A number of brands from the Arab world, especially emerging from the Gulf, have the potential to emerge as top brands globally, media experts believe.
Even though the Arab world has some of the fastest growing economies in the world, very few Arab brands feature in the list of the top brands in the world, according to several studies.
While brands such as Google, Apple, Microsoft, Toyota, Coca Cola, Pepsi, Ford, and many others are widely recognised by the average consumer worldwide, Arab brands are only known within the region and need to do a lot more to get international recognition, according to several experts at the Arab Media Forum being held in Dubai.
A few brands from the region, though, do show definite potential to garner global acclaim, the experts agreed. Brands such as Emirates and Etihad from the airline industry, Emaar and Nakheel from the real estate sector, The Arab Contractors and Consolidated Contractors from the construction and civil engineering sector, and Jumeirah Group from the hospitality sector are well-established brands in the region that are promising candidates to emerge as globally recognised brands in the near future.
In this they have the Al Jazeera News Network to look up to for inspiration, which is the only brand from the Arab world to have enjoyed ready recall internationally. A brand poll conducted by online magazine Brandchannel in 2005 found that the Qatar-based channel was the fifth most recognised of all the brands polled. It was in illustrious company, coming in after Apple, Google, Starbucks and Swedish furniture chain Ikea.
This was despite its Arabic name and broadcasting all its content in Arabic – Al Jazeera International, its English version, was launched only in 2006.
Yet, through frequently providing scoops and breaking news from Afghanistan, Palestine and Iraq, and its alternative ways of delivery, Al Jazeera Arabic was able to capture the world’s imagination.
In the years that have followed, other brands have emerged from the Arab world and are poised to become household names globally, according to Abdul Aziz M Al Tewaijiri, Editor-in-charge of Al Eqtisadiya and Al Majalla magazines of the Saudi Research and Publishing Company, which also owns publications in Arabic, English, Urdu, Malayalam and Tagalog.
“I went to Canada a couple of years ago and met a lady from South Korea who told me that her dream was to fly on Emirates,” said Al Tewaijiri.
“She told me that she had spoken to friends who flew on the airline and seen the advertising campaigns. The level of service offered by Emirates, both in the air and on the ground at Dubai, she said, makes her want to fly in it,” he said. “When companies from any sector deliver on their promises and provide a different and great product, together with good customer service, it will put the company’s brand on the international stage, no matter where it comes from.”
Abu Dhabi, too, has realised the power and benefits that come from being a brand. It has formulated a strategy to become the favoured tourist and business destination in the Gulf and is investing not only in infrastructure but also in building its brand.
In November last year, it launched the Office of the Abu Dhabi Brand (Obad), devoted to promoting the emirate internationally, complete with a logo to go with all its promotional and advertising campaigns.
Reem Y Al Shemari, General Manager of Obad, said: “We know the power of a brand and it has to be a reflection of what it is claimed to be. The Abu Dhabi brand is the first initiative of its kind in the region, mandated to define and position the emirate on the international map by creating a unique brand identity that can be extended to other areas, such as investment, cultural heritage and social life.”
But to be well-known globally, companies in the region need to increase their visibility in the international media.
Lara, a Jordanian journalist who preferred to be called by her first name, said: “In order to be recognised as international brands, Arab companies need to focus on launching more attractive advertising campaigns.
“People who live in the region already know who these companies are and what services they offer, but the firms need to take their message to non-Arab media outlets that broadcast internationally.”
Some companies from the region are doing just that. Abu Dhabi-based real estate developer Masdar’s advertising campaign brought global attention to the emirate’s plans to build the first ever CO2-free city in the world.
“The Masdar initiative to go for alternative energy was almost on all major TV stations in Europe,” said Lewis Blackwell, Senior Vice-President and Group Creative Director of photo agency Getty Images.
Dubai’s Jumeirah Group has gone a few steps forward in positioning its brand as a recognised name in the hotels, resorts and hospitality sector.
According to Antony Lawrence, Director of Marketing and Innovation at the Jumeirah Group: “In addition to our facilities in Dubai, we have branches in London and New York City. Our customers there are usually people who were our guests in Dubai, where they were impressed by our quality of service and value for money.
“So they decided to stick to the Jumeirah brand in other parts of the world, too.
“We are becoming a globally recognised brand and we have plans to expand to other countries,” said Lawrence.
The region as a whole, however, needs to do a lot more. In a recent ranking exercise of brands conducted by London-based research company Millward Brown, Google stood first among a list of 100 global brands, with Standard Chartered Bank occupying the last place. The other brands in the top five were General Electric, Microsoft, Coca Cola and China Mobile. Compared to the 2005 report by Brandchannel, Apple, which had come first in the earlier report ranked seven.
Ikea, which had come third, ranked 86 and Starbucks, which was fourth, ranked 56. However, the Top 100 in the Millward Brown ranking did not include a single brand from the Arab world. Indeed, the region was not even covered in the survey.
When Emirates Business contacted London-based company, Millward Brown, Miquet Humphryes, Global Communications and Marketing Manager, said: “Our data does not currently cover the Gulf region although we know there is a lot of development happening there. Hopefully we will include the region in the future.”
With the emergence of innovative and ambitious companies in the Arab world hungry for international recognition, that future most certainly will come soon.