Rec­on­cil­ing Lo­cal Iden­ti­ties with Global Cul­ture

ArabAd - - CONTENTS CONTENTS - Fayza Bjayou

To­day, brands are be­com­ing in­creas­ingly prag­matic in their ef­forts to go be­yond bound­aries and fur­ther heighten con­sumer en­gage­ment. Jimmy

Kmeid, De­sign Di­rec­tor at FITCH, ex­plores why the iden­tity of a brand goes far be­yond its logo, as he stresses on the im­por­tance of re­defin­ing brand iden­tity in a mod­ern con­text and cre­at­ing lo­cal rel­e­vance whilst sus­tain­ing global res­o­nance.

We need to shift the method­ol­ogy from “logo first, brand later” to “brand first, logo later.”

Kmeid men­tions that the Mid­dle East ex­em­pli­fies a lot of cre­ative di­ver­sity but all too of­ten, that cre­ativ­ity is chan­neled en­tirely to the logo of a brand. There seems to be some­what of a stigma at­tached to the im­por­tance of a logo in re­la­tion to the brand it­self. It is be­lieved by Kmeid, that a logo is fre­quently ex­pected to carry more weight than it can han­dle.

Kmeid em­pha­sises that a logo can­not stand­alone suc­cess­fully with­out hav­ing a sym­bolic con­nec­tion to the cor­po­rate story or rai­son d'être. In the past, the logo was the brand. To­day a brand is much more than its logo; it’s a life­style choice. He af­firms that, “a brand now, con­sists of many el­e­ments com­ing to­gether to cre­ate one co­her­ent ex­pe­ri­ence. The logo is one el­e­ment of the brand world rather be­ing the world it­self.”

Ac­cord­ing to him, de­spite our con­fu­sion be­tween logo and brand, the re­gion is on the “edge of change”. Lo­gos have al­ways been about dif­fer­en­ti­a­tion but now it’s at the ex­pe­ri­ence level, not just the prod­uct level. “You will never for­give a bad ex­pe­ri­ence with a brand be­cause of a nice logo,” he says.

He goes on men­tion­ing that in the re­gion, we need to shift the method­ol­ogy from “logo first, brand later” to “brand first, logo later,” as he makes clear that a big in­vest­ment in a logo has no value when it is not sup­ported by a con­sis­tent brand ex­pe­ri­ence.

Kmeid ex­plains that the logo must em­body the val­ues and cul­ture of the brand. A cus­tomer re­mem­bers a logo as if it were a face; a face is only recog­nised as a di­rect re­sult of the ex­pe­ri­ence shared and con­se­quently, the emo­tions evoked in the pres­ence of that per­son. “The ob­jec­tive should be to cre­ate a seam­less brand ex­pe­ri­ence with the logo at the heart of that ex­pe­ri­ence.”

He states that a brand should elicit a sense of com­fort and fa­mil­iar­ity with its con­sumers, which is achieved by cre­at­ing con­nec­tions through mem­o­rable con­sumer ex­pe­ri­ences. The mul­ti­fac­eted na­ture of a brand’s iden­tity means that each as­pect of a brand must share a co­her­ence and con­sis­tency, bound by its own im­pact­ful ex­pe­ri­ence sig­na­tures.

To fur­ther high­light the point that lo­gos are a plat­form to ac­tively en­gage in the brand’s story, Kmeid uses the ex­am­ple of the QFA (Qatar Foot­ball As­so­ci­a­tion) to re­it­er­ate the im­por­tance of cre­at­ing and cel­e­brat­ing the game through shared hu­man emo­tions. QFA makes every­one part of the brand by

cap­tur­ing vis­ual mo­ments of shared emo­tion evoked by the game. “The logo re­acts to the power of the fans us­ing so­cial feeds to cre­ate a liv­ing, breath­ing, in­ter­ac­tive iden­tity.”

This ex­am­ple sup­ports Kmeid’s ar­gu­ment that the role of the logo has evolved. Now lo­gos can do much more than be­fore in the dig­i­tal space and no longer have to be static and life­less, which fur­ther de­notes the role of the logo not as the pri­mary rep­re­sen­ta­tion for the brand but as an ac­tive plat­form for ex­pe­ri­ence.

Con­sumers are be­com­ing more con­nected to ex­pe­ri­ences shared by brands over prod­ucts. Sta­tis­ti­cally, he re­ports that by 2020, the 15-19 year age bracket will be the largest group of con­sumers, world­wide. “The rapid evo­lu­tion of the dig­i­tal land­scape has con­trib­uted to this shift, as we find our­selves swim­ming in tech­nol­ogy.” So­cial me­dia pen­e­tra­tion has reached sig­nif­i­cant growth lev­els, with eight mil­lion ac­tive ac­counts in Saudi Ara­bia and 4.6 mil­lion in the UAE, which de­notes the in­creas­ing de­mand of Gen­er­a­tion Z to share and ex­change in­for­ma­tion.

Kmeid dis­cusses how the cul­tural char­ac­ter­is­tics of a brand, play an in­te­gral role in its over­all iden­tity. “Ev­ery cul­ture has its own sym­bols but tend to risk pro­duc­ing clichéd rep­re­sen­ta­tions.” He uses the ex­am­ple of a flag be­ing in­te­grated into a brand’s rep­re­sen­ta­tion for their global au­di­ence. For ex­am­ple, a British flag used to al­lude to a brand be­ing quintessen­tially British. By the same to­ken, Ara­bic cal­lig­ra­phy is a key el­e­ment in rep­re­sent­ing a strong Ara­bic iden­tity. “To­day such sym­bols are mod­ernised and adapted to re­main rel­e­vant with con­sumers and res­o­nant on a global stage,” He af­firms.

This dis­cus­sion fur­ther sup­ports the no­tion that tra­di­tion can work con­gru­ently with moder­nity. “Tra­di­tional el­e­ments should not re­strict us from tak­ing a con­tem­po­rary ap­proach. The key com­po­nents of cul­ture such as the val­ues, lan­guage and sym­bols must be re­vived through our ad­vance­ments in our mod­ern world.”

Ac­cord­ing to him, the cre­ation of the new Gulf iden­tity rests upon a bal­ance be­tween tra­di­tional and global. “Cul­ture is con­stantly evolv­ing and the de­mog­ra­phy is chang­ing, which is why the new Mod­ern East has gone ‘Glo­cal’ – home-grown brands that ap­peal to an in­ter­na­tional au­di­ence but are built on pro­found lo­cal val­ues.” As a re­sult of the tran­si­tion, the re­gion should shift the fo­cus from sym­bols to val­ues, as a plat­form in which to de­liver unique ex­pe­ri­ences. He states that, “We must re­in­force the brand’s val­ues to con­sumers and com­mu­ni­cate the brand mes­sage clearly and suc­cinctly to en­sure ev­ery­thing a brand does, con­veys the same mes­sage.”

Global de­sign is usu­ally crit­i­cised for lack­ing el­e­ments of cul­ture and is of­ten re­garded as a ‘Western ex­port’ but Kmeid dis­agrees and does not see the in­te­gra­tion of cer­tain trends and de­vel­op­ments as a threat to the tra­di­tions of a lo­cal iden­tity, but rather a tool, to en­able the com­mu­nity to adopt a mod­erni­sa­tion of tra­di­tion. He em­pha­sises that “The Mid­dle East will only em­brace and adopt what they find rel­e­vant to their own cul­ture, there­fore global de­sign will never un­der­mine or weaken our cul­tural iden­tity in brand­ing, but may help strengthen it.” Kmeid sup­ports the no­tion of Friedman’s ar­gu­ment that “glob­al­i­sa­tion serves more to en­rich and pre­serve cul­ture than to de­stroy it.”

He con­cludes that cre­at­ing a uni­fied, holis­tic brand ex­pe­ri­ence must be pri­ori­tised above all else. Suc­cess is driven by a brand’s abil­ity to lis­ten to its cus­tomers. An in­ter­na­tional au­di­ence is ea­ger to be en­ter­tained and in­spired there­fore brands need to pro­vide unique and mem­o­rable ex­pe­ri­ences to meet their ex­pec­ta­tions. They need to feel it is in­fused with pur­pose, mean­ing and char­ac­ter, rel­e­vant to their cul­ture while mak­ing it ready for the world. “Ul­ti­mately”, says Kmeid,“It doesn’t mat­ter how you look, it’s what you do that counts.”

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