Businesses operating in today’s competitive landscape cannot rely solely on their legacy. Having an established presence may give a firm an edge but having a clear corporate identity plays a significant role in identifying with consumers.
UAE companies seem to have realized this and the central role their brand image plays in connecting with a new “socially connected” audience. Whether it is a drastic rebranding campaign – as in the case of Grand Cinemas announcing its transformation to Novo Cinemas – or a more natural “evolutionary” change in logo, businesses are responding to the changing needs of their customers.
“There is a natural evolution in the region in understanding brands from a more customer-centric point of view,” says Steve Haysom, CEO of branding and digital communication agency Omnia. “In the UAE, with the Expo 2020 coming up, people are more aware of their brand and the communication needed to make that work.”
Late last year, retail conglomerate Majid Al Futtaim announced a $5 billion investment plan in moving towards a new brand direction, aimed at uniting its diverse group of companies. Meanwhile, Grand Cinemas change to Novo Cinemas in May came as part of a regional expansion strategy by parent company q.media. In the banking sector, Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank has been mulling the idea of dropping ‘Islamic’ from its name to attract more regional customers – a move already made by banks like Noor Islamic Bank (now Noor Bank). With these changes happening across the board, the UAE also played host to the region’s inaugural Transform MENA awards, aimed at celebrating outstanding strategic rebranding. Omnia bagged a gold prize for its work on rebranding the Kuwait-based Al Fajr Re to Emirates RE when it shifted location to Dubai International Financial Centre.
Haysom notes that the reasons a business may decide to undergo a rebrand can vary. It can reflect a change in management in which case the new board may want to have their own strategic ideas put in place. Additionally, firms may want to highlight additional services they are offering (especially in the case of big family-owned businesses that operate in multiple industries).
“From an image perspective, a company may also have a natural inclination to update if their brand appears a bit old and tired,” he adds.
However, he points out that a change in branding requires careful consideration and depends on a process that requires research. “We advise our clients not to rebrand on a whim. They need to understand why and this goes back to understanding what the business strategy is. If there is a genuine case in updating communication, then it’s worth considering.” The investment can also be considerable depending on the size of the organization.
Changing a brand’s identity goes beyond a newly designed logo, it reflects a change in company goals and culture and a successful campaign relies on the firm’s ability to convey that to its audience. “A change in identity can also be more subtle [and can be about] repositioning the company. It reflects a change in values and company culture. All of these things go into the rebrand,” adds Haysom.