Seven rules to follow for any effective brand
Geoff Beattie, the global head of corporate affairs at Cohn & Wolfe, says local brands local brands have to establish themselves more firmly in the mind of consumers.
What does it mean to be an authentic brand? That is the question BPG Cohn & Wolfe posed to 12,000 consumers in 12 markets, including the UAE, to reveal a list of the top 20 most authentic brands. Geoff Beattie, the global head of corporate affairs at Cohn & Wolfe, explains what an authentic company is and speaks about why UAE companies need to establish themselves more firmly in the minds of consumers.
What is an authentic brand?
That’s a good place to start because when we started looking at this idea I was actually very sceptical that anyone would know what the word authentic meant and whether that was really a useful term. We have a guru at London Business School who works with us and he said ‘well, you have 12,000 people in your study. I think they will know what it means. Why don’t you ask them to define the word authentic for themselves?’ So we did. We asked what does authenticity in a business and a brand mean to you? We discovered that people had very sophisticated answers to that question and it boiled down to seven things.
What are those seven things?
No 1, communicating honestly about products and services, I guess the most basic thing. No 2, honesty about the environment, which came through very strongly in all the places we studied. No 3, acting with integrity, so being authentic about morals and ethics. No 4, being clear about and true to your beliefs. In other words, standing for something and delivering what you say you are going to deliver. No 5, honesty about the way your business operates, your suppliers, that sort of thing. No 6, having a social purpose, so something that is beyond making money, a profit motive. And No 7, the ability to tell an authentic story that will actually mean something to people.
So did you look at every company in the UAE to decide who the most authentic brands are? There are a lot of them.
No, we didn’t. In terms of the company rankings, that was really the last part of the study in which we spent half an hour talking to our respondents about authenticity and then we said to them: ‘OK, based on everything we have been talking about, who would you name as your most authentic brand?’
Can you give us the top 20 for the UAE?
These are in alphabetical order, not ranking: Apple; Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank; Carrefour; Dewa; Dubai Islamic Bank; du; Emirates [Airline]; Emirates NBD; Etihad Airways; Etisalat; LG; KFC; Lulu; Nokia; McDonald’s; Samsung; Sharaf DG; Sony; Spinneys and Starbucks. The top five in the UAE are Carrefour, Etisalat, Samsung, Lulu Hypermarket and du.
Were you surprised by anything on the list? There are quite a lot of international companies.
In some countries such as the United Kingdom and Germany and the United States, it’s dominated by local brands. People clearly consider that to be authentic. In the UAE it is more of a 50-50 split between international and the UAE.
Does that suggest that there aren’t enough authentic UAE companies?
I think [for] the local brands there is clearly a need to establish themselves more firmly in the mind of consumers in the way that, for example, Marks & Spencer does in the UK. I know that it takes a long time to build up that. But there is a lot of benefit to that. I think for the local brands, the challenge is how can you establish that same degree of connection with your local audience.
Do you think the companies that are on the list are there simply because they have good PR?
I think one of the interesting things on this list is that there are a lot of companies on there which have been through very controversial experiences that have made for bad publicity.
If you look at McDonald’s it has had its controversies over the past years. Apple two or three years ago was dealing with a very bad problem to do with conditions at its Chinese factories, an issue which could have caused a lot of problems for them had the new chief executive not dealt with it in a transparent way. I think people have an ability to see through the news headlines and if their everyday experience is basically a good one, they are going to make their judgments based on that, rather than what they see in the news. While PR strategy is important, it is more important to be able to deliver on your brand promise time and time again.
This article was first published on 15 February 2015 in The National
by Gillian Duncan ().