The Identity Crisis : This is Arabia
So I consult, essentially as a brand equity developer. Between transforming the creative into a brand and identifying markets for brand growth.
During this time, I find myself in places around the world. A question often raised is - Where are you from? Without getting into specifics I’d simply respond, Bahrain, a little place in the heart of Arabia.
Funny how a simple statement always invited remarks about larger than life Dubai, about how Qatari and Saudi investors are taking over European monuments (hands ups waving), but my favorite remark remains to be, ‘Oh Oil Money! So you’re rich!’
Just like that, they reach right into the heart of this talk, Arabia and the Identity Crisis.
For the next however long minutes remaining of the encounter, I press on to explain the facts and realities, the concept of stereotypes, perception and all the details within.
Identity is an inescapable concept; studies delve deep into all the sorts of it, demographical, physiological, sociological, philosophical, cultural and economical. But this is about a less ‘theoretical form of’ identity, one that applies to us all, we partake in it everyday, consciously or subconsciously. Put simply it is the simple outcome of who we say we are vs. who you we are perceived to be be it as an individual, a brand or a market.
A formula that becomes more important than ever as we look represent ourselves, but more so, to know where to stand in relation to the global landscape. It’s a relative form of identity that we have to create internally first so we can bridge to an external audience. What it boils down to is Identity is our bridge to the world.
As a population, China is a conventional collective culture, deems stepping out of the crowd as naughty, even uncool! Henceforth, the buying culture in China shows that it’s all about Status. On the other hand Japan; a distinctively creative culture of self-expression. Buying behavior relates to identifying with different cultures or ideals, in large, self-expression. Products made in China are generally found in mass, lower priced, there is a lack of trust due to years of counterfeit issues and quality issues. When introduced in luxury, I wouldn’t particularly say, they went outside the box…
As a market, Japan is seen as the place in the future, creative, user friendly and innovative, and so it pushed through on a transversal message – because within their identity came a feeling, and a way of life which could be transcendent.
Notice the direct correlation between the two, identity of the individual leads to the creation of the identity as a market and the identification of their brands.
What they are vs. what they are perceived… and yes, I’m sure many other factors come into the mix, but trust me on this and test me later; they will always end with this, Identity within each individual became a collective which resulted in the outcomes of each country.
We also see clear correlations with identity in Parisians & Parisian brands, a sense of savoir vivre, savoir etre and savoir-faire. Taken from their history.
Italians show us the meaning of ‘the Dolce Vita’ the sweet life, where women are the center of the family, the fabric of the country. London infamous for a charming, sometimes, play on youth, multiethnic metropolis.
Again identities of individuals come together to form the identity of a brand, which seems to bring together an identity to the market.
So what is Arabia’s Identity? Let’s look at history for a second.
As individuals, Arabs started off as traders – from east to west, connecting the world as part of the Silk Road. In that we learnt how to be tolerant and welcoming to cultures.
Nomadic tribes thrive on moving, enduring. As a form of survival, settlers. Self-sustaining, hospitable, active in sports, poetry, patient, they lived with what nature gave them, content on just that and the direct ‘community’ build around them.
The founding of Modern Arabia
When western association comes in Arabia finds wealth in oil, adapts western infrastructure, and the landscape takes off as a basis for the ‘urbanized’ future.
Industrialization and Sustainability
The industrial age comes in – revenues from petrol start to flow in, entrepreneurs start forming. No longer needing the help of the ground because now we can afford it! So you thank you, goodbye, But! Come back! We’ll continue to hire you for ‘experts advise’.
The turning point began at the Internet again and the earlier signs of globalization. Seeing a bigger picture, curiosity and the hunger for education and the drive to make our own mark. Unlike the pre petrol era, it was all imported, the expertise, the brands, the services, the market, even kid’s games became foreign, which then meant our thought processes, personalities…. Et viola!
Here we are today, as educated graduates or shall I say global citizens, our market is rolling, we obviously have the spending power to sustain, something that is somehow underlined by brands going out of their way to create exclusively for the region.
We have a market that is active, youth that is creative and environments that are forming so I can’t help but question. What is our identity and why is it yet to be clarified?
In many cases, we have seen imitation, adaptation, reincarnation, call it what you want, maybe that just a natural reflex to what we have known. Well it’s about time we form an identity and use it. In order to plan, create and communicate consistently, it’s the basis to our infrastructure.
In the formation of identities this funnel seems to be the ideal guide.
Remember China vs Japan? Identity is important at every level for the cycle to self sustain. Individual creates brand & Brands Create Market.
As an individual - Who you are, feeds into what you offer. Which then is altered by how you are perceived, which generally only survives if what you bring to the table that makes the world a better place or innovates (and by innovate please do not mistake revolutionizing or technologically building a new apple) but bring something new or don’t bother.
As a brand this can be seen with powerful and high in value names, here are some examples
Louis Vuitton's identity, a packer of luxury goods. Improves trunks, offers to the luxury leisure class in the happening heyday of Paris. He doesn’t stop there, great that would have been enough to get him sales, but he didn’t stop there. He innovates! With a series of revolutionary details that change the luggage industry forever. And once he did, he did some more, that what this is about, trust and credibility.
Today the brand is known to celebrate its identity, in fact its obsessed with it, from the head office to the shop front, and so it transitions into different cultures, a larger product range, eventually transitions into some sort of cult….
Who you are vs. what is perceived…. Identity. That’s what people can connect to. Not the product or the service or the celebrity using it. And contrary to the theory that an identity needs 50 years of evolution to be truly influential, or that it only happened before the Facebook, Apple, Zara, Rolls Royce, everything’s taken that’s it lets go home… worst yet it only happens in the west. Our environment won’t support it.
Because Emirates Airlines has shown us how identity can cross the world. The brand alone is valued at 6.6 Billion dollars. Emirates Airlines starts with the aim of offering cutting edge services and celebrating leisure in travel and life. Does that resonate? Who you are vs. what is perceived…. Yes. They continue to innovate. Building a whole world to communicate just that. ‘Hello Tomorrow’, takes to the world with a transversal message.
So the key takeaways are as follows – Be it as individuals, a brand or a market:
1 – In order to thrive one must have a directional identity. Do it differently, meaningfully and worth the remarkability.
2 – In order to truly create our own message we must display thought leadership. Long gone are the days we needed ‘experts to get our businesses rolling’. WE are our own experts; we studied right besides them, better yet we can now tell them what our markets is all about.
3 – We need to act individually & collectively, China vs. Japan shows us collectivity can be dangerous, it disturbs innovation. So we are nomads in origin, which makes us adaptable, but our open borders for trade has given us a mixed culture edge. We know that our voices are much more powerful if we came together. Consistency with a unified underlying message will most certainly help us do that.
And I do believe, that if we act on this then one day we can respond to the stereotypes with the following.
THIS IS ARABIA. A complex-mix of tradition, society & culture that has managed to interconnect and cater to one another. We have a history that has allowed us to develop our own values, in our own style. We are global citizens, we have learnt how to act individually & together. Masters of our own thought
process, environments and lifestyle. Educated, Exposed, outreaching, we are able to support our contemporary environments and thrive in them. Our identity is the result of our hard work, one that has crossed cultures and come back to finally explain…
This is Arabia.