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One result of the branding agency's research was a branch layout it calls the region's first ‘financial mall'."Rather than walking into a bank it is much more open plan."A lot of our time is actually spent not just doing the work, but educating clients about what a brand is," he says.Predictably, destination and property branding are strong sectors for branding agencies. That's becoming more of a challenge," says Michael Hughes, executive director of strategy at the firm."Pepsi has always been able to bond with its customers like no other brand has," a Pepsi spokesperson said in a statement.The campaign illustrates the growing importance of branding in the Middle East."We have a very cosmopolitan mix of people within our strategy and design teams," Hughes says.Saudi Arabia's private culture means that one-on-one interviews are more common there than elsewhere, and men and women can't be part of the same focus groups.
But in a market where many companies equate their brand with a logo, branding gurus may first have to educate executives about what a brand really is.
While banking brands in the rest of the world tend to have a fairly conservative, staid image that changes little over time, the Gulf's large expat populations have made it an exception.
"In Europe, banks won't rebrand as often because people are afraid of change that involves their money.
There are kiosks where you can go and do your personal banking," James says.
The region's culture and mixed demographics can sometimes make research harder than in other parts of the world.