Revealed: Samsung's not-so-secret weapon gives it an edge over Apple

Annual BrandIndex Buzz Rankings announced by YouGov assesses more than 400 brands across several sectors in the UAE. (Supplied)

Electronics powerhouse Samsung made enough advertising noise in the UAE last year to improve its buzz ranking from No. 3 in 2013 to leapfrog to the top of the rankings for 2014, according to the latest Annual BrandIndex Buzz Rankings announced by YouGov.

The global market research company assesses more than 400 brands across several sectors in the UAE, and calculates the brands’ buzz score by asking respondents: ‘If you’ve heard anything about the brand in the last two weeks, through advertising, news or word of mouth, was it positive or negative?’

#1 Samsung: Edging past rivals

Interestingly, Samsung Electronics has been ahead of its global arch-rival Apple in the UAE ever since the bitter competitors made their debut on the UAE buzz rankings in 2012.

And not without reason – when it comes to spending marketing bucks, Samsung doesn’t seem to believe in holding back. While the company doesn’t divulge country-level marketing spend, and therefore we don’t know how much money it actually spent to promote its devices and brand in the UAE, the South Korean giant’s global marketing spend was a whopping Dh51 billion-plus ($14 billion) in 2014.

A good share of that would have been spent in regional technology hub UAE, and that was enough to propel it to the No. 1 spot for the first time in 2014. “The global electronics powerhouse managed to outshine home-grown superbrand Emirates and internet giant Google to claim the highest brand Buzz score of 52.3 over the last 12 months,” says YouGov in the report accompanying the rankings.

And while Samsung leads the brand pack in the UAE, Apple with a score: 41.0 re-enters the list this year (it moved out of the top 10 in 2013) at No. 4, behind Dubai-based airline Emirates and global search giant Google, both of which lost a rank this year thanks to Samsung’s surge.

According to the market research firm, 2014 saw Samsung launch a number of new products in the UAE, including the Galaxy Note 4 (featuring Arabic Writing Recognition, which instantly digitises Arabic handwritten text).

“That, together with Samsung Experience Zones in Deira and Abu Dhabi and a ‘Super-Selfie’ billboard campaign showcasing the public’s Samsung selfies down the Sheikh Zayed Road no doubt helped to create positive noise amongst consumers throughout the year,” the report highlighted.

#2 Emirates: Still Flying High

“Despite being knocked from the top of the leaderboard since 2013, Emirates is still making waves in the UAE with a variety of new partnerships in 2014,” the report said.

“For the first time, the Hello Tomorrow brand united with the Australian Open in a multi-year sponsorship deal of the Open Series,” YouGov said. “If that wasn’t enough, the past year saw it sponsor TV show 'Arab Idol Season 3', the first time it has supported a reality TV show. The official Fifa World Cup partner also helped carry over 18,000 supporters to the tournament after joining forces with Cristiano Ronaldo and Pelé as its global ambassadors.”

#3 Google: Beyond Search

The global search giant reportedly spends more than Dh7 billion ($2 billion) in advertising annually, but that perhaps says just half the story. For, its own homepage is the most popular website in the world.

“The global internet giant also dropped one place in our annual rankings since 2013, however it still ranks highly in our top 10 with a number of releases throughout the past 12 months, including the much-anticipated Android Lollipop, as well as the Nexus 6 phone and Nexus 9 tablet,” the report states. Read: Android 5.0 Lollipop tablet Nexus 9 in UAE.

“2014 also saw the search engine join forces with UAE National Archives to launch a digital exhibition on UAE National Day, and Dubai became the first city in the Middle East to be part of Google Street View. Read: Now navigate Sheikh Zayed Road, Downtown Dubai and more online.

#4 Apple: Biting what it can chew

Apple’s debut of the iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, iPad Air 2 and iPad Mini 3 propelled it into the top 10 Buzz for 2014, says the report. Interestingly, Apple was ranked No. 9 in 2012, then fell out of the rankings in 2013 – and has made a strong comeback in 2014, landing straight at No. 4.

“With $180 billion revenue under its belt for the course of 2014 and the announcement of Apple Watch, the new iMac and Apple Pay, as ever Apple remains one to watch for 2015,” the report underlines.

#5 Carrefour: Bulk buying

At number five, the Middle East franchise of the second largest retailer world-wide (based on revenue), remains a non-mover in YouGov’s annual Buzz rankings since 2013.

2014 saw Carrefour featured in Majid Al Futtaim’s first comprehensive regional advertising effort across television, outdoor, print and digital media since it unveiled a new brand identity in December 2013.

Majid Al Futtaim's Carrefour also joined forces with Procter & Gamble to support the Pampers-UNICEF ‘1 pack = 1 vaccine’ campaign aimed at eradicating maternal and newborn tetanus worldwide. Carrefour consumers broke the one million vaccine target within six months.

The top 10 brands that made a positive impact on UAE residents in 2014 include a number of other mega brands made a impact on UAE residents last year including global heavyweight Facebook (No. 6; score: 38.8) and homegrown real estate giant Emaar (No. 10; score: 35.4), both claiming their place in the top 10 Annual BrandIndex Rankings for the first time in 2014.

Apple’s spearhead iPhone (No. 7) took the UAE by storm in 2014, climbing three places in the buzz rankings with a score of 38.6. “The hotly anticipated release of the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, reported to have sold out in just two hours at Emax Electronics in the UAE, was very well received,” says the report.

Indeed, as Emirates 24|7 reported last week, iPhone 6 continues to make waves and has emerged the hottest selling smartphone in the UAE during the ongoing Dubai Shopping Festival. Read: iPhone 6 hottest selling smartphone in Dubai as DSF bargains peak.

Cementing their respective positions in the top 10 for two consecutive years, Carrefour (No. 5) and Dubai Mall (No. 8) retained their respective spots. The MAF-managed franchise scored 39.4 and YouGov says Carrefour appealed to UAE consumers’ charitable side.

On the other hand, the world’s largest mall, Dubai Mall achieved status as the most checked-in UAE location on Facebook and scored 36.3. Read: Click to take virtual tour of UAE's 10 most popular destinations in 2014

The noisy global mega brands pushed Saudi Arabian household favourite Almarai down five places in the Annual BrandIndex Buzz Rankings since 2013. Nevertheless its decline in Buzz (2013 score: 48.0 versus 2014 score: 35.6) is slight and it remains a significantly popular brand in the UAE, keeping it in the top 10, says the report.

UAE Top 10 Buzz Rankings 2014


























Dubai Mall








At the close of 2014, the notable shift in positive noise in favour of the larger internet and electronics brands has continued since the market research firm’s last reported Buzz scores in the Mid-Year BrandIndex Buzz Rankings. 

With oil price declining and airfares expected to become cheaper this year, will Emirates claw its way back to the top? Can Apple finally overtake its arch-rival Samsung in the UAE this year? Will master developer Emaar consolidate its ranking among the top 10? Watch this space.

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