Posts Tagged ‘Jeddah’

The past couple of days were ‘hot’ in Jeddah, and I mean that literally! And what got things really hotter is the debate between the Presidency of Meteorology and Environment (PME), the Saudi Electricity Company (SEC) and the rest of us, Jeddaweis (people from Jeddah.)

SEC claimed that it had major power cutoffs in Jeddah because of the unusual temperature that reached 49 °C. The PME, feeling that SEC just stepped on their speciality came out and said “No … No … It was never 49, it was only 46 °C. (read here, in Arabic)

Now let’s talk business:

  • To SEC, please do not try to blame the weather for your poor performance, I am not sure anybody is buying that. Let’s say that it was really 49 °C … so what??? It is not like you are operating the network from Alaska or anything!! So the summary of the message is: the poor PR performance of trying to cover failures by ‘not so smart’ justifications is not acceptable, that’s beside SEC apparently poor contingency and back up plans to deal with the ‘more than expected’ heat this summer, and please note, we are not summer yet!
  • To PME, your response was like saying ‘do not exaggerate people, hey … it’s only 46 °C.’ We would’ve really appreciate showing some feelings for us, the Jeddaweis who felt that burning heat to the bone! Or even better, you could’ve sent messages to some companies to take some kind of measures to protect their field workers. So the summary of the message is: when you do not have a good PR to share with the rest of us, it is much better to keep it in your drawers and not to play smart on us!

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Few days to the 27th of March and its Earth hour. The whole country is taking part in this global initiative to spread awareness about the scarse of resources on our planet Earth.

No matter how romantic the idea of saving the planet may sound, saving energy for one hour won’t make the Earth problems go away! But still, it must be feeling good to participate with the whole world at the same time in joint efforts to show your concerns about the planet; it is a reminder to everyone that we are over utilizing Earth’s resources; both on individual and group levels (whether this group is government, companies, etc.) A reminder that we should really re-evaluate our resources consumption approaches.

I am glad to see that the country and many of its government and private sector companies are taking part of this initiative, although the question ‘How?’ remains a mystery! In all cases, I really hope to see those tall business buildings with their many offices and those banks (especially banks!!) which leave their lights on all day and night for decoration purposes turning their lights off (I really hope they can do that every day, not only for an hour!!!)

Moreover, on a personal level, I am planning to participate in this hour. Bringing such topic into family discussions will definitely lead to some insights on how we are consuming resources available to us, in addition to give the children at the family a hint or two on how they should be dealing with those resource in a responsible manner. After all, we are really leaving them with a horrible legacy!

And for those of you living in Jeddah, you may want to have a look at this initiative named ‘Earth Hour Jeddah.’ There is a number of good hints on how you could participate and show you participation thereafter. Just do not forget to hear the lovely podcast of Nesreen and her guest Sharifah, the mastermind behind ‘Earth Hour Jeddah.’

So … Are you in?

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Visiting a hospital is an emotional experience. Let’s face it, nobody wants to be there. Just take a moment and think about what the word hospital will provoke in your mind; I am sure things like (pain, sickness, needles, and blood) should’ve come across your mind! From a marketing point of view, this is a disastrous situation.

So to overcome this internal image we all perceive about hospitals, many studies have been discussing the importance of servicescape design in changing such perception. Feel free to argue with me that hospitals are not only buildings and I will agree with you, they are not ONLY buildings, but a hospital building is a major part of the whole therapeutic experience.

A servicescape is a well known concept in the service businesses. Developed by Booms and Bitner back in the 80s, it refers to the physical environment where the service is taking place. They’ve argued that such environment should be designed in a way to facilitate the service encounter and improve the service delivery process. And by doing so, customers satisfaction with the provided service will increase.

Now let’s go local, I will be talking about my city; Jeddah. First and foremost, we have to admit that we have, up to some level, a pretty good healthcare. We have good doctors, state of the art medical equipments, and reasonable medical education in the country. But when we talk servicescape … mmm… sorry, not so much.

Most of the hospitals operating in Jeddah right now have been built decades ago, and from time to time, they are renovated by repainting the walls and rearranging the chairs! I can confidently argue that none of them have been designed with any psychological effects calculated. That’s why when visiting any hospital, you feel tensioned and under stress. Just look around you in the waiting room and check, a lot of people are nervous and frustrated; not only because of pain, but because they faced a hard time finding a parking spot outside, the receptionist was working as a robot, they could not find the clinic they are looking for and had to ask about directions several times. Or have you ever been admitted to a hospital or even visited a friend or a family member and tried to open the windows? How did you like the traffic noise? Or the empty land view with cats partying all night long?

I was talking about private hospitals above … public ones, do not get me started!! Now, have a look at the below video just to have a glimpse of how your mode might change in a ‘different’ designed environment (please note that I am not related to Hudas Designs in any way, I just liked their video!!)

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Just pick any generic product around you and think if you can transform it into a differentiated big business. If you can do that, then you must have a genuine innovative and entrepreneurial spirit.

I would suggest to use the Saudi Thobe as an example (I hope you know what a Saudi thobe is, if not, check out this Wikipedia page.  And yes, it is on Wikipedia!!). This product has been around for hundreds of years now. Although the fabrics and final touches have evolved a bit throughout these years, the general design, style and color almost kept unchanged. Now making a big, new and profitable business out of such a product is a real challenge.

Loai Nassem and his wife Mona Al Haddad did just that, they chose to be different in a saturated market, in a market that kept its status quo for hundreds of years.

The story of their initiative can be found here, but I would like to shed some light on the interesting marketing tactics they used to build their business:

–          Setting the imagination: One of the interesting quotes said by Mr. Loai, the founder of Lomar, that I particularly like is ‘I wanted this business to start big.’ It is obvious that he had imagined the business before its start.  Such perspective enabled him to set a reliable track for his business and brand. One of the most common problems of entrepreneurs is to have the idea and … that’s it!! Picturing the idea, the way it will be realized and how it will be recieved by people are all major factors determining the success of any entrepreneurial project. Once the picture is clear, the project business plan will be based on a solid ground; it will be more focused and will lead to more reliable results.

–          Careful Targeting: The well known golden rule in marketing is: you cannot sell to everybody. Lomar thobes is using this rule effectively. They wanted their brand to be associated with a specific group of people. People who are daring to change, and yet have the money to do it! That’s why Lomar thobes is charging a premium price in exchange for its products. Their prices are greater than the rest of the market by around 40%. Their boutiques are located in premium locations and their internal designs are unique and modren.

–          Emphasizing the brand: They are using their brand name on buttons, zipper sliders, or even somewhere on the thobe itself. This is certainly a unique approach in the thobes market. Usually seeing the brand name will start conversations about Lomar designs, colors and fabrics. In other words, by using this approach they are encouraging word of mouth marketing.

However, Lomar thobes are dealing with considerable challenges; such as:

–          Cultural Difficulties: Although recording a remarkable success among young customers (those between 25 up to 35 years old), Lomar is still facing some cultural acceptance issues. Surviving all these years with minimal changes, Lomar approach is seen as a threat to local costume traditions.  These difficulties can be sensed when comparing the popularity of Lomar designs amongst the Kingdom’s regions. Its success is still concentrated in Jeddah although are some moves to make it more acceptable elsewhere. 

–          Typicality and Competition:  Lomar made a surprise, a wave of shock if you want to call it, to the status quo in thobes designs. This was definitely a part of its success. However, people will soon start to wonder, what else? What is new? Especially when realizing that their first-player-in-the-market-position will last no longer, new entrants already started to position themselves in the market!


Finally, such initiatives should always to endorsed and given the chance to grow and prosper. And for young entrepreneurs, it is important to see peers from their own culture, their own environment who can face the challenges and come out with successful business examples. Modern economies are now built on such entrepreneurial spirits, on small businesses generating jobs and adding to GDP.

I think it is time to conclude now by stating that I do not know the owners of Lomar Thobes, or any one working there for that matter.

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You could have visited the Louvre; if not, you must’ve heard about it (otherwise, mmm … I do not know what to say!!). And you probably heard the news about the upcoming opening of  McDonald’s resturant and McCafé in the underground approach to the Louvre, known as the Carrousel du Louvre.

As expected, the idea is igniting a hot debate between supporters and those who are unfavourable of it. On one hand, the museum staff, historians and gastronomists are accusing the project of being as of an insult to the museum name, to its cultural value, and to what it means to the French people. They are seeing the case in which a fast food chain name being associated with such a historical figure is totally unacceptable. While on other hand, supporters’ main argument is that the restaurant will not be part of the Louvre itself, and after all, people have to eat!

Now this is a very interesting case for marketers. And let me put it this way: if you are in the position of McDonald’s marketing director, what will you do?

Are you going to go ahead with the project? Of course you will be thinking about your brand name being associated with such a major destination. All these people from all over the world visiting the Louver will be taking ‘hanging around your restaurant’ expereince as a part of their dream trip.

Or are you going to stop the project? You know a lot of people will be looking down on you, and your brand will be accused of fostering consumerism and demeaning the infamous French gastronomy.

For me, the decision will be to go ahead with the project. I know how dangerous cultural issues could be to a business and how damaging it could be to its brand value. But, McDonalds did it once before! And where? In France.

The way McDonalds showed respect and adaptability to the French culture is a story always mentioned as an example of business’s successful cultural understanding.

So my point here is that I will go ahead with the project but with a special handling.  I mean I will consider changing the design of the restaurant, the layout, the staff costumes, adding/removing certain foods or beverages. In few words, I will redesign the whole experience in a way to match the environment of such big historical venue.

So what do you think?

(p.s. Before leaving this topic, I would like to relate this discussion to a local matter. I believe that cities and countries can be branded as any product/service can be. I am not coming with anything new here, I am just stating the obvious (think about Dubai for instance).

For that, the importance of locations similar to the Louvre does not only stem out of its historical value, they are also considered as a part of the city brand. Can you think of Paris without images of the Eiffel Tower and the Louver popping out on your mind? London without the London Tower and the Buckingham Palace?

Unfortunately, it seems that we are still far away from realizing this fact. Take Jeddah historical area as an example. Although a lot of the city residents are emotionally attached to this area, which qualifies it to be a major part of the city brand, it has been abused in so many horrible ways; illegal trading, illegal immigrants, forgotten infrastructure, and threatened by collapse old houses.

The all discussions surrounding the Louvre and McDonald’s send a clear signal that this place is important to the city, to the country, to the whole world culture. It is, simply, a brand! A brand that we should develop, maintain, and make sure it is not compromised.

I hope we will have a similar, or even stronger, enthusiastic look at our own city brand …)

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