June 28th, 2006 Humeid
Brands: they have evolved from simple labels stuck on commodities to elaborate expressions of corporate culture, and, some would even argue, an expression of societal culture as well. Global brands are also an expression of the strength of their countries of origin in the global market.
Japan is Sony. Korea is Hyundai. Germany is Mercedes, America is Microsoft. France is Peugeot. Sweden is Saab. Italy is Vespa. China is Huawei or Haier. Taiwan is Acer. I could go on.
So what is an Arab brand of global significance. Hmm. Is there any?
Al Jazeera often comes to mind when this issue is discussed. And with the imminent launch of Al Jazeera International (how imminent nobody seems to know) Al Jazeera’s international brand will be strengthened further. But there is a problem with this brand. It loses money (or break even as its manager would like to say). It has risen to prominence on the back of crises in the Arab world and Afghanistan (just like CNN rose to prominence on the back of the first Gulf War).
So for now, Al Jazeera is not a money maker and is actually having trouble signing up advertisers as well as cable and satellite distribution in the US. One could argue that the BBC is not advertising based and is government funded too. That’s a valid argument. The BBC is definitely a strong global brand. So it remains to be seen whether Al Jazeera can make the jump from ‘controversial’ to ‘accepted’ in the coming years.
So what else does the Arab world have in the field of global brands? Not much.
Watching the world cup games in Germany gives you a good overview of the global brand map. From the top of my mind I can remember Toshiba, Yahoo, Coca Cola, Budweiser, Avaya (what the heck does Avaya do?) and the lone ranger from the lands (or shall I say skies) of Arabia: Emirates Airlines.
Here is a brand strong enough and rich enough to play with the big boys on the world cup pitch. Emirates is the expression of the rise of Dubai. It has achieved global recognition by delivering high standard services and strong marketing efforts.
One could say that Qatar Airways is also trying to be there on the global stage. But in my assessment, the more mature Emirates is far ahead of it.
Sadly, the Arab’s global brand, Emirates, is also a reflection of the fact that Arab nations have no significance when it comes to brands that are based on technical innovation. Emirates’ planes, computer systems and even a good part of their staff are imported ‘resources’. Whereas brands like Microsoft or Apple are not based not just on great service and marketing, but on R&D and invention.
Future Arab candidates for global brand prominence? Emaar (again from Dubai). Orascom (mobile operator from Egypt, although it’s a business to business brand that consumers are not aware of), Aramex (originally from Jordan).
If you have any candidates let us know.