When BinSina Pharmacy decided to revamp its Mall of the Emirates store, it was very careful in its selection of the expert it appointed to do the job.
Rather than hire an interior designer or visual merchandiser, the company’s first port of call was a branding specialist.
“The term branding comes from the early days of branding a cow and differentiating it in the herd of the field, who owns one over another,” says James Pass, of James Pass Design, a boutique graphic design and branding agency in Dubai.
“And obviously in the modern world we now use the term to differentiate one product or service over another.”
So when BinSina wanted to stand out from the competition and increase its sales, it turned to Brand Creative.
“We did the full strategy and we understood what made sense for their bottom line in terms of profit, what kind of product they should be selling to make more profit,” says Mohammed El Hijazi, managing director of Brand Creative, which carried out the revamp in 2010.
“So we shifted the focus of the pharmacy from just selling the medicine and the drugs which they used to do anyway, to selling more of the derma cosmetics.”
And by all accounts it was a successful strategy. Sales at the Mall of the Emirates store rose by 25 per cent compared to the previous year.
“This success stemmed from the branding exercise,” says Saleema Shurrab, general manager of BinSina Pharmacy Group.
“The design changed the traditional concept of the pharmacy, promoting the store as a high-end shopping experience for the customer. The benefits for BinSina have not only been financial either. The overall brand has been invigorated.”
Generally, if a branding exercise is done correctly, a company can expect an annual sales increase of between 5 and 15 per cent, says Mr El Hijazi.
Return on investment (ROI) is harder to quantify.
“A branding investment can be the same for a multimillion- dollar company and a small mom and pop shop. They will both witness an increase in sales, but with the ROI the difference will be astronomically different,” says Mr El Hijazi.
“A company that invests in a branding exercise should expect to see a ROI varying in the type of industry but generally we can assume 30 per cent to 50 per cent in the first two years.”
A worthwhile exercise then, but it can be costly.
The cost of consulting one of the big agencies can reach Dh250,000. That may seem like a lot, but for that you get the full business strategy, website, profile, brand guidelines, and a lot of other elements a small business does not necessarily need.
“You just need a strategy report and a start-up kit, which is just like your logo, your business cards, your email signature and maybe a template for your presentation or a template for your profile and then you can finish the rest,” says Mr El Hijazi.
The cost of that smaller exercise is around Dh40,000 to Dh50,000, still a significant outlay for a small company, but experts insist it is worth it.
“It is building the parameters, the heart of any business. For me it is kind of like building the persona, like building that superstar employee who is going to work for you. They are going to engage your audience. They are going to be somebody that audience can relate to. Then it is going to be somebody who can empower your staff,” says Mr Pass.
“People buy more and more into brands these days when they can relate to somebody. Because we live in such a saturated and overly competitive market, having that kind of persona who can connect with somebody gives you a wealth of advantage over anybody else,” he adds.
It is possible to build a successful company from scratch without consulting a branding agency. Word of mouth is a particularly good way to build a brand, says Mr Pass.
But many people who attempt to do it themselves make the same mistake of failing to do their research. It is important to know what customers want, how they talk, interact and what kind of voice they want to hear, says Mr Pass.
“So a good chunk of building your brand, and that can be even if you are an entrepreneur trying to do this yourself, is to do the research first. We all have good ideas. But is that great idea wanted by anyone else?” he adds.
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