Posts Tagged ‘Branding’

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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I have a confession to make. and if, by any chance, Steve Jobs is reading this; I am sorry!

I have been a long time advocate of Microsoft and I hated the gut of Apple before even trying it!

My reasoning was simple, we would not know the world as we know it today without Microsoft Windows and Office, and that is partially true even after my confession. In other words, I was feeling gratitude toward Microsoft more than being happy with its system quality. I was not looking at its shortcomings, I was looking more to its role in my daily life.

Anyway, before this get very sentimental … this post is neither about Microsoft nor Apple. It is about our psychological attachments to certain brands.

There is something in marketing called ‘the switching cost;’ They are the costs a person, or even an organization, has to pay when deciding to choose another product, supplier, service, etc. The cost here should not be only thought of in terms of financial means. Beside money, there is time, efforts, and there is physiological costs as well. And to make things clearer, think of switching from a phone brand to another. You have to spend some time learning and getting familiar with the new brand.This is a switching cost right there and some people might not be willing to deal with.

Psychological switching cost or barrier, plain and simple, is anything a brand does in an attempt to relate to its customers. This will turn into feelings such as admiration, respect, love, …, etc in the customer minds. And eventually, customer will get attached to the brand because of these feelings. The touch of a product, the smell, the quality, or customer service, all these are examples of investments that can be made to create the required psychological switching barrier.

So the next time you are drafting your branding strategy, or planning an advertisement campaign, you better not only think about customers buying more of your products, but how customers will never think of switching to your competitor. Not only having more customer attention through the ads, but having more customers relating to your brand through these ads.

Now, If you look around, you might find something that you are psychologically attached to; maybe the perfume that makes you feel sexy and mysterious when wearing it, a clothing brand that adds elegance to your personality, what about the brand of your laptop, or the type of the car you are driving.

So, do you have any confession to make 🙂 … share it with the rest of us …

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I took this picture while waiting on a traffic light (you may want to click on it to have a better look). And that is what caught me eye in it:

  • It is a branded car for the ‘Saudi Automatic Laundry’, let me emphasis on the word “Saudi”. Now the question is: what is the blond guy wearing the none traditional Saudi costume doing in a supposedly Saudi laundry!
  • The print on the car is almost fading away and the car itself is not clean; but this is another story and may be another blog post.

It could be argued here that this is not a big deal; it is a laundry service for the God sake!And we all know that laundry services in Saudi do not give a damn about branding! And this is, unfortunately, true but it is not the point!

The point is just a reminder of how the logo, name, slogan, fonts, colors, and ad pictures of a particular business should all contribute to create a brand, or to be more accurate, to create a part of the brand personality (there are a lot of other things to do to build a brand!) Each and every one of these aspects create associations in the mind of the customer and those associations will determine how he/she would relate to the brand.

Great businesses, no matter small or big sized, take care of these small details when crafting their images and building their brands. That’s why Apple will never use an orange photo on its packages, Fedex will never use a turtle as a mascot, and you will never see an ad for Porsche without seeing it racing the winds!

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Smart organizations understand their environments. They know which buttons to press, which issues to tackle, and even which games to play!
And when it comes to Saudi, there is nothing better than the subject of religion to be hovering around. And this is exactly what Al Bilad Bank is doing with its new campaign ‘the service and the Sharia’ah (the Islamic law) are a whole thing that cannot be separated.’ ~ I have to admit that I do not totally get the meaning of this tag line!

Choosing to position itself as an Islamic bank is OK from the concept point of view. However, they should not be over thrilled by betting on it! I believe the Saudi banking sector has matured, for some extent at least, and passed the phase of competing solely on being Islamic; all Saudi banks are now providing some sort of Islamic banking for that matter. Customers satisfaction, competitive financial offerings, technological implementation, and the whole service experience have all been part of the modern Saudi banking picture. For that, It feels like Al Bilad is just positioning itself based on something obvious, something given; and this is not a very good marketing technique anyway.

I believe, among others, that if you want to be successful you have to be somehow unique and distinguishable. I am not saying Al Bilad should reinvent the banking industry (although there is no harm in that; if they could!) but they should be innovative in their approach to brand the bank.

Despite all of that, the execution of the marketing campaign itself lacks creativity and originality. Both TV and printed ads are typical, state nothing new, boring, and carry no message. Additionally, and this could be more of a personal taste, the guy featured in them is creepy!! I mean his face is consuming more than half the space on the streets billboards and, boy oh boy, is there something really scary about his eyes! and did I mention that he looks like a robot!!
Finally, I have to state that I do not know anyone working in Al Bilad, I do not have an account over there, and this post has not been influenced by a third party.

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[picapp align=”left” wrap=”true” link=”term=customer+service&iid=5066730″ src=”f/0/b/c/Male_market_stallholder_2156.jpg?adImageId=8812254&imageId=5066730″ width=”234″ height=”351″ /]I have been to Subway yesterday, the known food chain. I am not sure if you ever noticed what is written on the t-shirts of the gentlemen preparing the sandwiches, it is saying ‘I’m a Subway certified sandwich artist.’ Let me put it this way; isn’t that cool!!

Even if we can arguably say that anybody can actually make a sandwich, I still felt that this guy behind the counter knows what he is doing, he must have been through some kind of highly intelligent sandwich making training program (OK … this is a bit far!!).  In all cases, I believe this is part of the message the organization is trying to convey, it is part of their brand image that they want to stamp on the memories of their customers.

The other part of the message is internal to the organization. It is used as a way of motivation and loyalty fostering. It is about creating the feel of belonging, whether you are preparing sandwiches in Jeddah, London, Paris or New York, you are a subway sandwich artist.

Subway is not the only organization that has a naming system for its staff. Starbucks employees are called ‘Partners,’ and Apple stores have what they like to call ‘Geniuses’ (again … isn’t that really cool!!).

Quite the opposite, it is really sad to notice that there are companies that use the naming system in a totally different way. I’ve heard number of stories about local managers who like to shout in their subordinated faces with stuff like ‘punch of lazy morons’ and ‘herd of cattle.’

Now, do you have a naming system at your organization or at any one that you know of …

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Using humor in advertisements is not new but always controversial. For supporters, humor advertisements grab attention and foster brand recognition and loyalty. While those not in favor of the idea are always arguing that not all people have a sense of humor. Any unbalanced attempt to be funny could cost you a lot and simply back fire on your brand and products.

In the Saudi market, I am not sure I can recall an ad that was both funny and affective in delivering a certain message. I am even afraid that some local companies push it too far that you cannot even get the ‘joke’ or how it is related to the brand in any way.

Having said that, it is fair to say that Egyptian marketers have always been known for their own school of humor advertising. However, in a lot of cases, the focus on the joke itself outweighed the message they are trying to deliver. In other words, sometimes you can remember the joke but you are not sure what the ad was for exactly!!

In the following, I am bringing you number of brilliant ads that I believe their creators had successfully blended humor with effective branding messages. These ads are part of Intel ‘Sponsors of Tomorrow’ campaign. And of course when you think of Intel, technological advancements and geeky staff should be natural images descending to mind. Beside the elegant execution of the ads (e.g. the setups, the camera angles, etc…), Intel has been successful communicating through these ads that ‘we are different’, ‘we actually live in the world of tomorrow,’ and ‘although we are geeky enough to live in this tomorrow world, we are still human and doing human stuff!’

I find the last message to be very intriguing; Intel is known for manufacturing those powerful electronic processors making your computers alive. Let’s be honest, how are you going to emotionally engage with your customers featuring images of such product in ads?! Beside stating the obvious that their products are affecting your life in so many ways; they used a remarkable tactic to show you that the people bringing you this technology are like me and you; normal people. And guess what, they are happy doing whatever they are doing.

However, there is only one thing that I did not like about the ads; how they finish? The voice those people are trying to do is really noisy and just feels out of the place!!

Now watch the ads and tell me what came to your mind while watching them?






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In the title of this post, I am mimicking the title of the infamous business book ‘Who Says Elephants Can’t Dance? Inside IBM’s Historic Turnaround’ by Louis Grestner. The author was the chairman of the board and CEO of the well known international giant IBM from 1993 up to 2002. In this book, he is telling the story of reviving ‘the elephant’ that was going through a near death experience.

Anyway, I won’t be talking about IBM. I already changed the title to camels, right! And by that I mean our big, boring, weak, slow and dull company; ladies and gentlemen, please allow me to introduce the camels of the show, Saudi Airlines!!

[picapp align=”right” wrap=”true” link=”term=Airplanes&iid=171647″ src=”0168/f13544a3-f988-4cf8-8d9c-43fa5bcc69c9.jpg?adImageId=8485395&imageId=171647″ width=”234″ height=”124″ /]Don’t you just love Saudi Airlines. They give you all the reasons to love hating them! I bet my last can of soda (it is getting expensive and I am starting a healthy program any way!) that you are bored to death of Saudi Airlines stories. But you better bear with me; I have another story for you; a story about how a company does not respect its customers. Whilst most companies work hard to make you fall in love with them; Saudi Airlines work harder to earn your hatred!  And if you are wondering why I chose this particular post title! Wait till the end …

For my trip to China last month; I made the mistake of using Saudi Airlines. Internationally, I used Cathay Pacific; from Riyadh to Hong Kong, but I made the mistake from Jeddah to Riyadh. On my way back from China, Jeddah flood had already taken place and the robustness of the Saudi Airline’s IT network had already been exposed. I am trying to suppress the engineer in me from taking over this post and describing how lousy a network would be without the A-B-C of  technical building designing and 101 of  network protection (wait a minute; it does not even take an engineer to figure out that there is something called back up.)

Anyway, when I landed in Riyadh, there were about 90 minutes before my next flight to Jeddah. I do not want to bother you with the details. I am sure you already been through some of them. Simply put, the terminal area was a mess. A lot of flights have been canceled (including my own) and some people were camping at the airport for more than 12 hours. The funny thing was that no one from Saudia staff was able to answer any inquiry from passengers. They kept repeating ‘I do not know’ and ‘this is not my problem.’ Even more, one of those managers with the nice Saudia suit and tie said, and this is a direct quote, ‘I do not know anything, I am just coming from home after being asleep for the whole day.’ Just to double confirm, this was a direct quote!

Interestingly, three flights to Jeddah have been canceled and surprise … surprise, they only have one airplane that can go to Jeddah. So Saudia came with a very innovative idea to solve the problem. They asked, do I have to say very rudely, everybody to stand in a line (I was one of the lucky people standing up front). Of course that took some time and when all passengers stood in line; the show began. Another Saudia manager stood there and started shouting ‘families … families … come here’ … >>> I will leave the mental image for you to draw your own conclusions!!

The end of the story that I was lucky enough to be among the few who found a seat after the airplane has been filled with families. And I won’t start talking about the 2 hours in the plane waiting for Saudia to load the baggage manually for each and every passenger!!

Should I comment on customer service, customer respect, brand image, brand values, service processes, etc … I won’t,  because I am sure you got the picture.

Now, why the title of this post has been influenced by the famous book about reviving a company? The answer is that I really wish that, someday, a book will be written by some Saudi Airlines executive describing how he/she/they managed to turnaround the miserable status of Saudi Airlines at the moment to a highly competitive airline!!

Don’t you wish to read such book?

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