Posts Tagged ‘Branding

01
Jun
15

People have relationships with people, not with ideas, not with programs.


Few are the opportunities one gets to meet the future head on, face to face. And fewer are the opportunities to be part of shaping that future. Last Sunday, I was blessed with both.

I was invited by “Women in Front” (look them up on Facebook) to deliver a Personal Branding presentation to women planning on offering their candidature to the upcoming legislative elections. What I discovered is simply amazing.

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I have never witnessed such an ardent resolve, most certainly not with men. I came to realize that taking things for granted, arrogance and prejudice provide a fake sense of security. That sense is enjoyed by some men in Lebanon; they even take it one notch higher by solemnly claiming that women are not fit for politics. I believe that the sheer fact of making such a comment voids the fitness (and right) of that man to be in politics, and on planet Earth for that matter!

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Aside from the fact that I was surrounded by over 20 amazing women (eat your hearts out!), I was surrounded by 20 beautiful intellects. That Sunday I was with human beings determined to induce a positive change in a society that claims openness on the outside, but resents change on the inside.

That Sunday I was with Women (yes with a capital “W”) who, aware of the risks, are heading straight into the maelstrom. Each has a clear Program and associated agenda. Each has the education few men in politics have today. Each has a beautiful smile that inspires trust. But most importantly, all of them are transparent, honest, real.

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These women do not deserve a chance. They deserve to be there, period.

You give a chance to doubt, to failure, to liars, to the unproven. And we have been giving that chance to “men” since 1943…

In a previous post (https://ilahoud.wordpress.com/2013/02/20/women-scare-us-and-i-love-it/), I wrote:
“We forgot to look at India, Great Britain, Iceland, Bangladesh, Mongolia, Argentina, Bolivia, Switzerland, Philippines, Ireland, Sri Lanka, Finland, Lithuania… where women were not only elected to parliament, they were presidents, heads of state.”

I never voted, never will eventually; but I would not hesitate one second to head to the polling station this time, if one of the amazing ladies I trained that Sunday run for elections.

I am blessed to have been given the opportunity to meet the future face to face, and honoured to be given the humble opportunity to be part of shaping it.

One hurdle is left. How open-minded will men be towards a brilliant future shaped by gender partnership, instead of a grim future shaped by men only?

Only time will tell.

02
Jun
14

Real Estate Advertising and Advertising Real Estate


Real Estate advertising is mushrooming faster than buildings. But the corny ads that stand in ovation to the utter lack of creativity are not the problem.

The problem is that most, if not all the campaigns speak to a microscopic elite in a country where over the two third of the population can barely afford a loaf of bread.
The problem is that clients lack so much marketing acumen that taking them for a ride and making them to spend an arm and a leg becomes child play. Besides lacking originality, their advertising speaks to an audience that reads the newspaper in the back of their limousines while being chauffeured to destination. An audience that does not even look outside the dark tinted glass of their cars.
I got news for those Real Estate companies: Your “target audience” as your agencies taught you to call them, will never look for a 2 million Dollars apartment on a billboard on the Zalka highway! This audience does not need advertising claiming “Paradise on Earth” (in Lebanon…) to trigger their purchase behavior!
Having said that, some potential buyers might shop for a flat on outdoor media, but then, who might those prospects be? Did you ever worry about dissecting your audience, not by how much money they carry in their mattresses, but by their propensity to fill your flats?
Because, in Lebanon, the short-term fast buck over-rules the long-term brand-investment, advertisers always choose to go for the easy route; note that it is the smartest one, or the actual golden goose.
If we want to build the country on mob money, and Gulf tycoons, then be it. But for heaven’s sake, stop bragging about patriotism, and stop using nationalistic and outdated slogans. Lebanon does not, and will not get any better with your tall buildings. The way it’s going right now, it only will get uglier.
The fact is that, by playing the ostrich, we are as morally corrupt as the mafiosi who buys the 2 million Dollars flat.
My dear real estate developers, here’s an idea to make money and sleep restfully at night. We need condos, we need thousands of flats for the average Lebanese, the honest one. We need small town houses for the thousands of daily commuters who, for a change, work honestly and hard to earn their buck. Now you do the math. But before doing so, use (what’s left) of your marketing understanding to admit that, since the late eighties, economies have undergone a paradigm shift, from a margin to a volume market. Hell! Even Apple realised it! You can make more money by selling more and cheaper, rather than selling less but more expensive. You can make more money by selling to the poor!
Here’s another insight: The rich buy your flats in good times, when economy is flourishing and the cash is safe. But when hard times hit – and they do often lately – the rich are the first to hold their horses back. The average consumers on the other hand, buy an apartment because they “need” one. Their decision to buy is not investment-based, it is need-based. And here once more I implore (what’s left) of your marketing understanding to answer the 101 question: what does marketing address? Yes, yes, “needs”.
By doing so, you win a favorable reputation, you build a better brand, you will be respected and loved by the society, your product will spread to cover the nation, and you will be one of the rare businesses where the very nature of your product is intrinsically a CSR program. You will need to advertise less, thus use your marketing cash on smarter programs, or simply stash it if you wish to do so.
No, I am not a communist! And no, I am not asking you to refrain from erecting those beautiful skyscrapers that adorn our capital. All I’m saying is that , in a country of endless paradoxes, it would be a stimulating change to see someone “think smart” about creating an equilibrium. But that’s just me.

Creative Commons License
Real Estate Advertising and Advertising Real Estate by Ibrahim Lahoud is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.
Based on a work at https://ilahoud.wordpress.com/.

19
Mar
14

“For quality control, this phone call is being recorded”…


“Good morning, you have reached Terranet, for sales dial 1, for support dial 2, for a psychiatrist dial 3. (The last one is my recommendation, strongly)
“For quality control, this phone call is being recorded”…

– Hello, this Rami, how can I help you?
– Um, hi, I purchased a new Cisco modem, and I would like you to guide me through the configuration please.
– It’s very easy. Just set the VCI and VPI…
– Woooa! Hold on. Set the what?

– (With an audible yawn) Set the VCI and VPI. Did you configure the modem?
– Huh? I’m calling you for that!
– Is it hooked?
– (No it’s not! It’s in the microwave getting defrosted, I would have loved to say) Yes it is. Hooked and I logged in to it via my browser. Shall I tell you the options I have and you tell what to do?
– (With the end of another long audible yawn) What do you have?
I start enumerating the options for every setting. I only heard his voice twice:
– VCI 0, VPI 35
– Is that it?
– Yes
– So now all I should do is connect to the Internet.
– Yeh
– Thank you

I hang up, reboot the modem and try connecting to the Internet. Nothing.

I call again:
“For quality control, this phone call is being recorded”…
– Hello, this Hussein, how can I help you?
– Excuse me, I was talking to Rami regard..
– Rami is busy on another line, how can I help you?
– Ok. So I got this Cisco modem and I configur…
– Hold on!
– Yes? This is Rami
– Oh hi! I spoke to you a while ago regarding a Cisco modem…
– Cisco modem? Regarding what?
– Configuration?
– Oh yeh. So…
– Well, it’s not working…
– Why did you get a Cisco?
– WHAT?… Because YOU guys told me, get a Cisco or a D-Link… So I got the Cisco…
– Yeh, but the THOMSON you have now is better….
– Ok. But I got the Cisco now, and it’s not connecting. The “Internet” light is off.
– Do you have phones at home?
– Yes. Why?
– Disconnect them all and retry?
– Excuse me?
– Yeh, you might have a “loop”
– A loop? Uumm, Uhun, yep. Cool. Ok.
A loop? I thought I was installing a modem, not knitting a pullover!
I disconnect all the phones at home, reboot the modem and try to connect again. Nothing.
I call again:
“For quality control, this phone call is being recorded”…
– Hello, this Samer, how can I help you?
– Can I speak to Rami?
– Moment…
– This is Rami, how can…
– Rami, it’s me again (I just mastered the cut-you-in-the-middle-of-a-sentence technique!) I disconnected all the phones, it’s still not working.
– Well, I don’t know (with such a lazy voice)… Get a technician… Or the modem is defective.
– Defective? It’s a brand new Cisco! All is working perfectly, but it stops at “Internet”
– Yeh, it might be defective. It happens…
– Oh. It does? I did not know that… Thank you anyway for your precious assistance Rami!
I hang up.
Welcome to the world of Lebanese ISP customer support!
If “For quality control, this phone call is being recorded”, all ISPs would be out of business by now…
08
Apr
11

THE JOBS AND WOZNIAK OF MACARONS


A Macaron is about vision believe it or not. It is about strategy. It is about branding. And victory tastes so sweet.

© sneakernews.com

I met Khaled and Nour a couple of times and tasted their masterpieces. Le Gustav is not a pastry shop, it is not a cake factory, and it surely is not your average pâtisserie.

Le Gustav is about perfectly mixing the two most essential ingredients of a heavenly pastry, passion and art.

It is not a coincidence that I keep mentioning passion in all my writings. I will never stop.

My momentum is driven by folks like Khaled and Nour. They do to pastry what I do in branding, top everything with passion… The cherry on the cake.

A brand is not about big and flashy. It is mostly about passion and passion. Yes, twice the passion.

There’s the passion you inject in your brand, a breath of your soul. Then there’s the passion your market acquires for your brand. When the two passions collide, the explosion of emotions and feelings triggers the Big Bang of the brand’s universe.

Khaled and Nour did just that.

A brand is undeniably about innovation. The most sophisticated type of innovation is the variation on a theme. Take an existing industry or concept, add a dash of creativity, explore the possibilities, inject courage and vision. What do you get? A discovery with every bite.

A brand is also about sustainability and best practice, the power to replicate success over time. This is the key to magnify the brand’s power. If you start right, look at it as a Damocles dagger over your head. The challenge is to keep doing it right, and then, do it better.

Steve Jobs and Steven Wozniak did just that with Apple. And even in its darkest moments, Apple earned more support from its loyal adept users than from its board members. Apple is not a computer. Apple is an innovation factory.

Le Gustav is not pastry either…

When you look at the right idea as the springboard to innovation, and when you grasp how the power of innovation can become the podium of your brand, you never fail.

© media.squarespace.com

Le Gustav is not a name or logo or location or sales… It’s not about a dozen pastries in a box. Le Gustav is the smile of Nour, the eloquence of Khaled, the passion they display when describing what they do. That, is what you taste with every Le Gustav Macaron.

That’s what you feel when you use a Mac.

Apple says “Think Different”… Khaled and Nour heard well, and did it right

Rarely a local brand tasted so good.

©Ibrahim Lahoud – 2011

29
Mar
11

From Advertising to Branding, the Few Feet Journey


My good friend Danielle Baiz (@meinlebanon) commented on my last post about the advertising industry in Lebanon (Read On Sale, An Advertising Industry) and asked me to tell the tale of my “shift” from advertising to branding. With a smile like hers, I had to indulge!

The story of my life.

I graduated (if I may say so) in 1978 with a Baccalaureate in Commercial Sciences, after being fired from one school and joining a smaller one. I never had the right stuff for numbers. I never will. The few times I wrote numbers were to “draw” them. I always had a sweet inclination for design and art. I later found out about the canyon that separates both, but that’s another story.

How I managed to graduate is still considered a miracle. It was that close of being accepted as a genuine miracle by the Vatican! I remember the principal of the Commercial Sciences department, right before being fired from that school, congratulating me. It seems he had been teaching that department for forty years and it was the first time he lands on a student (yours truly) who manages to score zero over eighty in Accounting, zero over eighty in Financial Mathematics and 2 over eighty in Maths (I guess that was for writing my name right 🙂 )! So I guess, we all agree that my graduation was indeed a miracle… with a little help of tiny sheets of paper with microscopic hand writing…

Right after graduating (if I may say so 😉 ) I got hired as a paste-up artist in a small obscure advertising agency right next to home. How this happened is now vague, but I guess someone nice enough introduced me to someone even nicer who agreed to hire an accountant as a paste-up artist!

There were no Macs, no scanners, no digital stuff. It was me, tracing paper, Letraset and rubber cement.

My career in advertising had just started. Long story short, I left advertising in 1987. I was a creative director. Amazingly, most of the marks I left behind were logos… What can I say about those 11 years? Ummmmmm… Nothing!

Did I learn? Yes. Did anyone teach me? No. Did I carry baggage with me? Yes. Do I still have it? No.

That year, 1987, Apple Computer, who was our client with offices on the ground floor of the same building in Dubai, made me an offer… as a Marketing Executive. Uhuuh, Marketing Executive. Cut. During my last year of advertising in Dubai, I used to stay in the office during lunch breaks which stretched between 13:00 and 16:00… Yeah, seems they inherited this from the Mexican siesta concept, backed by a Japanese study that confirms the benefits of a power-nap… So, instead of going home, I use to sit in the office and fiddle with the only Apple Macintosh Plus offered to us by Apple. In one year, I got so into Apple and the Mac that advertising that brand became a passion rather than a job. They noticed that.

Talking about 180 degrees shifts?! Boy! I accepted.

Apple was my first serious encounter with branding. Not that I practiced it at first. Apple was to me what every brand should be, “loved”. My passion was so intense, that a year later, I became the Regional Marketing Manager, and everyone used to call me Mr. “R”. I was so keen on never featuring the Apple logo without the ® next to it. Someone actually made especially for me a T-shirt with a huge black ® on the front. There, I learned what brands are, how they behave, how they strive to sustain visibility, memorability and recognizability. There, I learned that a brand earns both love and respect, just like human beings. I learned that, just like people, a brand should not brag, should not lie, should always keep its promises, and most importantly, just like people, a brand should be exactly what it looks to be, what it says it is.

Seven years at Apple. That’s how long I stayed. Seven amazing years where I saw the prototypes of Macs you’re using today, where I witnessed the launch of future strategies. I saw Steve Jobs deliver a keynote, and I understood  how a man can shape a company and how a company can shape people. The synergy between Steve and Apple was simply amazing.

During my last couple of years at Apple, I attained a level where ideas were boiling in my head. I had to do something that crowns my years of experience between advertising and Apple. My best friend was also in advertising. Just like me, he loved creating logos, but far better than me. He still is today my best friend and, in my opinion, the most talented corporate identity designer there is in the region.

One day, we sat at my place and started reflecting on the next move in our careers. And after a couple of hours, it struck both of us. The region was undergoing a major transformation. It was being invaded by foreign brands, by far more powerful and visible than local ones. This spelled danger for local brands… and heavens for us. Corporate Identity, that was the answer.

In September 1994, we started the first corporate identity and Strategic Design firm in the Middle East. We called it “IDentity”, yes, with a Capital “I” and “D”. This was the twist in the brand; “ID” was your physique, “entity” was your character, and the whole “IDentity” was your behavior.

I was so into branding now.

This time, passion was flowing, and the results were clear… Still are. We created some of the most recognized brands today.

There, I discovered that even accountants can be branders…

All it took was to be a “child of the street”. You look at people around you, and you see what no one ever teaches you, what they refuse to teach you. You see that brands make us who we are, but mostly that it’s actually good.

Once you understand the symbiosis between people and brands, and you grasp the breadth of how they feed each other, you develop this kind of passion that brings you closer to people.

So for the “No logo” gents and dames, there’s a continuation to the statement, “No logo, no people”. What makes our individualism is the way we deal with everyday brands. What we wear, eat, drive, carry… all tell everyone else who we are. When we speak, we top it all with our own brand. We are not the brands we carry; we are “which” ones we carry and how we display our choice of brand styles and mix. That, coupled with our own behavior, is what makes us easier to figure out.

Branding is by excellence about people, and hey! I’m a people person.

So, here’s your answer Danielle, I went into advertising looking for a job. But I moved to branding looking for a passion.

© 2010 Ibrahim Lahoud

 

13
Jan
11

Brand Promise my a**!


When was the las time a “Fast pain relief” medicine relieved your pain fast?

When was the last time a “30% whiter” detergent actually made your laundry 30% whiter?

When was the last time a “we care for you” outlet made you feel it cared for you?

When was the last time a “we try harder” car rental made you feel they even tried a bit?

When was the last time an “I’m loving it” made you really love it?

Oh wait, wait, here’s the best: When was the last time a “growing your potential” bank actually made your potential grow?! When they can’t even protect the heritage they “use and abuse” to sell new products and services?!

You work hard on designing a wonderful logo, a great-looking stationery, pay a copywriter to crack this amazing tagline, a top-notch architect to design your office and outlets, and…?

And what?
Nothing!

If this is how these people treat their husbands and wives, no wonder divorce rates are sky-rocketing!!

Which part of “Brand Promise” don’t these guys get?

Just to refresh their memory:

A brand does all it does for one sole aim, keep its promise. That’s how brands make money. A brand’s equity lies within its promise. A brand’s life is defined by how it keeps its promise… Just like a marriage!

So, to those luminaries who think that a nice looking logo with a cute catch line makes a brand, I say: No wonder you still think a bimbo (excuse my French) on a street corner is a bachelor bank manager looking for a date!

I got news for you: your clients and prospects are no as lame as you think. You can’t take them for a ride anymore. No sir! They know what a false promise is. Ask their respective spouses! 😉

Let’s not hide behind our fingers. Here it is straight in your face: When you break a promise, you are a liar! When your brand breaks its promise, it is as much a liar!

The thing is when you break your promise, you could, I repeat “could” try to patch things up, apologize, reverse the damage, and all it would cost you is a something like a lunch. When a brand breaks its promise and needs or tries to patch things up… Think, just think of the damages, and the costs involved in trying, I repeat “trying” and fix it!

Loosing credibility means losing the trust of followers. And when credibility and trust are wasted, what would a brand rely on to make others believe it is really sorry for not keeping its promise? This is the vicious loop a brand is stuck in when it does not keep its promise. That’s one vicious loop which, like a maelstrom, will keep dragging the brand down into the abyss of oblivion.

Some might argue, how could big famous brands break their promise? They’re doing great. Well… They are… sort of! But big brands are not always about the U.S. or Europe… Are they?

Look at big brands in Lebanon. “I’m not loving it” at all. No one really “tries harder”, and for heaven’s sake, don’t convince me that anyone really “cares for me”.

Big brands should start looking at small territories. Our notion of customer service over here is from another planet. Big brands with branches or franchises in Lebanon should keep a close eye on their outposts. When I am not satisfied, I will hate THE brand, not the branch! So finally, big brands are more at risk in smaller territories.

Now look at local brands, their promises, and how they keep them! I’ll tell you how: Like politicians! That’s how!

The equation is simple: Brand -> Promise -> Customer -> Friendship -> Loyalty.

And as the saying goes, “A chain is as strong as its weakest link!”

So, don’t say it, Just Do It, Try Harder to Care for Me. It will be the Fastest Pain Relief, allowing me to Grow My Potential. And that’s how I’m Loving It, Having It My Way!!!

©2010 Ibrahim Lahoud

29
Nov
10

What is the one most crucial asset of a Nation identity?





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Creative Commons License
Reason To Believe by Ibrahim N. Lahoud is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Based on a work at ilahoud.wordpress.com.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at htt://ilahoud.wordpress.com.

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