals to Price sensitive users. So who owns the smartphone category? Both. Who owns the App category? Apple. Each Brand that owns a Category hardly spends money on Advertising e.g. Starbucks, The Body Shop and few others. Think of Kleenex, does Kleenex ever advertise? Does Starbucks ever advertise? Today Categories play a great role for those that create a Category or Sub-category. Yahoo created the Search Category, Google owns the Information Category, two different sets of values so what comes to mind first: Information or Search? Of course Search as its actionable followed by Information

Social Media had players like Friendster, My Space and others; today Social Media Category is dominated by facebook. It created new sets of values and therefore, is the first reference to the Category itself whereas Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube etc. are Sub-Categories with each focused on its own purpose. Example: Youtube=Videos, Instagram=Pictures. The Social Media phenomenon comprises of two sets of environments and two different experiences i.e. Web and Apps. So focused Brands such as Instagram and Snapchat are creating great presence. Considering how dynamic technology is, everything could change overnight and different Categories and Sub-Categories will emerge

Things to consider:

  1. Think of the Category first and not the Brand
  2. Think of the Target Audience. Which segments you plan to address and concentrate more on Demographics and Psychographics
  3. Think of the Brand idea that’s relevant to your Audience (not to the Management)
  4. Plan both your short-term and long-term visions to own the Category or to create a Sub-Category
  5. Don’t battle within a Category that some other Brands own unless the Category is still maturing and your second or max third entrant in the market
  6. Research is a benchmark not a guideline to follow and most, unfortunately, fail to create but are clever to follow

If we look at the regional market, the biggest economy is Saudi Arabia. Most Category owners in the region are foreign Brands while very few are dominated by local Brands. This brings us the question: How rich is the region on Brand Knowledge and Experience? The obvious answer is that the region still works on Commodities while thinking of them as Brands. The region comes from strong trading mindset with short-term goals, completely opposite to its Western counterparts. Let me share both the prevailing Market logic and examples with reference to the regional behavior

  • Logic: The region is a trade market more familiar with tactical approach than strategy. The region aims for short-term gains over long-term ones which put pressure on the entire organization thereby resulting in continuous changes to its business model in order to acquire immediate sales. You can hardly build Brands on these termsThe organizational behavior within the region with most companies is more relevant to Commodity selling than selling the idea of the Brand which facilitates the users’ experience

    Let’s use one great local example:

    • Al Nahdi, the local Saudi Pharmacy chain, decided to evolve and move from the category of Pharmacy to Wellness Lifestyle. The company has done a remarkable job in restructuring and building great fundamentals to support the new evolution of the Brand from Pharmacy to Wellness Lifestyle Category. As much as I think that Al Nahdi did a great development within the Pharmacy Category by bringing a new meaning to the overall Pharmacy Experience in the Kingdom compared to others, at the same time I think Al Nahdi’s evolution from Pharmacy to Wellness Lifestyle will take a longer period to mature as an idea for Audience to embrace it as a way of everyday experience, Why? In the past three years the brand sold “Hope” and not the Brand idea that supports the evolution
      1. Al Nahdi’s approach on Brand is clear: To Reposition the Brand as Wellness Lifestyle which is a lifestyle that means to Stay Healthy and Look Great
      2. The Repositioning approach lacked both Brand Idea and Purpose. If the idea was to sell to the public “Hope” then how would that support the Repositioning of the Brand? Hope is more of a community initiative than a Brand Idea. So what’s the Idea or the Brand Purpose? I pondered on both for long and I can’t seem to nail them. We all know that Positioning controls the entire Marketing Mix but the Brand Essence needs to be more aligned
      3. Since Al Nahdi planned to evolve into the Wellness Lifestyle Category, what experience did they offer? Usually experience comes from a single promise. Is that also Hope? If I have to agree on Hope then how do you apply it to Wellness Lifestyle? Or how do you bring hope to Makeup, Skincare or Haircare products? These are part of Al Nahdi’s evolutions and they’re its reality
      4. I think the company did a remarkable job on the Marketing Mix and I salute them for it but the Brand was completely disconnected from the entire Mix and both are about one single purpose
      5. How the name Al Nahdi resonates with the audience as Wellness Lifestyle? Well not today but if the Brand is focused enough and more aligned, they will eventually evolve to resonate but this approach takes longer to materialize (they will have to witness generation change). Today Al Nahdi, after three years of Repositioning, is still perceived as a Pharmacy
      6. In store experience needs tremendous amount of work. You have to ask a human being for directions as in store lacks proper guidelines

Suggestions:

  1. Al Nahdi (with such a name) and Repositioning the sets of values should’ve been extremely unique in order to influence change
  2. Entering a new category or evolving from an existing one takes a long time because during that process others competitors can respond fast. Al Nahdi should’ve developed a clear Brand Idea that serves the essence of the Brand i.e. Wellness
  3. The Brand needs more focus, it also needs to break away from Hope because it rarely serves all the values that Al Nahdi is trying to sell to their customers
  4. Bring the Brand promise to the store level. Let customers experience the values
  5. Align the Brand with the Marketing Mix: Opening in malls was brilliant because that enforces your evolution

Overall, Al Nahdi has come a long way and I’m hopeful that with the new CEO, growth will continue. To evolve a Brand from one Category to another Category is not an easy task. It requires time, investment, education and momentum until the Brand is recognized in the new position. Creating a new category is the same as evolving as it requires time, education and acceptance

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 17th December, 2015

Coffee advice

There are many that speak of Branding and on a separate note, speak of Marketing. Since when the two are separable even if they play different roles? They are both inseparable, they have one purpose and that single purpose is towards the audience. Treating both as separate entities is a problem. Let’s first agree on these two facts:

  • Since the idea of Brands and Branding came into being, Marketing became a support entity and more Tactical. In the era of commodities, Marketing was the core but today, it acts as a support to the Brand idea. Marketing is still as important but not in the driving seat instead Branding is the one driving
  • Second, let’s agree your Ad agency is not the miracle answer to your Brand problems, most are better focusing on design and in avoiding strategies

The Advice:

  • If the organization is not intellectually rich, avoid getting into the complex of Branding and Marketing, the process requires a certain type of mindset
  • If your organization is after immediate returns then avoid being a Brand, keep things the way they are, otherwise evolve
  • If your head of Marketing thinks Advertising is the way towards Branding, please fire him asap
  • If your Ad agency pressures you to be visible everywhere, fire them because they’re after the billing not quality of work
  • If your Advertising agency suddenly becomes your Branding adviser, you’re in serious trouble

Now you sit back and decide where you want to take your company. Every decision matters but your decision should be for the interest of the company and nothing personal

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

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

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

Middle East: Is Advertising a Ramadan Tradition?

Advertising, in Saudi Arabia especially, has become a Ramadan tradition just like ‘Vimto’!

Companies in the Middle East are devoted to Advertising and launching new Products during Ramadan, making it a ritual. The fact that a lot of individuals flick their channels once an Advert appears, whilst few others impatiently watch it till the end questions in itself the true value of Advertising

For instance can Pepsi replace traditional Ramadan beverages in the near future through Advertising? I personally doubt it. Pepsi will have to do a lot more than just Advertise to overcome their customers’ mind-set

Another example is the fact that every target group chooses to purchase their preferred Brands throughout the year, how can Advertising add as a Value besides being a reminder in their case?

Can an audience forget their preferred Brands for a month?

Is Advertising a ritual that companies follow in Ramadan to remind their audience “We Exist”? Or the fact is that we have Commodities that pretend to be ‘Brands’

Ramadan in this region is a season where ONLY Commodities flourish, not Brands

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 Branding 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 June, 2014

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