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Sun 14 Mar 2010 08:18 AM

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The power of believing

Alex Andarakis on why the next 18 months will be a great test of endurance and belief.

If we have learnt anything over the past two years, we have learnt that in true adversity, we see the emergence and strength of great leaders, great relationships and ultimately in the field of marketing, great brands and corporations.

Over the past decade in the Middle East, leaders and management have been disappointed with growth levels below 10% per annum, and so they should have been, but today, in the period of ‘Managing The Fade’ leaders and management are discovering just how robust and sustainable their strategies were during those golden years of growth and prosperity.

Back in January 2006, in an article that I wrote for Arabian Business magazine ‘The Pitfalls Of Prosperity’, I urged leaders to focus on managing costs, managing expectations and getting their organizations ‘Fit for Growth’. The request was aimed at ensuring companies were ‘right sized’ at the ‘right time’ to ensure that whatever the economic conditions threw at them, they could manage and prosper, not just survive! In what was initially seen as an unpopular decision, this ‘right sizing at the right time’ approach that we initiated at Aujan Industries, helped that company self fund their explosive sales growth across the GCC, Iran and Iraq, and ultimately achieve their ‘555 Strategy’ ahead of plan, with all financial parameters delivered.

Countries, corporations, products, services and individuals are all brands, and the key differentiating element which separates the great from the good, and the good from the bad is the depth of belief amongst their followers. The ability to deliver superb innovation, value for money, customer service, and ultimately trust are core benefits which engage customers and consumers alike, but how many of our countries, corporations, products, services and individuals are displaying these traits?

My own experiences have created power brands that I will never walk away from, including Emaar, because I do not live in an artists impression, BMW, because of their unrivalled value for money and service plan, Nokia, for their continuous improvement program and value for money on their handsets, but the one area of disappointment and therefore opportunity within this region for someone to capture is through customer service. My gold standard on this platform is Etihad, Airlines, who not only met but exceeded my expectations on my recent trip back home to Australia.

It is no surprise however that the power corporations and brands of the past five years have suffered. Just how poor have the majority of property development companies and financial organizations been in managing the despair of the customers they spent millions of dirhams enticing to ‘out of this world’ exhibitions and events, as well as through multi million dirham advertising campaigns during 2002-2008? In many of these cases, the trust has been compromised, and the belief amongst their followers has disappeared. As Patrick Hanlon wrote in his book, ‘Primal Branding’, great brands have developed and maintained an unbreakable DNA, focused around a compelling ‘Creation Story’, a ‘Creed’ which drives what you want people to believe about your brand, ‘Icons’ which create recognition without explicit over promotion, ‘Rituals’ which create touch points with the customer and set you apart from your competition, ‘Sacred Words’ which create a language that only those who belong will understand, and a ‘Leader’ who epitomizes the vision and passion of the brand which connects not only from a functional level but also on an emotional level. Added to this is a clear understanding that each brand has a set of ‘Non Believers’, and the task is to focus on what drives followers, strengthen that relationship and hope that you create invitation for ‘Non Believers’ to trial and consider your brand proposition. Each element of our Marketing engagement plan must keep these elements of DNA in mind in order for brands to gain leverage and belief!

The next 18 months will be a great test of endurance and belief in our adopted region. I, for one continue to have strong belief that the UAE will not only survive this period, but will emerge stronger than ever. The region has world class attractions, envious weather, unparalleled leisure and entertainment facilities, a zero direct tax regime, strong leadership, a safe and diverse environment to raise families, and most of all a strong and now battle trained pool of human resource talent to lead the regeneration of industry in the region.

We are in exciting times, filled with opportunity for those who believe, and value for those who know which strategies will create ‘forever’ followers!

Arabian Business digital magazine: read the latest edition online

Kaptain 10 years ago

Amazing how colourful the author is in his optimism. Emergence of the markets of UAE depends on correct derivatives and indicators. Not just optimism. What is the action plan..? What shall be next power-industry which has to drive 'followers' if there are any around..?

Ben Dover 10 years ago

What a load of dribble, these "Brand Gurus" sound as cheesy as a used car salesman. keep patting yourself on the back while you get paid a big fat paycheck for continually screwing up the once faithful "followers".