Hello Al Baik, what went wrong?

From fresh fried chicken to automated fried chicken, the world of fast food and Quick Service Restaurants (QSR) are moving in the opposite direction of the mass movement on health across the globe. Recently brands like McDonald’s, the fast food giant who specializes in fried burgers, decided to evolve in a way that addresses today’s concern on junk food

With the current context on junk food that serves audience flavored taste in little time, the subject has become irrelevant when it comes to time and the focus is now on health

Al Baik, is a well-known fast food chain in Saudi Arabia that primarily sells deep fried Broast Chicken. The brand holds great sentiment to nationals and expats that live or have lived in the country. Many see Al Baik as a national icon, with part of the brand signals conveying a Saudi impression globally. The founders are very people oriented and work with humbleness, integrity and consciousness. Al Baik, as a brand throughout the years has appeared and been experienced as being humble, caring and charitable. It has touched many people’s lives through its community work and activities

So the billion dollar question becomes, does Al Baik sell chicken? No! Al Baik sells more than chicken. Through its sales it’s helping improve the communities and spreading goodwill throughout the land. If the battle was only focused on chicken then KFC and others options are available too. Al Baik, as a brand sells more than just a product. Keeping in mind the fact, the product fundamentals are of great quality and secret recipe which further resonates with the audience

Because Al Baik is a conscious and honest brand, when you visit their stores, meet their team or come close to anything that has their name, no one questions its integrity. Since the seventies, it demonstrated consciousness and transparency by showing how food is being prepared and served, something that other fast food chains like Five Guys are doing today

What went wrong today? Al Baik decided to evolve from the fresh home look and feel, something that has greatly resonated with the locals and people of all income, to what McDonald, Pizza Hut, Burger King and others looked and felt like for years

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Recently opened branch of Al Baik at King Abdul Aziz International Airport (KAIA), Jeddah, Saudi Arabia  

Am I questioning Al Baik’s recent brand evolution that’s displayed, as pilot, in KAIA? Yes indeed! As much as I love Al Baik, the brand’s legacy and how I call it our “own”, anything and everything is wrong with this brand evolution. Perhaps there was a design strategy but I strongly doubt there was a brand strategy. Al Baik’s new look and feel has thrown out what has worked and resonated with millions for years, which was the core essence of it. Who Al Baik is, in the old look and feel could be easily answered but when you look at it today, you start questioning it. It is a junk food joint? Is that the reference Al Baik wishes to bench on? I doubt it

The old identity is widely used, by many restaurants which have no link with the original, in many parts of Asia and North Africa like Egypt and Malaysia, so Al Baik decided to battle this threat by evolving. Perfect! But if you are the original source, how far do you evolve? Why throw away something you own as equity? Why give up all the brand signals you’ve created that resonates with the brand from far and close?

I think logic should prevail, it’s either that brand strategy is poorly understood in our region or that these business owners and shareholders have started to care less about their brands. In less than 2 years, Al Nahdi, Kick by Rabea, Cofique, STC, Fly Nas have become case examples of brand mistakes. Something is very wrong here. These are very costly and detrimental to any business

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

Uber: The New Identity

Uniting the “Bits” and “Atoms” for the first time, the bits is the refined “technology” and atoms is everything around us “objects”. Uber’s rationale behind the new identity is unifying the two for the first time, the technology and the atoms. The technology is used as process and the atoms is the object that moves from one point to other. If we look at the business strategy of Uber which evolved from passenger transportation to logistics and transportation, the new “Uber” brand core perfectly says who they’ve become

I’m a strategist not a design expert, many designer could disagree on the use of font, color palette and so on and that’s not my argument here but from a brand strategy point Uber successful reflected their evolution and their new rationale perfectly reflects their evolved business strategy

On the other hand many argued why Uber will ditch the slick stylish logo the most recognized in today’s app world, I agree but the more the brand delivers values the higher chance the symbol becomes recognized. Google’s identity looks like grade school kids drawing but since the company delivers constant values you can’t help but constantly recognize their identity

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

Category, Brand & Unique Values

Always, Category leaders face those that replicate their values on the same propositions. As they say: one success story copied by many BUT always the biggest part of the story is that which one sustains continues growth. On many case studies of existing Brands we’ve seen values evolve to maintain continued growth and those values eventually are replicated by the second and third leading ones within the Category. One of the strongest values is Price but again that’s defined on which segment you’re addressing. In case of candy bars such as Mars, Snickers etc., it’s irrelevant to address a specific target audience as they’re for all demographics that wish to consume frequently or occasionally whereas with respect to timings of consumption, the segment differs on the basis of psychographics i.e. the older segment of the audience is less motivated to consume frequently and to consumer on particular kind of day while the younger audience has no preference when it comes to timing at all. Brands with a single unique set of values and those with more than one, matter but few that have ‘Signal Values’ can easily over shadow a Competitive Category. For example:

In the Saudi market, Al Baik addresses all audiences and not a specific one, is it because of Price? The values are much greater today as a Brand than just Price. Al Baik is not a Commodity; Al Baik is purely a Brand with clear Core Values. If we look at the Fried Chicken category in which Al Baik operates, it is the undisputed owner and champion of the category and many have tried to copy and sell the same values of Al Baik but the Brand is fundamentally deep rooted within the hearts and minds of the audience. To add more, Al Baik is one of the very few timeless Brands easily inherited through generations. Al Baik created its space and the only single way that it can lose that space is when they stop innovating their values or their current values start deteriorating

Countless times we’ve seen the no. 2 within a Category either upholding to Category leader’s Brand values or offers Price as a value. We’ve seen this example with many of the local/regional Brands as latter entrants to any of the FMCG categories. Price as single strong value can turn a Brand into a Commodity, just walk into any supermarket aisles and see the amount of tactical approach to push products off shelves. Brands are about values and great brands improve their values. Look at Apple in general or its iPhone, look at Google, Emirates, Visa, Mercedes-Benz and other great Brands; see the unique values these Brands hold and ask why their customers or users are willing to find them to be the most relevant/preferred. The value of owning a Mercedes-Benz is extremely different than the value of owning a Lexus, the value of owing Samsung is completely different than the value of owning an iPhone, the value of having a Starbucks coffee is different than the value of having Duncan Donuts coffee, the value of owning a Mac is much different than the value of owing a PC

Another great local examples is Rabea. In my previous article about the Brand, I touched a bit on the evolution of Rabea Tea to address the current generation. The management decided to evolve across most of their SKUs and introduce one more (SKU or Brand) named Kick. Let’s analyze the current situation:

149cf45Rabea evolved the entire value proposition but left the Brand as is. This might serve the short-term goal but in the long-term, Rabea would have to rely on the Brand and not commodity. Rabea looks at tactical approach and immediate returns over a long-term strategy that would evolve both the Brand and the (Marketing) Mix. The recent launch of Kick (SKU to management, Brand to consumers) is a sign of both evolution and the quest for immediate returns. Kick by Rabea tea is an extra caffeine tea that keeps you awake, the concept is brilliant but the core problem is that Kick tried to own strong Coffee values, namely:

  1. Caffeine
  2. Keeping You Awake

These two values are well-Branded with Coffee so how did Rabea Marketing planned to evolve these two values which are too strong to hold on to? That’s just mission impossible because it’s a war with an entire Coffee Category. Kick clearly lacked a fundamental Brand strategy; even the visual communication had functional attributes such as ‘Alarm clock’

Suggestions:

Kick by Rabea Tea is a brilliant idea but the trouble is that Tea is not inspiring it’s boring to most youth and that requires behavior change. Tea is much healthier than coffee, there are 190 or more type of teas Rabea needs to address within the Wellness segment which is one of the fast growing population, globally

Rabea needs to revisit their Brand strategy to align with their current proposition and align the essence of the Brand with the core values

I’m not attacking Rabea, l’m addressing where I see the mistake and am suggesting the way forward. Most in our region hate to be corrected; in fact they ride on what’s wrong that’s why we’re several decades behind in almost everything

Brands are about unique sets of values. Each of these values is a reference to the owned Category. Evolving values owned by a Category is an impossible task in Branding unless several supporting unique sets of values are associated
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, 2015

Brand and Branding are everything in Business

Most companies in the Middle East fail to differentiate between Branding and Advertising or the Values they both provide. Most think that Branding is about logo and design or are completely puzzled on the Values and End Benefits that Brand and Branding provide

Many companies use Advertising and call it Branding, then the question arises: What is Branding?

Branding is about building relationships between the Brand ‘Idea’ and the Consumer/Customer/Users. Logos, Design and Messages are part of Brands, not Branding. Advertising stresses on persuading audience to take action, works very well with Promotions or Trade Marketing but not with Brand Building

Companies in the region believe in ENORMOUS Advertising spending to build Brands and if you personally request your Marketing department to do an audit on your existing Brands, you will realize most revolve around awareness which means you basically drained your budget to say “I’m here!” and nothing else. Advertising will fail to create (TOMA or Top OF Mind Awareness) if the Marketing Mix fails to own the category. One the other hand, Branding builds Loyalty in the form of actual customers buying from you and repeating the same experience over and over i.e. a focused segment

People Queue outside of Apple stores across the world for days to experience new Launches or log on to Apple.com to watch a live stream of new launches or announcements. Now that’s a ‘Brand’. Its competitor Samsung hardly gets the same amount of attention, why? because it’s less exiting as a Brand

People feel proud to wear Ralph Lauren attire during a golf game or a polo game. People feel inspired to fly on Emirates and pay extra for their service. These are Brands that can manage their loyal customers. These are Brands that can increase Price and customers will still remain loyal to them

Here are some points to consider:

  • A Brand is an ‘Idea’ that best fits the audience through a relationship (Branding). A Brand at launch needs to show genuine Essence and provide an Experience which the entire organization can deliver
  • Any newly launched Brand is like a new born baby which needs time to flourish, needs genuine relationship with first time customers or users, rather than persuading the audience to get engaged instantly through Advertising. Brands are like humans, they grow gradually in the ‘Minds of their Audience’
  • The most stirring problem in the Middle East are management and board members. Their basic understanding on Brand and Branding hurts the growth of their company. Usually boards are after quick wins, I’m sorry but you can’t build Brands on quick wins, you need time and focus
  • Most mistake Brand Positioning and Promise. If companies invest enough time on the science of their Brand, they’ll build great wealth of understanding to manage their Brand with their stakeholders
  • I have met Marketers who re-positioned their Brands with the understanding of Re-Branding. Another major issue in the region is Re-Positioning and Re-Branding. Re-Positioning is effected by Marketing Mix, adding new products or changing segments. Re-Branding is the change in naming, essence, promise, design and etc. The science that goes behind any Brand and Branding is far too critical which is why it’s best that the CEOs champions the Brand. If Re-Branding occurs without input of key stakeholders (for example company employees), disaster can happen
  • The target audience is not the single stakeholder in Branding. Most professional Branding consultants will demand stakeholder mapping and educate management on stakeholder Brand Management
  • The massive difference between Advertising and Branding should be taught to CEOs and CMOs or stressed on companies CEOs by board members to attain long term results. Most global Branding experts see Advertising as optional while Branding is a fact because it is dynamic and timeless. A successful company with clear vision never stops Branding, and please be reminded that Branding is not Advertising while Advertising and Branding are not TV, Billboards etc., those are just tools
  • Myself and many others are aware of Advertising’s strong presence in the Middle East, we are also aware of the forged understating on how Advertising can play a role in Brand Building. Advertising and Marketing entered the regional market through Multinationals which had one single goal: Sales!

    When Trade was the key Strategy at market entry, Advertising played an important role. Multinationals’ regional interest was basic Marketing and Sales till maturity. They created every single category in FMCG and other sectors

  • In the past two decades Multinationals started speaking about Brands in the Middle East but most were dictated from global business units in Zurich, London, Brussels or New York
  • The result of Multinational Trade Marketing in the region also produced Trader mindset Marketers with basic understanding on Brands and Branding (not all but majority). The results are visible when these seasoned professionals moved to local organizations
  • In the past 4 years several local and regional companies went through Brand and Branding exercises, the only new visible presence they offered was a new logo, most had to revisit their initial launch on several occasions
  • The Middle East at large is a very individualistic society, personal wealth, self esteem and personal gratification are far more important than fulfilling the organization’s vision
  • For CEOs, this is crucial. If they are not aware about basics of Brand and Branding or lack understanding about the Values and End Benefits, the chance for the organization to fail is highly possible. Sorry but ‘Brand’ is far too big to be managed by a CMO on his/her own. The Brand” should be every CEOs TOP Priority whereas Branding is what Marketers of every organization should focus on each and every single day of the year
  • Not all Marketers are fit to create or build Brands. Most in our region manage Brands but lack experience to create a Brand meeting global standards

Why do I care to share or advise? Well being from the region nothing will ever fulfill my career and my life more than to see Brands from the region in other parts of the world. CEOs in our region should be Brand champions to ensure that the entire organization delivers the Promise and lives and breathes the brand’s Core Values

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 16th January, 2015