Posts Tagged ‘Nation branding


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


Of driving and drivers. Another nail in Brand Lebanon coffin

She’s in a top of the class dark grey Range Rover with a four digits plate number, on the left lane of the road. Her cell phone is held between her left cheek and shoulder. She’s confirming her 11:00am Botox appointment. Her right hand is holding her $200 Mascara stick. She’s staring at the rear view mirror trying to work her eyelashes into giving her a more slutty look. A super slim mint-flavored cigarette is dangling from her lower lip glued by the thick layers of deep red lipstick glazed by another two coats of gloss. On the right seat – the one we call “la place du mort” in French or “the seat of the dead”- is her five years old daughter standing, leaning against the dashboard looking at the traffic. In the backseat the Philippine maid is the only one with her seatbelt on. A Starbuck’s coffee is sitting in the cup holder on the dashboard. On the rear windshield is a small round sticker with the Army logo. Oh, and by the way, she’s driving!

He’s in a black 1982 BMW 316. He changed the model number to 325. You could buy these chrome digits from any parts shop. He’s also driving slowly on the left lane of the highway. They must have all earned their driving license in Great Britain! His car windshields and windows are all shaded with a 90% black Fumé that he had had installed few months ago at Tiger. You could tell from the “Tiger” letters stuck under the newly installed “325”. The driver’s window is open. He’s there wearing a green 100% glossy Polyester short sleeve shirt open all the way to his pelvis. Abundant chest hair is proudly protruding and almost hiding a thick gold chain that rivals 50Cent’s and with a gold cross at the end that rivals the Pope’s official cross. His left arm is dangling, fully, outside the window, so low it could touch the asphalt. There’s a tattoo on his shoulder. You can only guess few letters, under a hidden graphic, that say “Shirine”. On the dashboard, a panoply of dials lit in blue. There’s even one for his IQ always stuck at zero. He’s from a special race of people genetically afflicted with a rare disease; when you honk at them, they slow down! Science has yet to find an explanation and cure. On his rear windshield, there’s an A4 poster of some dead relative with the “we will never forget you” line underneath the photo. Seems this poor youngster was ran over by another BMW.

On the same highway, same lane, an old crumbling Vespa is coming towards them, against the traffic. All that’s left from the “mobilette” is her bare mobility! Riding it is a 15 years old boy. He’s wearing a sleeveless navy blue tshirt with a huge white Armani eagle on the back. I always strongly believed that these guys genuinely think that Armani is from Bourj Hammoud! He’s got more gel on his hair than at Elie’s my barber, so much that his wannabe mohawk styling is creating a wind sheer factor that’s slowing him down. Between his legs, resting precariously on the cycle’s floor, is a blue gas canister he’s delivering to a nearby shawarma outlet. While his right hand is clinging to the throttle handle, constantly keeping it twisted to the extreme, his right hand is holding a $20 violet Nokia cellphone. He’s organizing his shisha night. Replacing what used to be his only headlight, is a plastic yellowish skull with 2 blue lights for eyes. He’s keeping the traffic driving at his pace. Probably the wind on his face gives him the impression to do 80Kmh.

He’s just crossed the intersection towards which the chick in a dark grey Range Rover and the macho in the black BMW are heading. There, is standing a caricature of a traffic officer. From afar, you can first guess his beer belly, and the closer you get, the more you find out that he’s standing right in front of the cars he’s asking to move, blocking them! He’s wearing over-sized trousers that barely hold to his lower waist and are so long they actually fold under his shoe heels. By contrast, his short sleeves shirt is so tight, it reminds you of the Village People, not that he’s well built… Few salt and pepper belly hair are trying to make a run for their lives through the gap between two buttons struggling to keep the two sides of the shirt holding together. Right beneath his left chest pocket, is a dark spot left by a clumsy cleaning of some taratour from the Falafel sandwich he’s just had. He’s wearing white gloves. They’re not white anymore but rather a gradation of grey that starts light towards the wrist and end up in a dark warm grey at the tip of the fingers. Thank God he removes them to “clean” his nose… So he’s waving the traffic frantically to move and clear the intersection, but he does not notice that he’s standing right in the middle of the road making it impossible for cars to move. He’s actually on the phone, you could tell it’s his wife (or mom) from the uncomfortable look on his eyes. Then, he suddenly asks the cars to stop, and forgets to wave the other lane to move. And now, he’s standing all alone in the middle of the intersection speaking to his wife (or mom), while the whole frozen traffic is anxiously awaiting a sign to move, just like a well-trained dog awaits a signal from his master to hit the food plate.

Not far from there, a 95 years old taxi driver in a 1989 orange Hyundai Accent has stopped in the middle of the road trying to pick up 2 Ethiopian maids on their day off. They want to go to Hamra, but he’s only getting to Clemenceau. Traffic piles up behind him, honking, curses, ranging from “Ya hayawen” (You animal!) to things that brings him back in memory to the day he was conceived… He’s either deaf or playing deaf.

Few meters behind is a black Mercedes with a blue plate carrying 2 digits, and flanked by two black Chevrolets TrailBlazer. Sirens, honking and the whole works. Some deputy is late for work… or lunch… or his mistress… or just like that, for the fun of playing deputy! They push everyone aside, pass and speed away…


They always speed away. They learned that the farther you get from a problem, the less of a problem it is.


Someone commented a while ago on my blog saying that the beauty of Lebanon is in its chaos… If this is the case, Lebanon must then advertise for providing “quality” heart attacks, unparalleled quality of CO2 pollution therapy, and being the only place on Earth that teaches CSL (Cursing as Second Language)!

I drive slowly on the right lane and fast on the left. I wear my seatbelt before starting the car. I use a headset to speak on the phone, I don’t have shaded windows. My car’s model is genuine and I keep my chest hair well tucked under my shirt!

What I have a problem with is working my ass out to pay the salary of deputies, ministers, and traffic officers. Being a boss who can’t fire is annoying. I have a problem paying taxes every time I renew my car’s license, only to drive on roads that resemble Himalayan donkey tracks. I have a problem with newly installed traffic lights that don’t light! I have a problem with police officers that scare me more than they protect me. I have a problem with Black Mercedes, BMW and Range Rovers. I have problems with Picantos that think they’re Ferraris.

No, The beauty of Lebanon in not in its chaos. It is in its diversity, where idiots live in harmony with the cultured. It’s in its fauna, where all sorts of animals cohabit with humans. And most of all, the beauty of Lebanon is in its flora, where vegetation exists along the vegetables we became!

I know someone will gloriously comment on that blog entry by asking why don’t I do something about to start with! I am… Can’t you read? Ah, sorry I forgot… In Lebanon words don’t count anymore. I’ll honk!


Check please… Really

A week ago, I was having lunch at a restaurant in Beirut. When done, I call up the waiter for the check using the universally recognized gesture of the raised hand and two fingers simulating writing… The guy got me a pen!

I appreciate hiring amateur students and what have you as waiters to make some extra bucks. What I don’t like is when the outlet management is more amateur than those they hire!

Oh, I understand. With the riches in which Lebanon basks, like oil, gas, industry, export and others, hospitality is a detail… I mean, why would we need to invest in that industry as if it was our sole source of decent income!


Our beloved Minister of Tourism shows up on TV desperately and pathetically defending himself over the Gemmayzeh Decibel level. How about he gets busy solving the rising moronic level of the hospitality industry! How about we lay some simple, easy to understand, rules that govern how outlets hire front office staff? How about we ask for a minimum of knowledge from a Lebanese applying for a waiter job, like… mum… say speak Arabic?? Or smile? Or know that a raised hand and two fingers simulating writing means “Check please”?… Really?!

We excel at one more thing in this country: The fast buck! We think that a nice logo, outdoor sign and a totally stupid smile at the door is enough to generate a pleasant experience.

Well let me tell you, if this is what people are looking for, I would open a “restaurant” made out of two doors back to back, one entry and one exit,m with a great logo, a wonderful sign and a smiling babe greeting you. You pay, and get the hell out through the second door right away! How about that for an experience? Hein??

Idiots! An experience includes the orgasm!!!!

Yes, I like a good brand. Yes, a visible sign would help. The smile at the door? Priceless… but… Have you ever heard of “service”, “quality”? AND, the raised hand and two fingers simulating writing that means “check please”?… Really??

For many of those idiots who misread my third paragraph above, put your shades on cave bats, I’m going to shed some light on the facts:

NO, we do not have oil,

NO, we do not have gas,

NO, we do not have industries,

NO, we do not have exports… well yeah, people, but that’s another chapter.

All we have are politicians, not much to put a country’s goodwill out. We also have “citizens” who don’t even know how to draw their own country’s flag. Thank God we don’t carry the Brazilian flag; we deserve the Libyan one! And.. we have tourism and hospitality.

Now, let’s see. Tourism; the country where you can ski and swim at the same time… Yeah, and no one ever asked why?! Simple, because by the time you leave Faraya in December heading for the beach, you’re guaranteed to get there by June! Tourism is not an industry in Lebanon. It is as archeological as archeology itself. Haphazard lame advertising campaigns promoting “what we sell” instead of who we are. Tourism is not about sea, sand and sun (and sex). It is not about archeology. It is not about food. It is about IDENTITY. Now you tell me, what is our identity? The one we need to sell to create our touristic platform? Name online please… I dare you!

Hospitality? I guess that the problems lies deep within our knowledge of the language. No schmucks! Hospitality has got nothing to do with hospitals! Is that why we’re selling Lebanon as the prime destination for cosmetic surgery??! Is it?

What happened to Raoucheh, Jeita grotto, Beiteddine, Rabbits’ islands, Maameltein… Oops! Sorry, we all know what happened to this one! Another linguistic misunderstanding, we actually thought that “warm welcome” meant “reaaaally” warm… Thank God we did not word it in typical Lebanese “hot welcome”…

So, we’re left with Downtown, Gemmayzeh, nightlife, belly buttons, (fake) boobs, in-your-face sweaty arm pits and some 60’s smiling faces.

Reality is that underneath this layer, hides a crave… “My” crave to be able to call a place “my” country, be able to describe it in 2 words instead of a dissertation that gets into the existentialist reasoning of war stigmatized citizens.

I have a crave to talk about this place without having to insert the word Zionist, or “Amrica al shaytan”, or Syria the occupier, or International tribunal, or Northern Emirate, or security belt, or Solidere, or UNIFIL or trees…

I have a crave to stop calling this place “this place” and start calling it home…

Until then, please give a decent place to eat, a pleasant corniche to walk at, a “free” beach to watch the sunset, or an archeological site that does not come with beads sellers, Sudanese nuts and begging gypsies. Can you? Can you do that at least?

Oh, and please, kindly remember, a raised hand and two fingers simulating writing means “Check please”… Really.


Are local TV stations watching TV?

We live in a spectators country! Every one is a spectator, the citizens, the politicians, and now TVs! There has never been a time in Lebanese history where any TV station has reached such a level of decadence be it in form or content.

With the advent of the online experience, I was expecting TV stations to be a little more creative (yeah, yeah, I know I’m asking too much but it’s worth a shot)! When international broadcast stations are re-inventing the way they deliver news and entertainment; back here we invent news ways of copying logos, formats and content. Plagiarism has turned into an elaborate science. Hey! At least we’re good at something!

I remember the good old days when Télé-Liban used to broadcast home-grown programming. Back then we had amazing Lebanese actors who made regional TV history. They are starving today, they’re dying in misery! We had journalists, real ones who became mesmerizing anchors. We had beautiful announcers’ faces, carved by nature and not by plastic surgeons. Color, 3D, HD and all that crap was never the issue.  It was about a word that has now entered the realm of oblivion: Talent.

News. In yesteryear it about news. Today it’s about the race for scoops. I wonder what they will do next… Hire a posse to kill someone just to earn the prime time news scoop?!

Lebanon has proven that it excels at one and only one thing, regression. We lead the Internet revolution then we trail behind. We create democracy in a dictatorship-laden region and then reinvent dictatorship. And now, after pioneering the broadcast history in Lebanon, we become history…

I think our local TV stations got the word “flavor” from the tail. Helloo! When we said flavors we meant programming… Not colors morons! Blue, yellow, green are not flavors… and certainly not orange!

What happened to the good old days when brains use to drive the broadcast industry? What happened to “Lebanese” speaking programs? What happened to the real depiction of the Lebanese society? Oh we still have those you say? Ah ok! The news. Yeah I totally forgot about that daily folkloric manifestation of our society where a stupendous amalgam of show-off occurs.

There’s the TV station trying to brag about a scoop (that we all read about on the internet in the morning and already tweeted a gazillion times!).

Then there’s the party or parties “behind” the TV trying to beam “subtle” messages between the already “obviously” messaged lines.

Then there’s the anchor, and oh what a staged dramatic comedy that is! They don’t train them anymore to deliver the news in a professional objective way. They get trained instead on displaying facial expressions that match the story they’re “reading” off the tele-prompter, in an attempt to immerse us in “their” truth. Speaking of truth, we’re probably the country that invented the “plural” of Truth… right after the alphabet! Since our beloved anchors are training,  I advise they get some basic grammar training while they’re at it…

Finally there are the guests and the footage. I guess that’s why we don’t produce any programs anymore… I mean, who would want to invest in producing a sitcom or series when we can get it for free with just a camera off the street… or the house of parliament?!

I am outraged!

Look at what we’re teaching our children.

Look at what we’re telling the world about us.

Look at what we’re leaving in our archive cellars for the future generations.

Look at what we’ve done to our voice,
our opinion,
our independence,
our democracy,
our cause…


We became an HMV outlet! (His Master’s Voice).

We’ve perfectly applied the joke of “when I want your opinion, I’ll give it to you”.

We’s removed the “in” off our “independence” between two commercial breaks.

We turned our democracy into the perfect camouflage fabric to hide our shameful dictatorships and feudalism.

And our cause? I never knew we actually had any until those bozos starting creating ones left and right and establishing TV stations to promote them!!

I guess now, we should play the National Anthem, right?


Lebanon, the Internet and literacy

The slow bandwidth, lack of broadband, free wi-fi spots and a proper and affordable pricing structure are dramatically contributing to the drop of literacy in Lebanon.

Yes, even Facebook and illegal torrents are tools of education. Not that I encourage illegal activities… but really, where else will you learn “things” in Lebanon? Certainly not the media! Surely not expensive books! And absolutely not from your entourage.

Before the advent of Internet, TV used to teach us a lot. English was perfected by many through TV series and movies. Documentaries were our hungry minds window to the world. Hell! Even news were good to watch back then. Books were cheap, magazines were about fashion instead of sick outfits, about innovations instead of cheesy gadgets, and about world human happenings instead of modern days copycats.

And one day, we woke up and all was gone. TVs started beaming brain-damaging endless soap operas, sci-fi movies where the only fiction is the director. And whenever there’s a worthy channel, you have to pay loads of cash to see it or… hack it.

Books became for the wealthy (as if they needed education to buy an outrageously huge and hideous pinky gold ring), and if you manage to land on an affordable one, it’s always about Lebanese politics, and the only way to rationalize this one is through a sarcastic joke about the origins of the word politics: ‘Poly’ meaning many and ‘ticks’ meaning blood-sucking parasites. Magazines? Don’t even ask! They contain more Botox than Zaza Gabor’s lips and more slimy-dripping silicone than Silicone Valley, and if they don’t, well… they’re simply “flat”!

So, today we have the Internet! Some will argue that the internet contains the same crap mentioned above. Well yes, true, but the good stuff is a URL away. Your call!

When one school somewhere in Lebanon gets connected and furnishes its classes with laptops instead of books, it’s national news, a scoop. Well, on one side it’s a relief from the usual “I shot the sheriff but did not shoot the deputy” headlines, but on the other… Come on! We’re now bragging about how late we were??!

Before connecting schools and finding enough bandwidth to make it run, how about we start with getting homes connected? It’s sickening to find ministers and politicians throwing the blame at each other in a weird ping-pong, over who’s responsible! Hello! Read the blogs, follow Twitter, look at Facebook. WE DON’T CARE WHO’S TO BLAME! Denial is far from being just a river in Egypt you know… Don’t know who said that, but I’ll marry her if it’s a “she”!

Bandwidth is available, the infrastructure is available, everything is ready but it takes a little bit of, Ahem!… brain… and… balls! Here I said it. Another sarcastic joke is due: God gave men enough blood to make only one of two function at the same time… so that’s probably why, broadband will take some time….

Most of what I know today, most of the information I had and that developed into knowledge was acquired from the Internet. My children (and yours) acquired their knowledge from the internet. And all that was achieved with the slowest of connections you could have anywhere in the world!

If we were to count on parents, society, schools and the whole educational system over here to provide knowledge to our children, they’ll end up talking politics, weather, coffee cups fortune-telling and some weird and totally misleading history material.

We want people to know about Facebook, but also about Zuckerberg, Apple, but also Steve Jobs, Obama, but also Kevorkian. We want them to know about big movies, but also about YouTube amateurs. We want them to know about Twitter but also Foursquare. We want people to harness the power of the internet to the maximum. We want them to bleed it dry. It is amazing that in some North European countries, Internet access became a citizen’s right, just like electricity and water, while here, it is still a luxury… like electricity and water!!!

The rich get richer, and the poor poorer… This needs no elaboration in Lebanon, but the danger that lurks inside does. The rich is motivated by money, while the poor is motivated by knowledge. Underprivileged people “know” that to make money, they need knowledge, not education; knowledge. They can’t afford education, because the country leaders simply won’t avail it, but knowledge should be accessible to everyone. It costs less to avail bandwidth than to build schools, and over here… It even educates better!

Ok, it’s true,  I love being sarcastic. I love criticizing the leaders, not “our”, “the”; they’re surely not my leaders, and you know why? I refuse to be led by someone who’s knowledge-meter is below freezing! I always wondered what do they do with their Internet at home besides playing online poker or watch… Ahem! (again) indecent and decadent material? Oh come on! Don’t tell me politicians read the news on the Internet! They made the news and trust me, even they don’t want to read their own crap.

So, do you want to create a nation? Do you want to build a country with its feet on the ground but a soul in the stars? Do you want to see yourselves and your children become beacons of knowledge? Ask your government to open up the bandwidth pipe and lower the Internet prices. Ask your politicians to avail free wi-fi spots all over the urban areas. Tell them that politics don’t make countries… Countries make politics

Only then will you “really” discover the difference between orange, yellow, green and blue. You’ll find out they are just colors… Nothing more… Nothing less.


BRAND LEBANON [Interview in ArabAd by Jad Haidar]

Published ArabAd magazine – August issue
Interview conducted by Jad Haidar

Brand Lebanon?!

© DeLevante

“The Paradoxically Complex,” is the term, John Maeda, President of the Rhode Island School of Design used to describe ‘simplicity’. That statement cannot possibly have made more sense, when referring to Lebanon, specifically identity. The country’s nationals, are all familiar with the term, intimately so, yet only when it comes to matters external to ourselves. As people inhabiting a minute geographical space, we certainly excelled at two fundamental truths. The first being how little about ourselves we managed to learn. The other, is how far we came by capitalizing on the civilisations that previously inhabited the region. This in turn completely removed us from ourselves!

Now, try branding that.

Discussing this very subject with Ibrahim Lahoud, Director of Strategy and Brand Communication at BrandCentral was refreshingly enlightening, as he cut straight through the clutter, outlining what needs to be done and where we should start. “Nation branding is about defining a nation, namely us. If you ask a European or an American what a nation is, you get a straight answer. However when you ask that question here, it’s total schizophrenia, in the sense that on the one hand, there is us, and on the other, there is the nation. A total separation, a typical bi-polar disorder and I love it!”

In other words, there is no separation between one and the other, though that only applies anywhere but here. Lahoud entertained the notion of having Brand Lebanon before moving to an example, which literally destroys the brand saying, “As a foreigner, you step out of Beirut’s International Airport. Getting to where you want to go from here, you hail a cab and are greeted by an older man with nothing other than a single golden tooth in his mouth asking for $70 to drive you to Dora. That taxi driver just ruined the whole brand!”

However, there is light at the end of the tunnel, though still too far off, it nonetheless is there. “The leverage here is that thin layer, which contrary to common belief, is not the intelligentsia, rather the Net Generation for whom technology is second nature. They are the only ones headed where Lebanon should be, and are, by association, the ones taking the country there. The remaining population is divided into the ‘stagnant’ and the ‘negative-active.’”

If we are serious about branding the country, his reasoning went, then it is that generation we should be empowering. After all, one of the key elements to branding a country are new age tools, which so happens to be what this generation masters. “Your blog, website, Twitter and Facebook accounts can easily reach the whole world. The good thing that foreigners know about us comes from these platforms, the content of which is also being generated, in great part, by these youngsters,” he said.

Another case in point, when it comes to nation branding, which he explained is the toughest aspect in branding, entails having the right consultant and the right client attitude. The hierarchy in any corporation is comprised of management, namely the top executives or the ‘Untouchables’, and beneath those are the staff, which very-well represent the nation’s people. After delivering the work to the executives in the highest echelons of power, they in turn absorb it, and then bleed it down to the whole organisation, instructing their underlings of the new direction things will take as of now, like it or not!

“If we extrapolate, why this is not happening here, the answer would be because we never hired consultants, and if we did, where are the plans and who has been briefed on this? This is what other countries did. We make fun of Americans saying that most of them are ignorant to the world outside, though regardless whether that is true or not, the first thing that any American does after building a home, is erect the US flag. That is nation branding.”

Though assigning blame does more damage than good, and despite the fact that this is something we as a people do quite well, the matter in hand is obviously a shared responsibility, as it literally relates to one and all. Lahoud explained that people do what they can, when and if they can, which he in turn is doing by communicating ‘Brand Lebanon’ through his blog. “When I go to pitch, people are aware of my blog and express their admiration for the ideas and content therein. Here, you could say that at least, our industry’s flag flies high throughout the world. So in a way as a business, we did contribute. However, it takes two to tango.”

Assuming that what was mentioned above were the first step, the problem facing an individual such as himself, is in step two, which involves pitching the idea to the responsible government official. “Now image I want to suggest ‘Brand Lebanon’ to the minister responsible for such communication. If I am lucky to get to that door, I would be more than lucky to have someone answer when I knock. Furthermore, assuming that I am granted audience, what chances do you think I have that my suggestion will be understood? Regardless, and for the sake of argument, suppose that this minister did understand, he in turn will have to brief his underlings on that matter so as to rally proponents, opponents and influencers…This is definitely where matters come to a halt.”

© 2006 – Latuff

The main problem here, despite the fact people have the ability and the tools to make a change, is the absence of real motivation to do so because we ourselves have no conviction in the country we live, and it all starts there, his reasoning went. Then again, perhaps focusing on Lebanon’s strongest selling points would help in achieving that main objective. Only problem with that, is our inability to agree on a single solution that would profit one and all. So instead of strengthening that union, we are tearing ourselves apart. “The problem is that we are not using diversity because we’re introverts. This is why tourists love to travel to India, where they get to experience the traditional alongside the modern. We on the other hand, have problems in selling that notion, as that, always comes within a political frame. After all, diversity is not cohabitation. Diversity is in our culture, which becomes apparent when you spend a day in a southern village and then spend the evening at a coastal city up north. This goes to show that though tourism is our biggest industry, all we are doing is slowly killing.”

If that weren’t bad enough, not making full use of the resources available to us is the other detrimental factor, which has slowly turned this ‘touristic hub’ into a seasonal one, mimicking promotional sales, thereby deconstructing what could have been ‘Brand Lebanon’. “Lebanon has become nothing more than a tourist destination for Arabs in summer. Here I ask why is it that the rest of the seasons are omitted? Do we hibernate during that time? Also, why is it that we do not have winter music festivals, yet come summer, the best musicians perform at different venues all at the same time! If you have such an industry, you do not season-alise it, you de-season-alise it instead. By doing so, you turn Lebanon into an all-year-round touristic destination thus tripling or quadrupling your intake, as well as doing so in terms of exposure.”

Talking about taking advantage of what exists, as opposed to creating something, is a wealth of archaeological sites scattered throughout the country. However, no other site has drawn more buzz, than the infamous Gemmayzeh street. Yet regardless of all the generated hype, which spans the globe and was instrumental in categorising the country as the number one go to destination last year, little planning went into organising businesses there. “Gemmayzeh street, put Lebanon back on the map, yet the biggest problem we have there is that there are no rules to regulate the influx of visitors! We also have archaeological tourism and outdoor tourism, none of which have been given serious consideration. Still another is the 210 km coastal stretch where anyone planning to go swimming, will not only have to pay a minimum of $20 but will refrain, once there, from jumping in because the water is too dirty. You ask me what has all this got to do with Brand Lebanon, I tell you this is Brand Lebanon.”

Taking a minute to compose himself, as the topic obviously infuriated him, Lahoud went on to explain that the real problem is not that of being unaware of the problems facing us, rather it’s about running away from responsibility. “It’s the little things that make or break a branded nation. If you look at what was done in the U.A.E., government build a gigantic touristic site in the Middle of the desert. Sure one would argue that they have the money to do so. Then again, we already have the touristic sites but have failed to make money!”

Emphasising the necessity of agreeing on a ‘brief’ to commence the nation branding plan, is an inescapable reality. “We do not create brands, as they already exist. We simply dress and lend them meaning. So long as Lebanon is not unified, then there really is little we can do in that regard.” Referring to the ‘Malaysia, Truly Asia’ slogan, that reality springs to life, as does the contradiction. “Watching that ad, the first thing that jumps out is the brand, which is followed by selling the tactical. In Lebanon however, these tacticals are the master brands!”

Concluding, he suggested a very simple strategy, which has tremendous potential. “The basic branding elements, call for a unified signage system for touristic and archaeological destinations in Lebanon. Printing leaflets to distribute to visitors arriving at the airport would be a very good first step. You could also distribute these to leisure outlets, which in turn would help tourists identify landmark sites and touristic attractions. After all, these tourists are the ones carrying your brand. If this is done, then the communication industry will package the brand beautifully, but give me something to package, else all I would be selling right now is hot air.”

By Jad Haidar


BRAND ARABIA – The Lebanon metamorphosis

Interview done with the media last July

National rebranding efforts to accelerate Lebanon’s transformation into modern tourist and business hub

Public figures and citizens urged to serve as ‘Brand Ambassadors’ in line with creative initiatives to promote Lebanon, says branding expert

Lebanon is emerging as one of the few positive stories in 2009 with remarkable growth in its tourism industry and overall economy, according to a branding expert. Concerted nationwide rebranding initiatives will help further accelerate Lebanon’s transformation into one of the world’s premier tourist and business destinations, as the government and the business sector need to take advantage of new developments to collaborate in creating fresher and more attractive images for “Brand Lebanon,” said Ibrahim Lahoud, Director of Strategy and Brand Communication, BrandCentral.

Lahoud pointed out that national rebranding efforts will have a dramatic impact in redefining the way the world looks at this key Middle Eastern country, helping promote Lebanon as a major business and tourism destination like Brazil, Greece and Turkey. He also noted several gaps in the promotion of Lebanon, particularly in the area of tourism wherein a great number of people around the world are still unaware that Lebanon has so much more to offer than its cedar trees. As such, Lahoud recommended the establishment of a dedicated initiative to consolidate branding initiatives of the public and private sectors with the aim of regaining Lebanon’s status as an economic powerhouse in the region and creating awareness about Lebanon’s strong potential to be a “Class A destination” for both business and tourism.

Another key measure that will enhance “Brand Lebanon” as a business destination according to Lahoud is to create dedicated districts that cater to various business and technological pursuits such as IT parks, banking and financial centres, and other business-centric development projects. Moreover, he emphasised the important role of prominent public figures such as singers and actors as well as ordinary citizens to serve as “Brand Ambassadors” of Lebanon.

“Lebanon is one of the rare success stories of the global financial crisis. Branding efforts focusing on its unique geography and way of life have opened up numerous opportunities in growth areas such as tourism, banking and construction, which continue to generate substantial capital from internal and external investors. Another important milestone that underscores the importance of branding strategies is the recent top-ranking performance of Beirut in an exclusive list of places to go in 2009, which has certainly boosted Lebanon’s image as a leading leisure, lifestyle and business destination,” said Lahoud.

“Furthermore, it is critically important to maintain the momentum generated by the country as a tourist hotspot and a safe and secure business destination. As such, there is an urgent need to develop more specific branding ideas and strategies that will further excite the world over the positive transformation of Lebanon. Although the Lebanese economy has gained so much this year, it is important to remember that competition remains tough as ever with other international travel and business destinations likewise aiming to improve their own stake in the global market. Our goal is to ensure that ‘Brand Lebanon’ remains firmly entrenched in the consciousness of our target audiences all over the world,” added Lahoud.

Lahoud noted that significant achievements of the country need to be promoted vigorously to further enhance Lebanon’s image as one of the most inspiring success stories in the midst of the global economic downturn. He further pointed out that the Lebanese economy has been projected to enjoy GDP growth of 3 per cent in 2009 and 4 per cent in 2010, according to the latest issue of the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) bi-annual World Economic Outlook (WEO), even as the Lebanese Government expects a much more impressive 6 per cent growth this year. Lebanon’s projected growth rate in 2009 easily eclipses the average growth in the Middle East (2.5 per cent) and among emerging and developing countries (1.6 per cent), while performing way above advanced economies and the world economy, which will record average negative growth rates at -3.8 per cent and -1.9 per cent, respectively.

On the other hand, a recent report by London-based investment firm Blakeney Investors has described Lebanon as a safe banking haven because of abundant liquidity and unprecedented inflow of deposits; the same report also highlighted Moody’s upgrade of Lebanon’s local and foreign currency government bond ratings at a time when several countries around the world have been downgraded. Lebanon’s tourism sector also achieved dramatic growth, enjoying a 56.8 per cent surge in tourist arrivals for a total of 434,418 visitors in the first four months of 2009 compared with the same period in 2008.

Lebanon’s tourism industry is expected to generate around 9.3 per cent of the country’s GDP and account for about 9.6 per cent of total domestic employment in 2009. It is also projected to provide indirect revenues worth USD 7.78 billion and indirectly create around 439,600 jobs or at least one out of every 3.6 jobs within the year, equivalent to 28.1 per cent of total employment.

Lebanon’s diverse and captivating natural resources, particularly its mountains, world-renowned cedar forests, and beaches, have helped earn the country a reputation as a travel haven. Other factors that continue to attract local, regional and global travellers are its excellent dining establishments; hospitable citizens; significant improvements in travel infrastructure through the Beirut International Airport and Lebanon’s official carrier Middle East Airlines; and abundance of artistic pursuits involving film, music, food and design, among others.

Beirut, on the other hand, has topped the global list of “The 44 Places to go in 2009” published recently by the New York Times. The Lebanese capital edged out popular tourist destinations such as Washington, D.C., Galapagos, Las Vegas and Hawaii by garnering consistently high ratings in all criteria, which included Luxury, Ecology, Family, Frugality, Food, Culture, and Party. The top ranking affirms Lebanon’s success in rebranding itself as a regional and global tourism hub and advances Beirut’s goal of reinforcing its title as “The Paris of the Middle East.”

BrandCentral Beirut has been a key contributor in promoting Lebanon as a leading regional and international travel and tourism gateway.  The consultancy provides turnkey solutions for brand development, corporate identity, and strategic design. Its mission is to provide a thoroughly positive impression of a company or product to existing and potential customers.


January 2020
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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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