Brand UAE: we have many good sto­ries to tell but need a clear way of do­ing so

The National - News - - OPINION - HEND AL OTAIBA Hend Al Otaiba is di­rec­tor of strate­gic com­mu­ni­ca­tions at the Min­istry of For­eign Af­fairs and In­ter­na­tional Co­op­er­a­tion

Malaysia is “truly Asia”, Bri­tain is “great”, Sin­ga­pore “made pas­sion pos­si­ble”, New Zealand is “100 per cent pure” and “I love NY” is quoted the world over. So what, then, should be the ep­i­thet that em­bod­ies the na­ture of the UAE?

This is the ques­tion the coun­try’s lead­ers have chal­lenged us all to an­swer as we ap­proach 2020, a mo­men­tous year for the Emirates.

A na­tional com­pe­ti­tion is now un­der­way to cre­ate a brand iden­tity for the coun­try.

Seven artists from each emi­rate will work on de­sign­ing a logo and slo­gan to mar­ket the UAE in cam­paigns overseas.

Of course, those of us for­tu­nate enough to live in the UAE al­ready know the rea­sons why our na­tion is beloved by res­i­dents of more than 200 na­tion­al­i­ties: the sunny cli­mate, nat­u­ral beauty, friendly peo­ple, a rich and unique cul­ture, and val­ues such as tol­er­ance, gen­eros­ity and in­clu­siv­ity.

On the world stage, we have much to high­light. From our cham­pi­oning of in­ter­faith di­a­logue and tol­er­ance to our lead­er­ship in for­eign aid, we are a con­struc­tive force in the world.

We em­power our women to take own­er­ship of their lives and the coun­try’s future, in­vest in our youth and al­ways try to gen­er­ate op­ti­mism in a re­gion that of­ten needs it badly.

We are pro­gres­sive, am­bi­tious and open. Yet we do not al­ways get the recog­ni­tion we de­serve. There are mis­con­cep­tions and stereo­types about our coun­try that are nei­ther fair nor true.

The chal­lenge, then, is to col­lect our many at­tributes, spread across our seven emirates and weave them into a uni­fied iden­tity which can help ex­plain who we are.

As Sheikh Mo­hamed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Com­man­der of the Armed Forces, put it: “The UAE is at the heart of global eco­nomic, so­cial and cul­tural de­vel­op­ment.

“The na­tion brand will deepen the coun­try’s im­pact and soft power across the world.”

When the world’s eyes are on us – as they will be next year, when Dubai opens the doors to Expo 2020 and pre­pares to wel­come mil­lions of vis­i­tors – we need a sym­bol that will “tell the story of the UAE to the world”, to bor­row the words of Sheikh Mo­hammed bin Rashid, Vice Pres­i­dent and Ruler of Dubai.

I of­ten re­flect on the story of just how far this na­tion has come in such a short time.

It is said that Abu Dhabi and Dubai are vir­tu­ally un­recog­nis­able from just 15 years ago.

Abu Dhabi is a green oa­sis that serves as the beat­ing heart of our fed­er­a­tion. Dubai has risen from the desert to be­come a global cen­tre of com­merce and one of the world’s top tourist des­ti­na­tions.

Then we have Shar­jah, forg­ing a rep­u­ta­tion as a cul­tural hub of in­ter­na­tional renown; Ras Al Khaimah’s ex­cit­ing emer­gence as an up-and-com­ing visitor desti­na­tion; Fu­jairah, known as “the jewel of the Mid­dle East”, with its stun­ning moun­tain scenery and lush farm­land; the his­tor­i­cal sig­nif­i­cance of Umm Al Quwain dat­ing back to the Bronze Age; and Aj­man’s in­ter­na­tional ex­cel­lence in man­u­fac­tur­ing and con­struc­tion.

Many of the above at­tributes are al­ready known to the world but it has been down to emirates to com­mu­ni­cate their sto­ries in­di­vid­u­ally in var­i­ous cam­paigns, from #MyDubai to Abu Dhabi’s “ex­tra­or­di­nary sto­ries” and “I found Ras Al Khaimah”.

As a strate­gic com­mu­ni­ca­tions pro­fes­sional, I con­stantly re­in­force the need for clar­ity of mes­sage.

We have so many good sto­ries to tell the world, but it will only lis­ten and un­der­stand if it can hear us clearly.

Of­ten, telling a good story re­quires in­tro­duc­ing who we are be­fore we can try to ex­plain what we are do­ing.

Coun­try brands must be con­sis­tent and rooted not only in val­ues but also a vi­sion.

For the UAE, this means re­flect­ing our rich cul­ture and her­itage while main­tain­ing our for­ward-lean­ing ori­en­ta­tion.

Our na­tion’s Found­ing Fa­ther, the late Sheikh Zayed, laid the ground­work for the fu­tur­is­tic ad­vances we are pi­o­neer­ing today.

From send­ing the first Emi­rati as­tro­naut to space to an­nounc­ing the world’s first ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence univer­sity in Abu Dhabi, the UAE is proud to be at the fore­front of sci­en­tific de­vel­op­ment and so­cial trans­for­ma­tion.

More­over, the best brands are in­clu­sive and for the UAE, that means cel­e­brat­ing the hun­dreds of na­tion­al­i­ties who call this place home.

The tol­er­ance we dis­play for each other, our faiths and our cul­tures is worth sharing with the world.

We al­ready have pow­er­ful brands. Our lead­er­ship, our emirates, our com­pa­nies, our val­ues and our cul­ture are all prod­ucts of our val­ues, in­no­va­tion, am­bi­tion and de­ter­mi­na­tion to suc­ceed.

Now we can build on the achieve­ments of our many parts to cre­ate an even bet­ter whole, a uni­fy­ing brand that truly speaks to who we are as a na­tion, both for our­selves and the wider world.

The UAE’s at­tributes should be show­cased but first we must tell the world who we are

Sil­via Raz­gova / The Na­tional

Fu­jairah boasts many beau­ti­ful nat­u­ral at­trac­tions such as Wadi Wu­rayah

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