Five minutes with Abdellah Rholem
Transform magazine spoke to Abdellah Rholem, logo designer and brand strategist from Morocco and founder of uniqium™, about the power of brand storytelling, the importance of adopting a brand-centric approach and the differences between branding strategy in the MENA and in Europe.
What number one advice would you give to start-up founders to help them realise the power of branding?
The secret to unlocking the power of branding, and using it to grow your startup, is to stop seeing it as an isolated task. That could easily lead to it falling to the bottom of your priority list. Instead recognise that your brand is beyond your logo or even visual identity, It's a part of everything your startup does.
What are the benefits of having a ‘brand-centric’ approach? How can a good branding strategy help businesses grow?
Organic growth is the name of the game. The Brand-Centric Strategy Blueprint that we've developed at uniqium™ makes integrating your brand's vision into your content marketing, advertising campaigns and customer experience simple and straightforward. This nurtures a closer relationship with your audience, thus promoting organic growth.
What is brand storytelling and why is it so important? What is the best formula for it?
Stories are a huge part of our lives, we use them all the time to distil complex concepts and make them easier to understand. The best stories engage us on multiple levels, both intellectually and emotionally. Most importantly stories can be used to trigger empathy, which is by far the best way of establishing a human connection.
Since you began working in the field, how has branding changed? Is it now more important than before?
Branding has continuously changed since its inception. From primitive markings on clay pots to mascots to A.I powered dynamic logos. The more competition there is, the easier it is to fade into the crowd, so branding adapts to find better ways of differentiation. That's what makes investing in branding so important today. People have more choice than ever, so naturally a lot of them are starting to care less about what you sell and more about why you sell it.
What are the biggest differences in branding strategy between the MENA region vs. Europe?
Culture certainly plays a big role when it comes to branding. Like Marty Neumeier says "Your brand is not what you say it is, it's what people say it is". Because of that I always like to make the distinction between a "Brand" and "Branding Efforts". To be frank, branding in the MENA region has very little effect on the consumer because they are influenced by different factors when making buying decisions. Compared to Europe, availability and appearances are more important than vision or core beliefs.
There is growing distrusts in brands, particularly those that are not outwardly supporting social causes and condemning injustices. How can brands work to regain, and retain, consumer trust?
This is actually one of the reasons why my partner and I founded uniqium™. We call it the B.E.C syndrome, Big Evil Corporation. We have looked closely at companies who face this issue and came to the conclusion that it has to do with imbalance. Big companies who scale most of their operations as they grow, tend to give branding less importance—that is if they don't forget about it completely—creating a bottleneck that is hard to detect. The way to reverse this is to start rebuilding a human connection with consumers through more branding efforts, giving the business a face as well as being patient with the process.