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Marketers can sometimes create a powerful influence over customers by taking advantage of their believes and practiced rituals.

So if I want to sell you a bottle of juice and convince you that it is good for your blood pressure, bones, aging skin, hair, and the bonus, it helps you lose weight! Then, this is how it gonna be:

  • Give it a strange name, and preferably a name of something real, rare, and its benefits have never been scientifically proven. So try a fruit name from South America!
  • It should be pricy; you know, scarce stuff cost!
  • It should not be available everywhere. Choose only some big stores as your distribution outlets; or better yet, try phone and home visiting marketing techniques!
  • Now the big trick! To convince people that a singe kind of unknown drink can virtually solve all their health problems, they better perceive it as some kind of medicine! So regardless of the fact that you are selling it as 100% natural juice, you better convince them that they need to take it in dosages. You know, small spoon before breakfast, and one after sleep, I mean before sleep! That would emphasis the image of a medicine, wouldn’t it?
  • Give them an extended period of time to start noticing changes. Again, to start noticing!  Something like a month could be good! And hey, if it did not work, they must have done something wrong, maybe did not commit to the precise dosages or times of taking the medicine, I mean the juice!

p.s. this post is based on a true story!

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[picapp align=”center” wrap=”false” link=”term=iPhone+4&iid=9199086″ src=”http://view1.picapp.com/pictures.photo/image/9199086/customer-displays-iphone/customer-displays-iphone.jpg?size=500&imageId=9199086″ width=”380″ height=”253″ /]I really hope some undercover Apple agents were present yesterday around the retail stores of the phone company that officially released the iPhone 4 in Saudi.

The scene of customers, all types of them: technical savvy, young, mature, students, and employees, all waiting in lines for hours to have the chance to get their hands on that magical device called iPhone 4 is an indication that Apple products are having a good opportunity to grow even bigger in the Saudi market (read more about it in this Saudi Mac post).

So the logical question in such situation would be: how come that a central country in the region with a huge fan base (and huge disposal income!) does not have a direct presence  in the form of Apple Stores or at least a certified representative! To get an answer to such question, a one should be able to penetrate the Apple management minds, which is not a very wise nor save thing to do?!

By choosing not to be in the Saudi scene, Apple has allowed its products and its prices to be manipulated in the market and its fans to be taken advantage of (a friend told today that he knows someone who bought an iPhone4 before it was released in Saudi for about SAR7000 = $1866.5). And let’s not start talking about warranties and technical support.

Will Apple ever listen to its Saudi fans? lets wait and see …

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[picapp align=”center” wrap=”false” link=”term=Holiday+shopping&iid=230947″ src=”http://view.picapp.com/pictures.photo/image/230947/holidays-occasions/holidays-occasions.jpg?size=500&imageId=230947″ width=”500″ height=”333″ /]

One or two days to the Eid; hope you all have a happy holiday. And now be honest, how many times have you been out shopping for Eid?

There is something I am not quite getting about the retail markets in Saudi. Most of the countries around the world have organized sales seasons. You most probably heard about the US’s Black Friday and such. The concept behind such seasons is strictly simple; as holidays are getting nearer and people wants new stuff to own and to gift, prices are slashed to attract customers and drive sales. Simple, right!

Now when it comes to Saudi, it is a bit strange. Sales are coming on and off all the year long without prior notice. That’s till shopping season really starts which is mainly before Eid Al Fiter. Once started, prices hike almost exponentially!!! (if you want another point of view on the sales and shopping experience in Saudi, Jeddah in particular,  you may want to check out this audio blog from That Jeddah Podcast.)

Not only that, there is another tactics usually used by most retailers in the market. Just before Ramadan and during its first days, the flashy signs of ‘sales up to 50%, 60%, 70%, etc’ start to pop up everywhere. Now, if you ever shopped during this period, you will know that it is a mess. You cannot find all the things you want. It’s old merchandise, few pieces, and out of stock sizes! And just few days before Eid, all the new lines of merchandise are offered and prices more than doubled.

The strange thing is that customers are adapting and getting along with these tactics or how can you explain the crowded malls just two days before Eid!!??

So when most countries choose sales seasons based on holidays, retailers around here choose to charge more … and more!

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[picapp align=”left” wrap=”true” link=”term=airlines&iid=292693″ src=”http://view1.picapp.com/pictures.photo/image/292693/airplane-over-runway/airplane-over-runway.jpg?size=500&imageId=292693″ width=”234″ height=”350″ /]The Saudi low budget Sama Airlines is suspending its operations in the Kingdom starting today until further notice.

Should this be a surprise? I would say: No, it was expected!

The whole scene of civil aviation industry in Saudi does not look that good. Whether we are talking airports or airliners, It is a mess, to say the least!

Operating an airlines is a tough business, no doubt about it. Lots of head to head competition and very turbulent business environment. And when you are working in a messy market like the one both Sama and Nas had stepped in, the situation becomes even harder.

I am not sure what kind of business plans they had both studied to reach the decision that the Saudi market is an attractive investment opportunity. Maybe by only looking at the status of Saudia and how almost all Saudis agree that it suck! the idea of having a second airlines should’ve looked appealing. The fact of the matter is that Saudia is a company both owned and supported by the government. And what makes it even worse for commercial activities in such market is when the regulator (GACA in this situation) does not provide any guarantees to protect the fairness of competition. Maybe the new comers received some promises, but businesses are not usually built on promises, they are built on facts, at least when it comes to the market environment.

Now both of the companies are waiting for the promises to be fulfilled especially for fueling prices. It could be a tactic played by Sama to get the attention of higher authorities although it is a hugely damaging move to the company name (especially that Nas did not play along, if it was a tactic!!)

It is another sad story added to the book of sad stories of Saudi airlines business!!

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[picapp align=”center” wrap=”false” link=”term=google+logo&iid=7459154″ src=”http://view2.picapp.com/pictures.photo/image/7459154/the-google-logo-shown/the-google-logo-shown.jpg?size=500&imageId=7459154″ width=”380″ height=”245″ /]

I believe that there are a lot of things we could learn from Google even when they take a wrong step and make a wrong decision!

About a year ago, Google introduced a new product called “Google Wave” which was presented as the new and revolutionary way to communicate online. It combined instant messaging, documents sharing, emails, and many other features that promised instant interaction on the network.

Few days ago, Google decided to stop developing “Wave” as a single product; simply, It did not accomplish its targeted goals!

Here are some Google lessons:

  • The company that does not fear innovation is the same company that does not fear setbacks. There is no doubt that Google spent a lot of resources on “Wave” and was, in a way or another, betting that it will change the online interactive scene. But the moment it felt that the product is not harmonious with customers, the company had the gut to stop it!
  • A message to customers; we are here to serve you. We thought that a new product will be beneficial to you all, but once we sensed that you did not like it, we stopped it and we are working on something else to meet (or exceed!) your expectations.
  • A message to employees; the company is ready to believe in and support your innovative ideas. We are ready to accept the risks to make a difference in our customers lives. And if that idea did not make it, we are ready to accept the consequences. Just go there and bring us some fresh and innovative ideas.

All in all, innovation management does not mean that all ideas should be introduced to the market without proper market analysis, but it certainly means that a company should know when to retreat and learn its lesson instead of being stubborn and start losing customers loyalty.

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[picapp align=”left” wrap=”true” link=”term=grocery+shopping&iid=5210525″ src=”http://view1.picapp.com/pictures.photo/image/5210525/products-shelves/products-shelves.jpg?size=500&imageId=5210525″ width=”234″ height=”311″ /]Few days to Ramadan and the consumerism carnival has already started. Consumers, retailers, and the Ministry of Commerce and its monitoring bodies are the usual triangle sides of the price hiking struggle and debate; who did what to whom!!

One of the strangest analyses that popped out this year came from ‘an official’ at Jeddah Chamber of Commerce and Industry (JCCI) according to Arab News (here) The manager of the Corporate Social Responsibility at the JCCI is saying that the consumers themselves are the problem of any prices hikes because, those bad consumers, have brand loyalty!!!! He is also adding that there is no need for any prices monitoring systems, and assures us all that the Saudi market is one of the most open markets in the world, even more open than the West!!

I am not sure how Mr. Official understands the concepts of brand loyalty, consumer protection, and open markets but here are some comments:

  • When consumers trust a brand and develop some kind of attachment to it, then it should be their own choice to continue with it or not if the brand owner decided to increase the price for any reasons (e.g. manufacturing costs, new features, raw materials cost, etc). But when the prices increase not because of the brand owner but because of other factors in the local supply or distribution chains, then whose responsibility is this? And even more, what if the brand owner is a local who takes advantages of different seasons to increase prices without any reasonable justifications, whose responsibility is this?
  • There are no contradictions whatsoever between free markets and consumer protection activities. Not only that, I can take it a step further and argue that, consumer protection groups are major signs of a truly free market!
  • Prices monitoring is one of many responsibilities of consumer protection groups. Quality checks, fighting monopolies, be the channel of communication between the customers and other governmental bodies are all examples of such activities. Again, how all these activities contradicts free and open markets??

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For any business owner or leader out there; the moment of truth kinda of question could be the following one asked by Jim Collins (according to this HBR blog post):

If your company went out of business tomorrow, would anybody really miss it and why?

Although it’s a simple question, its answer contains the essence of the organization, its soul, and its whole purpose of being alive and competing in the market. If a leader or a number of executives failed to answer such question, then there must be something wrong!

[picapp align=”right” wrap=”true” link=”term=confused+woman&iid=5191135″ src=”http://view3.picapp.com/pictures.photo/image/5191135/close-young-woman-with-her/close-young-woman-with-her.jpg?size=500&imageId=5191135″ width=”234″ height=”234″ /]There are some interesting points the blog post is referring to in case a leader wants to know why his/her company should be missed. But let’s look at it from the other way around. Let’s see it through the eyes of you; the customer. Think for a moment of a company that you will be really missing if you heard now that it will be a history starting from tomorrow, and why would you miss it?

If you honestly answer this question, your answers will be almost the same as those mentioned in the HBR post, the answers that every business leaders should be aspiring to and working on having in his/her company.

Allow me to be the first to start … These are my choices:

  • Starbucks: This is by far my most favorite brand in the world. You could even say that I am emotionally connected to it. Noting that I am neither a heavy coffee drinker nor someone who spend a lot of times in coffee shops. But I admire it because I feel that they care. They care about the quality of their products and the quality of the services they are providing.
  • Sony: The Japanese electronic manufacturer will be my second choice. I trust whatever products they’re producing. Whenever I see Sony, I see high quality.
  • P&G: Proctor & Gamble, the known FMCG manufacturer. There are no choices whenever that one of the products to be choosing from carries this company name. They have a vast range of brands under P&G, and they are all my first choices especially in Health & Well being and Household care categories.

Now, what are your favorite brands and why?

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