x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Buyers make simple choices in the Middle East

The Life: Retailers have been urged to keep their brand identities as simple as possible - with video.

Tarek Sultani, the managing director in the Middle East for Siegel+Gale, says simplicity pays off for businesses.
Tarek Sultani, the managing director in the Middle East for Siegel+Gale, says simplicity pays off for businesses.

Albert Einstein once remarked that everything should be as simple as possible, but no simpler.

Most businesses would be well served to remember the wise physicist's words. Experts say consumers are enamoured with simplicity, so much so they will pay a premium for a product or service that they perceive as simpler than the competition.

But putting that philosophy in action is, well, not quite so simple.

Tarek Sultani, the managing director in the Middle East for Siegel+Gale, a global strategic branding company, believes that making a business simpler is about clearly identifying what a company is good at and what it promises to customers.

Mr Sultani says some brands in the Middle East often try to be "everything to all people" rather than focusing on specific features. "Brands must realise they cannot appeal to everyone," he says.

Mr Sultani points to the global technology giant Apple as a company that has simplicity at the heart of each product. Apple came at the top of Siegel+Gale's recent Middle Eastern Brand Simplicity Index, which ranks brands based on how simple they appear to consumers.

It uses a number of measures to compile the index, including whether a product saves consumers time, relieves stress, is easy to use and if it is communicated to consumers in a direct, clear manner.

Emirates Airline ranked 13 on the S+G simplicity index and recently retained top spot as the Arab world's most valuable brand. The airline is a classic example of a local company that takes advantage of simple branding, says Mr Sultani.

It initiated an innovative entertainment system on board its flights, offered self check-in at the airport and runs a 24-hour customer service line. The company's Skywards programme is also one of the most popular loyalty programmes in the Middle East.

"A lot of brands leverage technology and media to break through to customers. It's about making a difference to the lives of the end user," Mr Sultani says.

Dubizzle, a website that offers classified ads, is also high on the simplicity index at 22. Of the company's 50 employees in the Dubai head office, 30 are developers looking to upgrade the website and make it as user friendly as possible. "Simplicity is a big part of what Dubizzle is trying to achieve," says Richard Pakenham, the sales director at Dubizzle. "We are always pouring investment into development to create a simple efficient platform."

According to the simplicity survey, a stock portfolio of the top 10 publicly traded brands in Siegel+Gale's Global Brand Simplicity Index would have made an 80 per cent return from January 1 2009 to December 31 last year. Over the same period, investors would have made a 35 per cent return from the S&P 500 and only 29 per cent in the FTSE 100.

Mr Sultani says companies that have lost the trust of consumers, such as financial services, need to communicate their services better. "Banks could try to explain better the internal mechanisms that go into calculating interest rates for your mortgages or explain why the rates are different at other banks."