The MEA region is one of the richest global territories when it comes to thought leadership in Branding and disruptive Brand Strategies. The Berries will bring to you the regions finest Branders for a Q&A to get their insights and professional opinions on engaging issues, challenges and opportunities.

The Berries interviewed Zouheir Zoueihed, Managing Director of Siegel + Gale Middle East, for a Q&A on how branding will unfold in 2017 and the best tips to for brands to survive.

As advertising loses its impact, brands are on a constant look for new ways to win customers over. Advertising people have been making brands perceived by their customers as if they’re living in an imaginary world instead of communicating products’ intrinsic qualities. What’s your insight ?

ZZ: Advertising companies have become somewhat out of sync with the needs of the brands and organizations especially in this part of the world due to the fact that most of these advertising agencies haven’t truly kept abreast of how local markets are changing and evolving. It is not only about having a digital offering or shifting budgets from print to online but it is more the thinking behind this that matters. A brand extends to every aspect of the business – from visual identity to how phones are answered to email signatures and the values you want associated to the brand – it’s all encompassing.

Brands in the Middle East are faced with complex challenges, volatile markets and uncertain futures – no surprise then they need all the support they can get to navigate such unpredictability. With life having never been more complex, from a creative perspective it’s no longer about ‘big idea’ advertising campaigns made for the masses but instead now it pays for brands to look torward simple, rich ideas to win the customer over. Rich ideas that speak to the audience in an authentic and compelling way, which resonates with them personally. In a world of technicality and speed, it’s the creative and compassionate ideas delivered simply at every level and across all channels, which are cutting through the clutter.

BB: It’s important for the physical workplace to be functional and engaging. But, that space is also an important part of your overall brand. Visitors and employees alike see your office space as an extension of company culture. How can workplace offers a unique opportunity to build brand identity and reinforce brands essence?

ZZ: Indeed, the physical environment in which brands exist whether customer facing or not are a key interaction and experience touchpoint. Bringing the brand to life in such environments is key but not only through posting generic mission and vision statements and nice visuals on the walls but has to be thought through the lens of the brand and the behaviors it wishes to evoke and enable. So this is a holistic exercise from flow journey maps, furniture and fabrics, lighting to the different design elements that become an intuitive extension of the brand in a physical space.

BB: Can you mention some tips and tricks to help local brands adapt and survive in 2017?

ZZ: In a world of VUCA (Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, Ambiguity) the key advice would be to embed simplicity and optimism in the local brands. Brands should take this opportunity to simplify and take the friction out of customers’ lives and provide fresh and enticing experiences that engage customers at the right place and time that help build a more positive experience overall.

BB: Several global brand reports have shown that we’ll be seeing more companies working together across different marketplaces in a new reminder that some bridges between brands have to be crossed for a mutually-empowered markets. How can brands nurture a culture of brand partnerships and stay competitive to each other at the same time?

ZZ: Mergers, acquisitions and partnerships are now all very commonplace occurrences. There have been some great examples where brands have come together – despite a crossover or competing product – to deliver a better offering for the customer. And that’s the important thing at the end of the day, the customer’s needs and wants.

The Apple iPhone features Google Maps. Apple also buys components from Samsung while they compete heavily in other places on patents and products. BMW and Toyota cooperate as well on the technology and innovation side while they compete in global markets and the same applies Microsoft and Intel. These partnerships deliver a better product as a result.

As well as the business benefit, there is also a social aspect where the partnering of competing brands contribute toward the greater good. An example would be “Refrigerants, Naturally” where Pepsi, Redbull, Coca Cola and Unilever came together for developing greener, environmentally friendly and natural refrigeration technology. Also Tesla gave up the rights to their electric cars patents to encourage and grow the industry for a more sustainable future.

I believe that the coopetition model is only going to grow in the future with the growing challenges and problems that the world is facing. Traditionally solutions came from governments to combat such world problems such as fighting poverty, diseases, economic problems or global warming, but now private organizations have become more global, more in touch with the communities they operate in and much wealthier. Therefore, having the strength to act and step up to such challenges in a more effective and less bureaucratic way than governments will only improve consumers affiliation, loyalty and trust toward these brands.