Charting a route through difficult waters
What a difference a year makes. When we began work on this inaugural ranking of Emirati and Saudi brands, I had imagined this welcome message might focus on the tremendous changes being orchestrated in the region.
In Saudi Arabia, economic and cultural transformation is taking place as part of the government’s ambitious “Vision 2030” plan to reinvent the economy, create jobs, provide opportunities for women and put the country on the map for international tourists. There is a huge effort to bring the outside world in. I witnessed this for myself when I was there a few years ago.
In the UAE, the changes we see are different but no less significant. In many ways, the Emirates’ mission has also been about openness. The now-delayed Dubai Expo, for instance, is built around “Connecting Minds, Creating the Future” – no small challenge.
And in recent months, the UAE launched its first mission to Mars. The “Hope Probe” is due to arrive on the red planet early next year and is named, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum has said, because the launch “sends a message of optimism to millions of young Arabs”.
All of that would have been headline news in any other year. Any normal year. Yet here we are in 2020 in a situation where everything we took to be normal was taken away.
The enormous strain we have all felt as a result as individuals has had a similar impact on brands.
Who among them could possibly have planned for a time when airports were almost empty, schools and workplaces off limits, and when shopping malls were temporarily no-go zones?
As I write, life in the UAE and KSA is returning to some semblance of normality. The Hajj went ahead, albeit without international pilgrims. Office workers are back at their desks, if not every day, then on rotation. But this is a precarious time, and with new waves of COVID-19 washing over different parts of the world each week, we look forward to and plan for recovery in the knowledge that this may take many months, possibly years.
This report, therefore, serves several functions. As well as proudly announcing the Top 30 Most Valuable Emirati & Saudi brands, we examine some of the consumer and market shifts that are presenting brands with such tremendous challenges and opportunities right now. We discuss what brands can do in order to better understand consumers and meet their fast-evolving needs.
Kantar research featured in the pages ahead shows that new personality types have emerged as people rethink what really matters to them. For some, nervousness about resuming normal life will persist long after the science says it’s safe; others have become more focused on how the decisions they make affect other people and the environment. People feel pulled in different directions and are often looking to brands for help in navigating this sense of internal conflict.
Our BrandZ™ analysis underlines the importance of being close to consumers and understanding what they need. Brands that offer something meaningful that differs from everything else in the category consistently grow their brand equity – and generate higher returns to shareholders. They also prove to be more resilient in times of crisis.
In the pages ahead, we show marketers and brand builders the factors that inspire consumers to select one brand over another in order to deliver strong shareholder returns for the long term.
We unpick what it takes to achieve “Meaningful Difference”, and look at how a renewed focus on a genuine brand purpose and innovation can help good brands become great.
We also put this year’s BrandZ™ data into the context of a world in flux, providing clear, positive and actionable insights that can make a huge difference to brands’ strength today and their ability to withstand future challenges. This is brought to life with real-world examples of local brands demonstrating the very qualities we champion.
No one knows how long this pandemic will last and what the recovery arc will look like, though of course we can hope for a V rather than an elongated U. What we do know is that for brands to get through the next few months, and then to make gains during the recovery, they need to be planning now.
These extraordinary times are having a significant impact on brand choice. As consumers rethink what they buy, what they prioritize, how they work and what they want out of life, brands have much to play for.
We can help
To create this report, some of the brightest minds across WPP and Kantar in the UAE and KSA have shared their knowledge and on-the-ground expertise in thought leadership and insight articles to guide brand builders.
We are gaining more knowledge and insights day by day, in real time, so I invite you to view this report as a starting point. I urge you to follow up with the experts who contributed to the report. They continue to monitor the impact of the pandemic on brands across categories and around the world. We have an extensive library of annual BrandZ™ country reports, as well as our Global Top 100 report, and I invite to you access them with our compliments at BrandZ.com.
One of our key WPP strengths—and a benefit for our clients—is that when we say we cover the world of brands, that’s exactly what we mean. The WPP and Kantar proprietary BrandZ™ database includes information from over 3.8 million consumers about their attitudes about (and relationships with) 17,801 brands across 512 categories in 51 markets. All that produces more than 5.3 billion data points.
In addition to offering a deep and timely understanding of the consumer, this information enables us to guide strategic decision-making, and direct the kind of creative innovation in products, services, packaging and communication that can excite consumers and lift a company’s fortunes. Creativity is what we offer. We can help you create the transformative ideas and outcomes necessary for building valuable brands.
To learn more about how to use our passion for brands to help power yours—especially during these uncertain and trying times— please contact any of the WPP companies and Kantar divisions that contributed expertise to this report. Turn to the Resources section at the end of this report for the contact details of key executives. Or feel free to contact me directly.
THE STORE WPP, EMEA
& ASIA CHAIRMAN, BRANDZTM AND BAV GROUP