• Transform magazine
  • June 22, 2024

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Brand will be the next great export of the Middle East

Hisham Lahouasnia

Hisham Lahouasnia, founder and executive director at Freedom, discusses how ambitious and long-term orientated Middle Eastern brands are starting to influence global industries.

In the Middle East, people have always been influenced by global brands – to the point where ‘Ajnabi’ (meaning ‘foreign’) is often used colloquially to describe something of superior quality. 

But with increased focus and investment in the region, particularly the GCC, we are starting to see a more ambitious and long-term approach by local brands to expand both to the East and West.

The conversation is no longer regional, today we are building brands to serve and impact audiences well beyond that.

The sense of optimism across the region, coupled with the power of bi-lateral business relationships we have forged with both East and West, has meant a new era of Middle Eastern brands influencing global industries (and maybe cultures) is upon us.

So how do we ensure this ambition is at the forefront of our thinking when building local brands for the global stage?

  1. Starting the conversation so far in the future, that it feels uncomfortable and almost absurd. 

Today’s regional leaders have a vision for how their organisations can become a legacy beyond their tenure and a reference for success in generations to come.

Brand strategy needs to be equipped with as much foresight as possible so that it can be used to grow the business as well as serve as a catalyst for reaching this vision.

  1. Using data and customer research to execute brand strategy, rather than inform it.

There is a clear mandate across the majority of our clients for industry disruption, expansion and then domination.

Brand strategy suited for global expansion needs to be formed on solid foundations, and the speed in which customer needs, behaviours and trends shifts will make a brand strategy outdated pretty quickly if it is closely informing this foundation.

So while data and customer research is essential to keep product and marketing relevant to customers, brand strategy gives the wider context on how to plan for achieving longer-term business goals.

  1. Stop self-orientalising, to find our authentic global voice.

In most of the workshops we host with clients, the question of “How local vs global do we want to feel?” comes up.

People from the Middle East are very proud, and passionate about their culture. But it isn’t a culture of one.

While the global expansion of brands from across the region is an opportunity to own how we are perceived as a people, we should take great care in making sure that how we intertwine our culture is authentic and true to the business itself.

So instead of asking how we can make sure the brand feels like it’s from 'here' (or not from 'here') - ask how 'here' fits into our brand, and how does 'here' hold relevance to our brand strategy once we arrive on the global scene?

Building future-proof brands is a sustainable growth practice that we foster at Freedom. 

Get in touch to find out more, or just to have a chat. +971 52 976 7444 or love@freedom.agency