Archive for April 12th, 2010


When the economy goes south, brands can rise above the recession

At the height of an unprecedented economic downturn – the worst in recent memory – what is the best strategy for companies to maintain market share and revenues? The answer, says one expert, may be the key to salvation for companies facing the toughest of challenges.

True, cost-cutting and downsizing, quick-fix tools often reserved for exceptionally trying times, can potentially help companies sustain and survive the downturn. But while these measures are often necessary, they do not necessarily hit the target.

“In an economic depression, downsizing, streamlining and other cost-cutting measures are certainly important steps to prevent further damage. These are primarily reactive actions that help organisations sustain operations and even survive the most challenging period of a business cycle. But I believe that such conventional measures can often damage the core elements that are most important to businesses during an economic downturn: customers and prospects. Without customers and prospects, the world would be a very lonely place for companies facing tough times,” points out Ibrahim Lahoud, Director of Strategy and Brand Communication, BrandCentral.

“This is where branding plays a brilliant and important role. A successful branding strategy helps ensure that customers and business prospects are not alienated or affected by the damage-control initiatives being implemented by companies. In simple terms, branding makes prospects fall in love with you in bad times, and makes them invest in you in good times. As such, branding is by far the smartest and one of the most cost-effective strategies to adopt during an economic downturn,” added Lahoud.

Lahoud brings the subject home when he describes the realities of the UAE’s real estate sector. He says that of the biggest challenges faced by developers in the country, focusing on the tangibles, such as, project design, size and cost, may not be high up on the priority list. Competing with the intangibles, that is, emotional and rational aspect of the purchase decision is now paramount.

“The competition today, particularly in the Arab World, is played inside the consumer’s mind,” notes Lahoud. “Describing to your prospective customers what your project is all about takes a huge amount of time, energy, money and other resources. A powerful brand achieves the same results and does a lot more. If we analyse the principal factors why people buy or rent properties, it all boils down to peace of mind and quality of life. Peace of mind is the rational aspect of the purchase decision, while quality of life lies on the emotional side. This means that a purchase decision is made not based on the project itself, but rather the projection of the client’s dreams, needs and wants into the project.”

Communicating the right brand message can be a tricky and delicate process; one false move may result in ambiguity or generate the wrong impression about the property or developer. On the other hand, companies also often have misconceptions about how to create the right brand identity for their projects or for their own organisations. These issues, Lahoud says, highlight the need to acquire professional expertise to develop and implement a productive and consistent branding strategy.

“When a property development project is born, it is never about buildings and roads. It is always about ‘a beach community,’ a ‘paradise island’ or a ‘leisure haven’ – these represent the inherent brand identity of a project, which need to be instilled inside the prospective buyer’s mind and heart. In this regard, it is crucially important to acquire the services of branding consultants at the earliest stages of the project development, to ensure consistency and proper delivery of the brand message to the right audiences,” said Lahoud.

“Moreover, it is equally important that the branding specialist is not just technically adept, but also has deep understanding of the local market dynamics. This is particularly true in the Arab World, in light of the region’s peculiarities and sensitivities. In this case, branding essentially becomes a matter of combining international expertise with utmost concern and knowledge of local culture, heritage, language and traditions,” added Lahoud.

In addition, Lahoud emphasised the benefits of participating in key industry events, which are excellent avenues to enhance brand awareness. Such events provide extensive market mileage and offers strong brand positioning opportunities, which any developer should not take for granted.

“Cityscape is a perfect illustration,” Lahoud said of the upcoming international real estate exhibition, which takes place from October 5 to 8, 2009 in Dubai. “Cityscape has itself evolved to become a mega brand in the real estate sector, and is definitely the place to be for any aspiring real estate company. Such events allow companies to network, show off special expertise, promote, sell, publicise and do a lot more. But more than anything else, it is a venue where one can boost brand awareness, considering the quantity and quality of its participants. For property developers that value the importance of marketing and communication, it should be crystal clear that their presence at events such as Cityscape is not just an option; it is the rule.”

BrandCentral is a leading provider of turnkey solutions for brand development, corporate identity, and strategic design in the Middle East. Its mission is to provide a thoroughly positive impression of a company or product to existing and potential customers.


April 2010
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Reason To Believe by Ibrahim N. Lahoud is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
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