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Mon 28 Oct 2019 10:20 AM

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Middle East missing opportunities for global brand diplomacy, says Badr Jafar

Speaking at the Arabian Business Forum in Dubai, Crescent Enterprises CEO Badr Jafar said that success can no longer be measured solely in terms of profitability

Middle East missing opportunities for global brand diplomacy, says Badr Jafar

Crescent Enterprises CEO Badr Jafar speaking at the Arabian Business Forum in Dubai. 

The Middle East is lagging behind in the rest of the world when it comes to global brands that can represent its values abroad, Crescent Enterprises CEO Badr Jafar said at the Arabian Business Forum in Dubai. 

In addition to being the head of Crescent Enterprises – a diversified global business headquartered in Sharjah – Jafar is the president of Crescent Petroleum, the region’s largest privately-owned petroleum company. 

In a keynote address at the event entitled “the true meaning of success”, Jafar said business success is no longer measured exclusively in terms of profitability. 

“Study after study confirms that millennials want to buy products and services with an authentic social purpose,” he said. “They want to experience a much deeper connection and relate on a human level to the brands that they endorse. Success today has a much broader meaning than it used to.” 

Successful brands, he added, have the power to build bridges and enhance the reputation of a particular ­­country abroad – a process he has termed “brand diplomacy”. 

Global reach

In the Middle East’s case, however, few brands have reached a stage in which they the global reach to touch the hearts and minds of international consumers. 

“Unfortunately, walk down any high street in the world’s major cities and you’ll be hard pressed to identify a single strong brand from the Arab region,” he added. 

In the latest edition of Brand Finance’s yearly report on the world’s 500 most valuable brands, not a single privately owned Middle Eastern brand is listed. In total, only three UAE brands – ADNOC, Etisalat and Emirates – are included, in addition to one from Saudi Arabia. 

“This is a huge missed opportunity,” Jafar said. ­­­­ “Nothing can shape the reputation of a country, or a people, more effortlessly, powerfully and authentically than a globally successful brand. 

As an example, he pointed to the United States and to Sweden, which has a population roughly comparable to that of the UAE. 

“You don’t need to visit Sweden to know that the Swedes are responsible for world changing brands like IKEA, Spotify, Volvo, and H&M, to name a few,” he said. “Why can’t our resource plenty region of 400 million people generate these kind of brand ambassadors?”

Book launch

At the Arabian Business Forum, Jafar officially launched a book – which he published in collaboration with ITP Media Group – entitled Born in the UAE: 50 Great Brands – that have the potential to be recognized on a global stage. The companies range from giants such as DP World to non-profits and events such as the Dubai World Cup and Sharjah Biennial. 

“Let’s face it. Our region isn’t really even in the game yet,” he added. “We simply aren't known enough for our strong products or our ‘people’ brands. This has to change, and fast.” 

Creating more global brands will eventually have a significant impact on global perceptions of the Middle East, he added. 

“If we aren’t out there creating more global brands in business, the arts, or any number of other fields, then we’re leaving the stage empty for trouble makers and tyrants to continue personifying the Middle East in the eyes of the world,” he said. “I know which story I’d rather be associated with.”

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