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Mon 12 Jan 2009 06:56 AM

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Mideast 'set to produce next group of global brands'

Brand consultancy chief says region should follow lead of firms like Emirates.

Brand consultancy Wolff Olins has claimed the region will be home to the next generation of global brands, as it opens its third global hub in Dubai amid an uncertain economic outlook.

The brand consultancy behind GE, London 2012 and Sony Ericsson said companies with a strong brand will be better placed to weather an economic downturn.

This means companies in the region will have to move beyond thinking of their brand as just a logo, managing partner Abed Bibi said.

“During the boom we only saw logos, and I used to call it sushi branding; you don’t know what is inside until you taste it. The brand must stand for something,” he said.

After an extended economic boom on the back of record oil prices, regional markets have matured, he believes.

“Branding is no longer just about a logo and advertising. Those days we think are gone.”

Bibi declined to name any weak brands in the region (“They might be my client one day”) but said Emirates is an example of a strong, global Arab brand.

Asked about launching in such an uncertain economic environment, he invoked the story of Leo Burnett, the advertising executive who created the Marlboro man and Tony the Tiger.

Burnett borrowed $50,000 on his life insurance and mortgaged his home to launch his advertising agency during the Great Depression.

When word got out that the newly launched agency was giving out apples for free to visitors, a newspaper columnist joked that it wouldn’t be long before Burnett was selling apples on the street.

Today there is a bowl of apples in the reception of every Leo Burnett office around the world.

“There are always opportunities, regardless of whether the market is going up or down,” Bibi said.

Wolff Olins, part of global advertising holding company Omnicom, employs 180 people in London and New York.