Uber and Careem! Brand or Commodity?

 

When it comes to hiring a chauffeur driven car, Uber, is an app that is globally known. However, when looking at the success regionally, Careem is also another app that makes the list.

Uber led to many passenger transportation apps popping in different parts of the world today and helped the industry make billions as a result. It operates in 65 countries under passenger transportation and has an array of payment options.

In recent years, the Middle East witnessed the need for such apps in order to have better services and avoid the hectic cab rides.

Two brands that come to mind are Uber, a San Francisco based company and Careem, a Dubai based company. Both brands share similar values but Careem still holds the unique value over Uber by giving the option of “book later” and leading the region with cash option payment.

Uber’s first regional destination was Riyadh, Saudi Arabia then it gradually expanded throughout the region. Careem, in recent years, has expanded to most of the region but not all of it.

My goal, in this article, is to focus on as a brand what their brand message to their audience is and which company is more intact when it comes to the commodity of transportation. I fully understand when a brand chases quick expansion it intends to lose its focus.

So for the past two months, I used both brands aggressively to experience all the brand touch points. So let’s look at each of the brands.

You can clearly see from the name and the few of the brand touch points, Careem as a brand is positioned as your local app. Given that positioning, the core question always was “who is Careem?” The simple answer is a regional transportation app, which is generic. If the app takes you from one point to another then it’s a commodity. You can’t hold the company responsible if the management treats the brand as a commodity. Question is and will remain, what idea as a brand are they trying to sell to the public? A transport app? Well so is Uber and others.

During each of the experience, you’ll notice Careem calls their drivers “captain” while Uber calls them “chauffeur”. So which of the two holds premium? Clearly Uber. When you travel to a congested city like Cairo, the two offer a totally different experience as they speak to completely different audiences. Careem caters more to the middle and lower class while Uber is targeting a higher class. The Careem app is user friendly. However, you are in for a few surprises once you have placed the order and their brand promise becomes a reality.

Careem has GPS issues – it has an accuracy problem. Drivers either end up on the wrong side of the road or a block away. Second, because proximity is not added, like it is in Uber, you end up waiting longer for the driver to arrive. What I mean by proximity is that Uber is closer from your point of pickup and is available in less time.

Before I start with Uber let me finish Careem. Firstly, for the life of me, I just can’t figure out what Careem’s brand essence or promise is? I feel the brand was developed as an app and went only through a design experience.

Today, customers can’t expect so much from Careem other than the most shared value “convenient”. You order a car and the car shows up. Other services including the recent launched “go”, propose more value but remember many of Careem’s values are originally owned by Uber. During my different visits to Cairo, Riyadh and Jeddah, my experience with Careem changed. When Careem first launched, it made every effort to retain customers, different types of drivers and cars. Today Careem doesn’t cares as much, I guess. To test the brand experience, when I was recently in Riyadh, I ordered Careem and at the same time I ordered Uber. The Careem driver failed to find my location which was the Al Faisalia hotel. It took him almost an hour from the time I ordered. The Uber driver showed up in twenty minutes due to rush hour. While I was heading to my meeting in Uber, I called the Careem driver and the customer service to locate the driver. Both failed to respond so I finally cancelled the order.

What is Careem’s brand promise? What’s its brand essence? We understand that Careem was good in positioning itself as the regional brand but sorry that’s not good enough to deliver what customers expect. Customers are paying for the entire experience of the brand. Sometimes, I feel the brand Careem we knew became a commodity. The amount of price discount they give away is crazy. The text messages they send for discounts is not any different from Al Ahram in Jeddah that sells low priced clothing. I never received an email from Careem like I do from Uber which focuses on experiencing the city you are travelling to. So is Careem a brand?! I need to get my brand facts book out to be convinced.

On the other hand, Uber lives as your private chauffeur. A promise they made and delivered in so many ways. Now let’s get the record straight here, I don’t favor any. In fact, when Careem first launched, I was an advocate of theirs but you can’t be an advocate to something that has ignored the core of their experience. Uber is expanding to 65 countries and the experience in each of the country differs due to local laws and so forth. For example, Uber in Germany has to operate under a licensed cab company but not in Austria. But, for the most of it, Uber still manages to keep its promise. Even though, Careem’s app is much more user friendly, Uber’s app is still friendly. During the time of order, their driver’s proximity is much closer than the Careem drivers and GPS is much more accurate. Recently Uber realized they are more than just passenger transportation and evolved their brand. Today, Uber is hire a driver, helicopter, order food and courier. Don’t be surprised at what’s next.

Since the company is evolving so fast they need a core essence that will hold everything together. Something that says who they’ve become. Today, in simple term Uber is “logistics”. You can hire a car, they will arrange it. You can hire a helicopter, they’ll arrange it. You can order food, they’ll arrange it. You can send a parcel, they will arrange it. They simplified logistics to one single app which is just a click away. The brand has evolved and so did their marketing mix. Their positioning is reflected in their new look and feel. You will notice the key word “availability” and their promise is “reliable at all times”. The rationale behind Uber’s new brand idea is to bring together two things that were in separate worlds for over seventy years. And they are doing this by bringing them together as the “Bits” and the “Atoms”. The bits for Uber is the technology and its ability to express its efficiency, ability and power. The “Atoms” is responsible for how technology moves cities and their citizens, and the goods that are transported everyday. The brand tells its story from its inception of the famous tweet to its recent evolution of serving its new created purpose. We all can agree that Uber has disrupted the transportation industry across the 65 countries and 400 cities but we can never disagree that Uber is one of the most talked brand in this era.

Uber and Careem are two different brands. While one is massively evolving and other is catching up. Uber provides the experience and Careem is turning into a commodity.

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

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

Zain: Not a Wonderful World

Zain the Mobile service provider in Saudi Arabia possibly had a chance, in my opinion. However there are various influencing factors out of their control which restrict their success within the Saudi Market. For starters I do not think the management at Zain has sufficient knowledge about the market reality and their market standing. From a Branding and Marketing perspective Zain has probably over promised on services such as including phenomenal 4G offers with well thought out communication to influence users, to switch to their service. However they remained inadequate and failed miserably. When Zain was first introduced in Saudi Arabia they suffered from bad network which is one of the most important Values of any cell phone company which they should have calculated and tested prior to launch

Other factors that limit them or will limit them, what they can or cannot do:

  • If Zain wishes to be a low cost carrier, that would be impossible since the regulators would see that as a threat to the local carrier
  • If Zain decided to enter a particular segment of audience or even tried, it would be impossible as it would narrow down the company’s opportunity making it almost impossible for the company to sustain itself
  • What can Zain to do to turn things around? Evolve from their current Business Model? I find that hard as prime stakeholders would consider that a threat (Cell phones are tightly regulated even on Prices)

Zain needs to think smart and fast; they need to focus on getting themselves out of their over-stated turmoil. Their user confidence is already low and declining further, and the only reason why cell phone users would use Zain is either to find advantage over Price or network, both of which require Zain to develop a solid and long lasting ground on

The Telecom industry in Saudi Arabia is watched closely by regulators (CITC) leaving network providers with very little room to maneuver competitive advantage

Each of the service providers are known for their unique single strength, for instance: Mobily is well known for its Data Strength. While Al Jawal by STC is known for its excellent network coverage. Zain is left out from any unique strength other than the previous promises that failed with users’ experience

Brand’s should be very careful in their Promise vs Proposition. It is not the Product or the Service that creates the miracle instead it is everything else that comes with them such as the People and the Brand. I hope that Zain’s management realizes the opportunity in the Kingdom and reconsider all possible changes for the coming years

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 10th June, 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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