The value of a brand

April 30, 2012

Have you noticed how a majority of company press releases printed in our newspapers refer to the ‘value of the brand’ or the ‘re-launch of the brand with a new logo?’

One thing I noticed when I first came to the Middle East was the perceived importance of a brand name – this one thing seems to drive purchasing decisions and all sorts of other lifestyle choices.

I am reading the excellent book about Steve Jobs written by Walter Isaacson. When Jobs was a young man, in the mid 1970s, he met Mike Markkula, himself only 33, but already retired after making millions.

Markkula became a father figure to Jobs and worked with him for two decades helping with the strategic direction for marketing and sales for Apple.

Interestingly, the way their relationship started was with a one-page paper entitled 'The Apple Marketing Philosophy.' My interpretation of the simple but critical three points identified by Markkula is as follows.

Firstly, the importance of ensuring that the product being sold has empathy with the customer – in other words an intimate connection with his feelings. Secondly, that the company must have focus: This meant that in order for Apple to do a good job of the important things it wanted to do, it must eliminate all of the time spent on the unimportant.

The third point is possibly the most interesting. Markkula believed that people form an opinion about a company or a product based on signals that it conveys. “People do judge a book by its cover,” he wrote.

He believed that if the best product was marketed or presented in a slipshod manner, then that product would be perceived as slipshod. The answer was to present the best product in the most creative and professional manner.

These guidelines drove Jobs to be obsessive about his brand. “When you open the box of an iPhone or iPad, we want that tactile experience to set the tone for how you perceive the product,” Jobs said. “Mike taught me that.”

Business Today last January published the results of its 'Best Brands In Oman 2011' survey. There are several international brands available in Oman with values recognised the world over. However, there were two Omani brands that caught my eye, which display the three 'Markkula' points, plus an additional one of mine.

I believe that a successful brand must also encompass a genuine recognition of the need to serve the customer. Both Amouage and Nawras were top scorers in their categories as chosen by Top Management in the Business Today survey.

Both these companies have strong brand appeal and are working hard to combine their product with service. Providing perfect customer service is a near impossible goal, but the recognition of the need to strive for it must be inherently part of the strategy of the very best companies.

I see far too many businesses in Oman that think that a new logo for their product, or some ill-thought out marketing campaign will fix everything and bring in additional profits. The customer in 2012 is generally much more sophisticated than that.

Great products need to be well made, by well-run and principled organisations, marketed in an attractive way, and sold by people who care. When all of these requirements have been met, a true brand may have been born.


Nick lives and works in Muscat and the views expressed in this column are entirely his own. You can e-mail Nick at