By Manar Al Hinai
Mohamad Musaed Al Robaian explains that the best bits about being a brand developer are getting a chance to tell stories, direct art, design, and do thoughts and things – ‘nouns’
Mohamad Musaed Al Robaian, a Kuwaiti brand developer and the founder of |done is a [noun]|, explains that the best bits about being a brand developer are getting a chance to tell stories, direct art, design, and do thoughts and things – ‘nouns’ – in addition to being forgiven for overdosing on coffee.
What is branding? Why is it so important?
Should you even consider it if your business solely operates on Instagram or Facebook? You may think why you would need to work on a logo if you do not have a physical store.
Think of branding as the soul of your brand, and an accumulation of everything your business stands for. Branding does not stop at logo design, but extends to all aspects, including your customer service, packaging, and how your products are photographed. It is what you promise to deliver, and how your customers perceive you.
In a world where social media and the Internet made it easier than ever for us to do business, it is very important to ensure that your business stands out from the crowd, and that you communicate your vision and promise properly through your branding and how you wish your customers to perceive you.
Mohamad Musaed Al Robaian is a Kuwaiti brand developer, doing thoughts and things. Prior to founding |done is a [noun]|, Al Robaian obtained a Master of Science in Brand Strategy degree from the VCU Brandcenter. Done working in New York and Los Angeles, he is now doing nouns and building brands wherever an opportunity may be.
If there is something that Mohamad is passionate about, then it would definitely be branding, and helping businesses create a unique identity that would distinguish them from their competitors.
At 28, his journey took him from working in the United States on interesting projects with clients, such as Google, back to his hometown in Kuwait, and now in Riyadh, where he currently resides.
In this interview, Al Robaian talks to us about the importance of branding, shares his expertise, and discusses the challenges that he faced while establishing a name for himself in the region.
First things first. What is the story behind your company’s name “|done is a [noun|]”?
|done is a [noun]| came about when I started thinking of what it was that I was doing and what would be done? It is a mission of showing everyone interested the creative process of turning thoughts into things. From a thought ‘idea’ to becoming an established ‘thing’ — i.e. a noun—a living entity with an identity capable of communicating ‘everything’ simply by existing.
In my own words, I would say: ‘From thoughts to things, from notes to nouns, I do things. When things are done this is where it all begins ‘when done’. It is a noun.’ Personally and professionally, I don’t see myself building brands as much as doing nouns, creating an existence for thoughts and things.
How did your business come about?
I was such a curious kid. I think my first words as a baby were either how or why. I love storytelling, daily dozing on details and taking imagination a bit too seriously. My business is all about that. I figured branding has my back on this and I can’t imagine waking up to do anything else.
How did living in the USA help you with your career?
I don’t like to over dramatise experiences, but to be quite honest it was almost everything. In New York I learned that opinions were allowed and that they needed to be loud. Working in Los Angeles showed me how to balance business and pleasure, and spending school years at the VCU Brandcenter in Richmond Virginia taught me to accept hard work with an easy mind.
You were based in Kuwait, but now you have moved to Saudi Arabia. Could you tell us why did you do that?
I always love to challenge myself. Living away from home is definitely a character builder. I didn’t want to move too far this time but I still want to keep challenging myself. Saudi Arabia is a great option for me, especially Riyadh, because I have spent years surrounded by my fellow Saudi friends across states in the USA.
I also discovered I had some relatives. I have grown fond of the people and the city. Now, if we are talking business, Saudi Arabia is booming with business development, a high literacy rate, a high purchase power, and an extremely powerful “every media” engagement rate. People here want to learn. They appreciate business and can meanwhile crack a joke. I love it here! I am a short flight away from Kuwait and far enough to challenge myself.
What challenges have you faced that have moulded how you now work?
Being a Kuwaiti has helped me become a free thinker and a practitioner of free speech. Working with clients can sometimes be a bit too challenging. I have learned to always speak my mind and mind what others say enough to listen and just enough to convince listeners.
I remember starting in the business thinking a ‘NO’ from clients is a result. Very soon, I discovered that any ‘NO’ is most likely a reluctant ‘YES!’
In my field it is all about thoughts and theory, clients need to be convinced, sometimes re-convinced and walked through to absorb unorthodox ideas. Safety is a big priority for many clients which sometimes hinders them from sailing or hardly moving forward. My job in most meetings is to unleash these ropes and set them free. Risks are not always a bad thing! Sometimes my persuasive skills work and other times... oh well, let’s just say that I never hear back from some of them again.
What do your services involve and who do you work with mainly?
As a brand developer I borrow psychology, sociology, art and vocabulary to develop an identity for an entity. Sometimes it is a product, a place, a person or a service. In practical terms, |done is a [noun]| provides clients with branding and marketing consultations alongside full brand identity development services for both new brands and rebranding practices to reach and remain in this ever-changing industry.
Though the GCC is small geographically, do you find that your clients’ requirements differ from country to country?
Since it has become somewhat of a trend for us Khaleejis to hop over to other GCC countries on weekends, our taste has become somewhat common. Also, expectations have risen as well, and the benchmark of creativity has become highly competitive, which is a great thing! I am witnessing similarities, not differences. Proximity, social media and easy access have shaped the standards and mind-sets of our region.
In a world where a lot of businesses are based on social media solely, how important is branding?
Simply put, everything that can be thought, viewed, argued, and shared about your business is your brand. It is your concept, culture, name, design, and structure. Most importantly, it is the story you tell to everyone when you have ‘literally’ spoken to no one.
How do you see the GCC start-up scene evolving and do you think that businesses are paying more attention to branding and marketing?
I am so thankful that my field is now starting to become more recognised. I am thrilled to witness it become a substantial topic in almost all business meetings. From CEOs to juniors and assistants, branding and the subject of brand identity have become a matter that matters.
I remember when I left the United States, I had to explain to many people that a brand is not just a name nor a logo. Branding is not a bonus, it is a business and a serious one too! In just a year or two, with the rise of SMEs, branding finally became visible on budget lists.
It has become respected and acknowledged. Creating a solid brand identity is a ‘Point A’ for all businesses. Investing in it is just common sense. I hope to see common sense become more common.