What is a brand? A very strange question especially that it is coming from a person that is a scholar and teaches this subject?
No really, what is a brand? You would say Luise Voiton, Channel, Apple, Porsche, Mercedes, Ritz Carlton! Heinz baked beans etc. now why did these names come to your mind? Because they signify a certain image, quality, superiority, length of time in the market and always providing great products in the same expected quality. Of course one would argue that Toyota is also a brand, so is Nissan, and many others that have been in the market for a long time and have similar criteria to the ones mentioned above? Absolutely true, however many would say that high price is the most significant of all the criterion.
So let’s sum up, a brand is a product or a service that has been there for a long time, always in excellent quality, always brings new models that are even more superior, known in the whole world and has a high price? Agreed?
Now this is a generalised statement about brands, what I would like to indulge in now is brands in our country. What would you say is the brands in the UAE? Burj Alarab? Burj Khalifa? Ajmal Purfumes? My fair lady Abayas? Mall of the Emirates? What else? Come on think? Well, there are not really many that would fit my definition above.
Firstly the length of time, UAE is only fourty years old, and frankly, most of the entrepreneurial activities have only started then, so we do not have anything that is a 100 years old! Secondly Quality, ok all the ones mentioned here actually satisfy this criterion, but still you may find the odd incident that can damage a decade of high quality (the main reason here is that the people that work in the UAE are not always here so new people coming in to work will need time to learn, and in between can make a hell of a mistake, this fact is actually a research question by itself). Thirdly, price, one would argue that everything is expensive in the UAE? So at least this criterion is fulfilled. Fourthly, new models every year, that too can be argued that it is there. But are we known in the world? Well Dubai is a brand that is known in the world, but once e tourists come here they are stunned by the problems that they may face in hotels, restaurants, faulty products, not seeing the real face of an Arab country, so we did sell Dubai, but we didn’t insist on what we should do to make the client a loyal client, who is always going to visit.
So we only have less than half the qualities to be a brand known in the world.
Enough negativity Suad, go to the positives. Ok, this whole thing is brought about when The Shelter hosted few entrepreneurs from Dubai who started something and were upset that no one respects local brands including the authorities themselves, for example these brands will not be allowed to have a space in a large shopping mall like Mall of the Emirates, Dubai Mall or city centre. One of the brands that were on the panel was Jumeirah, yes Jumeirah the hotels, the restaurants, the outlets, the group that is owned by Sheikh Mo. arguably Jumeirah is a brand, it has been there for a length of time, is high quality, is priced to kill, is known in the whole world and is consistant in having new models and additions. So Jumeirah was the devils advocate, every time the other young brands complain, Jumeirah contradicts and says that it didn’t face that.
So, I paused the classic question, why doesn’t a brand like Jumeirah house these young local brands, for encouragement sake? A question that only sheikh Mo can answer, as certainly the big guy who came to brag about Jumeirah was stunned when he was asked to answer this particular question.
I must talk about a seminar that I had attended with Dubai Women councel, chaired by the Charismatic Raja Algurg; in that seminar the speakers were for
Om a Swiss bank discussing an idea for investments, and we’re trying to convince us the Women to go for it and invest in it. The idea was to have a portfolio of stocks of famous brands in the world, like the ones I mentioned earlier and to let us invest in the stocks of the likes of Cartier, Christian dior etc, to gain a minimum of 12% a year. Of course I didn’t invest, as I don’t have money set aside waiting to hear about a certain opportunity and grabbing it. But the other women were certainly interested. Again being me, I said to the women (the bank hated me for this comment of course, like the guy from Jumeirah) why don’t you invest in the local small businesses, as they will provide you more than 35% profits??? I started to explain how micro financing is so vital to the country and that Smal businesses are the backbone of every society, the largest employer, the least time waster, the fighter for its existence, the future of a brand to be born. If incubated and looked after it should sustain itself, provide self esteem to those that started it, and huge gains to those that invested in it. Not sure if any of you had watched the BBC Programme called “dragon’s den” if not please do it will explain what I mean.
As the arabic saying goes, there is no life to that that you are calling “لا حياه لمن تنادي”
Anyway, if I was rich, and I am sure I will be one day, once discovered by whoever that discovers people and put them in the forefront, I will start an Arab dragon’s den. Watch this space.