100 Authentic Arab Brands – thoughts & reflections

We are well into the second half of the 100 Authentic Arab Brands – the first of its kind search for the most authentic brands in the Arab world. A ranking determined entirely by the voter response of consumers across the Middle East making it, really, a people’s choice awards for Arab brands. Here’s a quick reminder on the elements of an authentic brand.

To date, the survey has amassed well over 3500 votes with brands such as Soura, Animals of Lebanon and Al Qasba which continue to be popular, staying put in the top 10 most authentic Arab brands since Day 1.

One of the driving motives behind this survey was to create what we hope will become an annual brand perception platform that Arab brands can add to their existing performance metrics. And going by the amount of attention we’ve received, offline (Zaman’s CEO Grace Yacoub in both PSFK and Gulf News & online, we’d like to think that we’re on the right track. Additionally the attention & response garnered both from consumers & the nominated brands have been really good. This just validates that while we have longstanding industry awards like the MEA for marketing, a recognition/awards platform such as this is long overdue in the Middle East and Zaman Branding team is proud to be the one pioneering this.

So what has 100 Authentic Arab Brands revealed to us so far?

  1. Engage consumers on their social turf >> A few years ago a regional survey such as this may have been conducted via electronic questionnaires, snail mail survey leaflets that never get mailed back or trawling shopping malls on foot to get people to vote. Today, that is not even an option. Thank goodness. We’re running this survey solely online – primary campaign site and using our Facebook page and Twitter profile as outposts directing people to the campaign site. The results speak for themselves; we’ve gotten site traffic from the UAE, Lebanon, KSA, and Kuwait and even as far afield as the UK and USA.
  2. “Authentic brand generating” sectors? >> Interestingly, the top 10 positions in the ranking have been largely Arab brands from the media, hospitality and cosmetics/personal care business sectors.
  3. Old legacy brands & small newer brands, both winning >> Voter responses indicate consumers’ perception of brand authenticity is not dependent on the life of the brand but rather how well both the brand and consumer identify with each other’s values.
  4. If it’s good enough people will share it >> Brands that consistently deliver their brand promise will win over consumers, who become fans that turn into your word of mouth marketing ‘angels’; evangelizing your brand for you 24/7.
  5. Middle East consumers also want to engage online >> Overall, the brands that have gained the most votes are those that are active on social media and realise the value of this channel as a platform to establish a two-way conversation with their customers.

Over the years we’ve seen local Arab brands come into their own and compete against international brands for the customer’s mindshare, all this alongside the emergence of new media technologies and a more information-empowered consumer. In our experience we’ve found that the top Arab brands that have retained mindshare and won customer loyalty are those that consistently live up to their stated brand promise and have an original story that engages customers.