Game Changers The Norm Breakers Issue

How social media influences branding in the Arabian Gulf

An interview with Kuwaiti branding expert Mohamad Al Robaian.

By Sekka Editorial

If Mohamad were anything, he would be a bundle of energy, always on the go from Kuwait, to Riyadh, to Dubai, often on the same week helping to build brands for his diverse clients.

Mohamad Al Robaian. Courtesy.

Mohamad Musaed Al Robaian, is a 29-year-old Kuwaiti brand strategist, based in Riyadh, who converts thoughts to things. Prior to founding his company (Done is a Noun), Mohamad worked in New York and Los Angeles with interesting brands, such as Citi Bank and Google.

We caught up with Mohamad on his work break in Istanbul, where he is juggling work from one factory to the next for one of his projects, to discuss branding the GCC, when the process should start, social media’s role in emphasizing its importance, the do’s and don’ts in branding and what he believes will be the branding trends we will witness next year.

Branding is

Everything that can be thought, viewed, argued and shared about your business is your brand. It is your concept, culture, name, design and structure. Most importantly, it is the story you tell to everyone when you’ve ‘literally’ spoken to no one.

You should start branding when

Branding works in parallel with creating a successful idea. There are thoughts, and there are ideas. Thoughts could simply be desires. An idea is a planned thought. Once you have transformed your thought into an idea, then you should start thinking about branding.

Social media in the GCC helped to build a lot of brands in the GCC. True or false?

I think people have achieved parts of what a full branding process can offer you through social media, such as word of mouth, gaining momentum and spreading knowledge. Some say that social media can make or break a brand; no it does not. At the beginning, and before you present your brand on social media, you want to form your identity, you want to be ready; you want to be prepared and know what you want to aspire to. The branding should be done before you share that information on social media.

GCC businesses’ realization of branding’s importance

GCC nationals have come to realize the importance of branding. But to say that branding as a process is appreciated as much as it is in the Western world—no, it is not. But in my opinion it is better to execute a branding project in the GCC than the Western world because we have the potential of creating big brands from scratch. For instance, in the USA, it is not everyday that businesses are emerging in large numbers. This region is breeding new businesses all of the time, and I’d say that it definitely is in a better position to create new brands.

Why GCC businesses are paying more attention to branding

The increasing number of competition has triggered that in the GCC.

Social media has exposed many things that are happening around the world, and businesses here want to be involved, want to be like other businesses around the world. Social media has played a huge rule in igniting competition and also in motivating businesses to go from mundane to magnificent.

When I work with clients right now, they are no longer impressed with good; they want to create great things. Today, magnificence is something that many GCC businesses are aspiring to achieve, even small businesses, from juice bars to nail bars, to restaurants; they are aiming for magnificent results.

Branding advice for those on a tight budget

Spend some time thinking about your brand, its story, its vision, its essence and the way you could save on brand-creating fees, and just pay a designer to execute that vision for you in the form of a logo and branding collateral

Here is what to consider when choosing a business name

Stop giving it only a name; instead, give it a story. Start with a narrative, a story, and then the name will come. Think of it as creating your own novel. You would not name your book after the first chapter or word written. Instead, you would finish your novel, and then, you would be inspired by a name. The same thing should be done with branding. The name should be decided upon after creating your story and its essence, and realizing what makes your branding distinctive.

Definite ‘don’ts’ in terms of branding

You should never ever think of a logo before coming up with the essence of your brand. Do not be lazy when it comes to the brand’s name, and do not assume that people would not get it if you came up with something creative. Although sometimes its work when you come up with an obvious name, such as naming your business ‘Chair’ when you sell chairs, but in an oversaturated market, I would recommend giving it a creative twist.

Your definite branding ‘do’s’

Be detailed when branding your business.  Also, be adventurous but cautious.

Branding trends that we will witness next year

The trend is going to be bluntness, and there will be a craze with creativity, with more inclusion of arts in the branding process. Arabs are extremists in so many ways, such as with their emotions and expressions, and I believe they will take branding creativity to another level.

One last thought

I would like businesses to invest more in long-term visions instead of creating brands that will create a buzz for a while and then people will move away from it. There should be more investments in literature and design in the branding process, as this is what will last and will keep customers hooked.