Abu Dhabi Brand Mastery

My eyes were immediately drawn to the headline, Football and films fuel Abu Dhabi’s brand building dream. This was an article by John Arlidge in the online UK Telegraph. A brand like Kleenex or Google is clearly valuable, yet people seem very reluctant to define exactly what a brand is. What is the nature of the brand that Abu Dhabi is creating?

The Vancouver Sun carried the same story with a different headline: Abu Dhabi stakes claim to the West’s biggest brands. This seems clearer, since the story is all about Abu Dhabi buying the Manchester City Premier League soccer team. The Abu Dhabi Media Company, an arm of the government, has also struck a £500m deal to make movies with Warner Brothers, the go-to studio for the likes of George Clooney and Will Smith. The decision by Sheikh Khalifa to invest more than £1.5bn overnight in football and films has left fans and financiers asking one thing: what is Abu Dhabi up to?

Rita Clifton, chairman of Interbrand, is quoted as saying it is all about building the brand but again what is a brand? Perhaps the ESOMAR (World Association of Opinion and Marketing Research Professionals – formerly European Society for Opinion and Marketing Research) definition is as good as any:

A product or service to which human beings attach a bundle of tangible (functional product and service characteristics) and intangible (emotional and/or symbolic) meanings that add value. A brand has one strategic purpose and that is to differentiate itself from competitors.

The last part of the definition may be the key here. The online Guardian in commenting on all this suggested: “There is a general feeling in the Emirates that Dubai has become the brand name for the country, while Abu Dhabi – though the capital and largest emirate – is receding in the background. The whole plan is putting Abu Dhabi back on the map.”

Abu Dhabi Logo

In other words, Branding is coming of age in UAE. There is an Office of the Brand of Abu Dhabi that exists to promote its reputation abroad. Welcome to the Abu Dhabi brand.

The Brand Union, part of WPP, one of the biggest marketing communication groups in the world is helping in establishing the corporate identity. WPP includes over 250 companies in marketing communications including many of the big names like Ogilvy & Mather, Young & Rubicam, AGB Nielsen and the list goes on.

Branding is not just about a design or a logo. It’s more important to make sure you secure a competitive position in the market with your brand.” according to Simon Bolton, CEO of The Brand Union. “And in Abu Dhabi there’s amazing business to create brands to attract investors.” The Brand Union hails Brand Mastery as the most effective approach:

Brand Mastery can only be achieved through an equal measure of art and science. It’s a carefully-constructed mix of creativity and rigour that differentiates The Brand Union from all our competitors.

Part science, part art. Knowing the measure of each in the building of a brand is the key to mastery. Lean too far to the right and you get creative flair without a strategic perspective. But lean too far to the left and you get strategy without beautiful execution. So you need a healthy balance between the two sides—a dynamic tension that’s vital for building great brands.

Becoming a Brand Master is a lifetime’s work. It’s the same with brands. They’re never complete, and need to be managed dynamically. The pursuit of bright ideas, looking at new competitors and discovering new insights keeps a brand enticing.

That certainly describes what Abu Dhabi has been achieving in recent weeks.

Related: Branding White Rock BC – What is a Brand?

9 thoughts on “Abu Dhabi Brand Mastery”

  1. The brand Abu Dhabi is part of an incredible development in infrastructure, especially aimed to attract foreign investment, foreign business, and tourists. Talking about a lifetime’s work: the whole UAE is conciously building a future for generations to come.

  2. Thanks for those comments. It’s good to note when agencies and companies are working effectively to be clearly visible on the Web. That certainly is an investment for the future.

  3. A suprising article given the Abu Dhabi brand strategy and identity were created by M&C Saatchi and the implementation was handled by Brand Faith. I don’t recall ever coming accross any involvement in the project from the Brand Union.

  4. Thank you, Mark, for that correction. I did research the topic and nowhere did the name of Brand Faith come up.

    I have now done a specific search for your company name and Abu Dhabi and the only references that come up are in Flash such as http://www.brandfaith.com/news.swf. Such Flash News probably do not rank well in Google searches. Perhaps that’s a useful finding from this.

  5. While Abu Dhabi has become a much more recognizable name over the last couple of years it still faces many challenges.

    Possibly the greatest is educating people that it is a safe place to visit and to invest in.

    A consultant friend of mine works with a large company in Dubai and has been blown away by the development in the area, including Abu Dhabi. He’s said it is ‘surreal’. Not only the amount of wealth, but also the infrastructure.

    All branding, whether for a wealthy country or small business needs to achieve one main goal to be successful – and that is to resonate and create an emotion in the minds of its target market.

    Has all the branding and sponsorship of Abu Dhabi done that? Hard to say. But if they can get more investors and tourists to flock to the city – then clearly this will be a well spent investment.


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