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

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

Brand is Everything. Not just a logo!

For the past 3 years in Saudi as well as in rest of the region, I have witnessed quite a few campaigns (deemed as Brand strategy and Branding campaigns by local ‘Misstra Know-it-Alls’) that made my head spin. Someone I know recently posted on his Facebook the following:

Our local brands are globally competitive

If he thinks so, I guess he’s in a different world than most Branding experts

First, realizing our truth can only push us forward but denying or manipulating the truth can only falsify our reality. My thoughts on his Facebook post was:

Yes, we have the potential to be such but not till we admit and embrace the truth that our market and companies hold a false understanding on ‘Brand and Branding’

Local Market’s level of understanding:

A Brand is:

  • Logo
  • Design
  • Colors
  • Fonts

Few think of Positioning Statements and Brand Promise because both hardly work with their core Business models

While, Branding is: 

  • Advertising on Billboards/Outdoor Medias
  • Merchandising
  • Social Media

If the above was correct, then we should all expect to have the most competitive Brands roaming world markets. At times, coming to term with ourselves and setting our personal egos aside might serve the company and the community a better future

Once a Saudi Marketer said something that I found to be very true, he said:

You need to think of mature markets for Brand and Branding to work, the regional market is still on trading mindset

My lighthearted advice: 

  • Define your Audience (understand them really well)
  • Clear Goals, Vision and Mission
  • Define your Business Model
  • Hire professionals who know how to carry your Brand
  • Understand your Brand: Know its Values and Benefits
  • Understand your Marketing Mix, in line with your Business Model and remain Focused
  • Revisit the above every 6 months

In short, take your Brands VERY seriously if you wish to sustain growth because Brands are…timeless

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 5th January, 2015

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

Al Youm ‘Brand’, Al Watania ‘Commodity’

Al Youm the Saudi Poultry brand by Al Marai Group is more relevant than any other poultry brand in the Kingdom

Why?

Because every Poultry brand in the Kingdom offers both whole chicken and chicken parts, they share the same values and benefit with the customer who eyes only for reputation and price. Al Youm decided to create its space by adding more value to its current relevance in order to strengthen their position within the category

How?

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Al Youm offered ready-to-cook marinated chicken (similar to al Watania) and minced chicken to be more relevant (in terms of value and emotions) thereby becoming the most preferred brand whereas Al Watania (which set the trend by offering marinated whole chicken in the first place) failed to create its space because it lacked the Brand Relevance and self-esteem which Al Youm owns

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Brands can’t be preferred if they’re treated as commodities, today Saudi and Arab consumers understand their needs and wants, they’re intelligent not to follow false advertising claims. Brand’s are about values that resonates with the promise made to the audience

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

Create Your Space logo cropped

The article was first published on Linkedin Pulse on 8th August, 2015

Brands do flirt! Part 3

BISON flirts with Code Red

In 2004, almost every energy drink brand in Saudi Arabia followed the tradition of Red Bull packaging (Silver and Blue) so to the general audience it meant Energy Drink. Since Colors do communicate in Branding, it was decided that in order to compete with the local giants such as Bison (a local Saudi Brand), Differentiation on three different fronts was needed: Product (Name, Ingredients, Packaging), Price and Channels of Distribution

Back then, I worked on developing the Brand and strategy for a local Energy drink called Code Red along with Full Stop agency, the primary points I suggested to my client were that in the development phase:

  • 1st thing to do is to Differentiate the Taste (Product)
  • 2nd is to break away from the prevailing Color culture of Energy drinks i.e. Silver and Blue (Packaging/Brand/Color Identity)
  • 3rd is to choose a name that will create a simple understanding to the public (Branding by targeting the right psychological plane of the Target Audience which translates into action)
  • 4th is to improve Distribution channels from lower trade to upper trade since Code Red is a Mass Market Brand

Naming the brand away from the common Energy drink names and imagery such as of a Bison, Bull, Horse or Cows, it was decided to name the brand ‘CODE RED’. Since 2005, Code Red spent less than $ 20,000 on Advertising , today it’s one of the leading brands in the Kingdom with market share of 34%, while others brands such as Bison, Bugsy and others made efforts to replicate the identity of CODE RED (Red and/or Black), either briefly or on a permanent basis

This success story is a result of Brand Fertility

P.S. I never did advise my client to Advertise but they did so once on their own by securing a billboard in Jeddah at a cost of SR. 800,000 ($ 213,000). That was the first and last time Code Red ever advertised on their own

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

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