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Arabization

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This article, published by FutureBrand, examines options and considerations of dual-language brandmarks in the Middle East. …

This article, published by FutureBrand, examines options and considerations of dual-language brandmarks in the Middle East.

This article was written by Mario Natarelli, with contributions from Karim El Fetouh,
Rina Plapler, Mike Williams, and Nermin Moufti.

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  • 1. ArabicizationDEFINING THE RIGHT BALANCE OF ARABIC IN BRANDS CREATED FOROR DEPLOYED IN THE MIDDLE EAST insights, opinions and ideas on the world of branding
  • 2. Arabicization 1August 2009For more than a decade, FutureBrandhas been creating, evolving andexpanding brands in the Middle East.During this time, we have witnessedsignificant evolution in the sophisticationand understanding of marketing in theregion. Our clients today seek not onlyto build world-class brands but also todevelop ones that stand for somethinguniquely compelling from an Arabperspective. This is a far cry from whenwe first entered the Arabian Gulf, a timewhen the notion of branding as a fuel formarketing efforts was largely unknown.In the FutureBrand 2008 Gulf Real Estate Study, we showed examples ofhow real estate and hospitality brands have developed a more Arabic-centricorientation in their names and design. This shift signals both the market’sincreased maturity and the desire to find what we call “the authentic”—real andmeaningful links to the region’s heritage—which has resulted in the creation of aunique voice and expression for Middle Eastern brands.As this practice becomes more pervasive, the challenges we often face include: • When should (or shouldn’t) Arabic be used? • What are the options for adopting Arabic in a brand name? • What are the related options for brandmark design? • hat are the customs, laws and regulations surrounding brand identity, and W how do these differ throughout the region?This article examines these questions, illustrates a set of options andconsiderations, and shows examples of how we have addressed similar topics forclients in the brands we have established over the past ten years.This topic is interesting because it spans from cultural and emotional issues to verytechnical and regulatory ones. There is no single right method or one-size-fits-allapproach for incorporating Arabic in brands. In fact, we see a range of possibilitiesand opportunities that depend on everything from tactical necessities such as “Whatis the brand’s primary geographic and cultural focus?” and “What are the governinglaws and rules within that particular country for that particular category?” tostrategic choices such as “What is the right fit for the brand and its name?” and“What unique category opportunities will enable the brand to stand out?”Think ahead. Stay ahead.www.futurebrand.com
  • 3. Arabicization 2August 2009NamingOn most occasions, the issue of using Arabic or “Arabicizing” the brand comes Our clients todayto the forefront during the naming process. An increasingly predominant method seek not only to buildof incorporating Arabic-ness is through the use of Arabic words for brand names.Some well-known examples of these are Jumeirah (an ember or coal), Emirates world-class brands(Principalities), Masdar (the source), Thuraya (the Pleiades star cluster) and Al but also to developJazeera (the island). The primary use of Arabic can embed cultural, regional and/ ones that stand foror category significance within a brand. something uniquelyNaming Examples by Category compelling from an Arab perspective. Category Arabic Themed English Themed Energy Taqa (energy) Saudi Aramco Real Estate Nakheel (many palms) Limitless Finance Forsa (opportunity) National Bank of Kuwait Telecom Zain (good) Batelco (Bahrain Telecom)The ease of pronunciation in both English and Arabic is an obvious considerationwhen selecting an Arabic word for a brand name. Most Arabic letters arepronounced with sounds that coincide with similar sounds in the Englishlanguage and are therefore relatively easy to say and remember (and trademark) inEnglish. Some Arabic letters, such as “ayn” ( ), are difficult for English speakers topronounce, so words including those letters are often avoided. Likewise, there area few English letters that have no equivalent in Arabic. For example, because thereis no “P” in Arabic, the translation of the Pepsi name is actually written “Bebsi” inArabic.Regional Arabic dialects are now being used in some cases to add authenticityand to counter a crowded new brand landscape. Though this can provide a verypowerful way to gain a proprietary edge, this method can be problematic, asmeanings can vary from place to place. Similarly, despite a desire to utilize classicalArabic, the practice is largely avoided because these words tend to have manyconnotations that vary widely by geography. A well-suited classical Arabic word inone locale may be an inappropriate name in another.Arabic also does not allow combined or joined words, a practice that is verycommonplace in English for new product naming (and for ensuring that thename can be trademarked). This is particularly evident in the pharmaceuticalindustry, with well-known brand names such as Viagra, Lunesta and Clariton.The dominant approach for translation of Arabic names is a phonetic transliteration.Instead of the English brand name adopting the meaning of the Arabic word (itstrue translation), it takes on the English pronunciation of the Arabic. For example,the brand is transliterated into the Latin alphabet from its pronunciation as“Nakheel.” But its literal translation—or meaning—is “many palms.”Think ahead. Stay ahead.www.futurebrand.com
  • 4. Arabicization 3 August 2009 Dual-Language Identity Spectrum 1 Separate 2 Bilingual 3 CAlligraphic 4 Simultaneous BRAND Design In most cases, each identity type along the spectrum may utilize an English or Arabic name, design After a naming direction is chosen, consideration of how to best represent the system, or other method to increase or decrease the brand and its Arabic flavor (if any) should be filtered through a series of options as amount of perceived regional associations. defined above. We have developed this construct to help explain the opportunities to our clients ahead of or in tandem with an exploration on identity design. This range spans the integration of Arabic from more to less Arabic-centric. It aids in narrowing the identity development variables before finalizing a concept design.1 Separate Identities When a streamlined expression is required or when global audiences are the focus, we often recommend designing separate identity options with limited use of the Arabic version—mostly to cater to Arabic-specific media or select signage programs. This approach requires careful management and controls, but it can lead to a strong, clear visual impact. When creating iconic brands such as Dubai World, Emaar and The Palm, we opted for this model, employing Arabic on a limited basis. This decision was largely based on the global role and multicultural audiences these brands were aiming to attract. It is important to note that these are nation-defining brands and warrant an international (English-dominant) expression similar to such brands as Samsung, Nokia or Lenovo (that do not generally use Korean, Finnish or Chinese versions of their logos). Furthermore, when creating the secondary Arabic version of the identity, the goal was to closely follow the spirit of the English typography without mimicking or looking too forced, so as to avoid compromising the legibility or recognition of the brand. Pros Cons Creates flexible language options Handling complex asset uilds recognition of graphic, management and distribution B not type Determining balance of languages2 Bilingual Identities This is considered the most direct, albeit the most cluttered, method to make an identity readable in both languages. One of the biggest drawbacks of this option is that it requires careful staging of the identity, especially in narrow or restricted-space locations, and it relies on a symbol rather than typography to carry the majority of the proprietary recognition of the brandmark. Additionally, brands with long names add a layer of complexity, requiring double the amount of space for typography. Since the languages are read in opposite directions, these designs tend to require symmetry or else the creation of a clear weighting of one language over the other. Pros Cons Bilingual readability Limiting to other language extensions onsistency of single asset C More complex and cluttered Greater space requirements Think ahead. Stay ahead. www.futurebrand.com
  • 5. Arabicization 4 August 20093 Calligraphic Identities This solution uses the Arabic name or a portion of it as a stylized symbol, allowing the typography to be read in English while the symbol communicates the brand name in Arabic. This method has a range of approaches, from highly abstract contemporary designs to artful linework inspired by the rich tradition of Islamic calligraphy. Two advantages of this option are that the design gains efficiency by using the Arabic characters as the symbol and the name itself, creating a double read, and that the overall aesthetic is unmistakably Arabic in flavor. One of the difficulties of this approach is the challenge of creating a mark that communicates clearly and in an attractive manner while also serving as an appropriate element or image that reinforces the meaning of the brand. Calligraphic-styled identities develop intrigue through symbols that are recognizable via the shape defined by the characters in the word. The brands we created for Taqa (Arabian stallion), Nakheel (falcon) and Forsa (flower) demonstrate the balance between legibility, symbology and composition that ranges from very contemporary to traditional Islamic calligraphic styles. Pros Cons Authentic-looking May limit international relevance Proprietary May confuse non-Arabic Culturally neutral among readers international audiences4 Simultaneous Identities When the opportunity exists, we examine the possibility of embedding Arabic and English into one wordmark composition. This is generally very difficult to achieve as Latin and Arabic typographic characters rely on very different underlying structures. When successful, this solution creates an effective bilingual palindrome—a rarity where the word can be read from both ends without its meaning being affected. Pros Cons Compact Difficult to invent/create Innovative Limits use of a symbol ifferentiating within the market D May confuse non-Arabic readers egypt The considerations inherent in each of the alternatives along this spectrum illustrate the importance of understanding the full range of identity options. These issues also underscore the need for care in making strategy and design decisions that ensure an appropriate fit for the client, the brand and the marketplace. Think ahead. Stay ahead. www.futurebrand.com
  • 6. Arabicization 5August 2009Gaps in GCC regulations on branding* Country Trade Name TradeMark Ads, Billboards Signage Bahrain No language restrictions Designs should be either Trade names must be in Arabic and English. were found. 100% Arabic or 50/50 (bilingual)1 Kuwait No language restrictions No language restrictions No language restrictions were found. were found. were found. Trade names must be in Arabic and be consistent with the moral standards and public habits of The inclusion of Arabic appears Oman Oman. For companies with capital over 100,000 RO, to be required, but no details No language restrictions words like “international,” “overseas,” etc., may be are specified. Arabic messages and were found. used, and foreign names are permitted if there is no artwork must be located above any Arabic translation. Companies with capital over 50,000 English counterparts.3 RO may use words like “Oman” or “Omani.”2 Qatar No trade name restrictions around language were The company name should be No language restrictions found. A registration fee of QAR 500 exists for displayed in both Arabic and were found. Arabic names and QAR 1,000 for non-Arabic names.4 English.5 Trade names shall consist of Arabic or Arabicized There are no laws regarding Saudi words and may not include foreign words except: Arabicization. The company’s Arabia names of foreign companies registered abroad; name shall be its trade name and may No language restrictions companies with well-known international names; include a novel appellation or words were found. and companies of mixed capital, to be specified by a relating to the type of commerce in decision issued by the Minister of Commerce.6 which the company is engaged.7 Arabic language should cover Trade names should be Arabic in form and spirit at least 50% of the design’s total UAE and indicative of the type of activity in which the No language restrictions area. However, other international company is engaged. Additional fees exist for the use were found. languages can be used alongside, of a foreign name, for English or Arabic abbreviations, provided that the Arabic language is or for a name that has an Arabicized word.8 on the top or the right-hand side.9* his chart is meant as an overview only, and may not reflect the full range or intent of legal regulations in each country. It is not intended as a substitute for legal counsel. TRegulations Sources:Occasionally the laws and regulations of a country, when they favor the use of 1. ENG Worldwide, BahrainArabic, influence the range of solutions. While Arabic requirements may seem 2. Oman Ministry of Commerce and Industry – Controlling the Trade Namesappropriate for the Gulf region, one must consider that the population of the Gulf http://www.mocioman.gov.om/english/Investors/Rules_new1.htmlstates in total consists of approximately 50% foreigners, many of whom do not 3. ENG Worldwide, Omanspeak or read Arabic. The resulting mix of cultures forces many consumer brands 4. he World Bank Group – Starting A Business in Qatar – Tin the region to communicate in a universally understood language (typically Procedure 1, Application for approval of proposed name http://www.doingbusiness.org/ExploreTopics/StartingBusiness/English). The prominence of non-Arabic speakers in this multilingual marketplace Details.aspx?economyid=157has prompted legislation designed to protect and encourage the use of the native 5. he World Bank Group – Starting A Business in Qatar – Tlanguage. Surprisingly, regulations governing language in brand names and Procedure 6, Obtaining trade license and signage license http://www.doingbusiness.org/ExploreTopics/StartingBusiness/marketing-related information in the region are generally scarce, inconsistent and Details.aspx?economyid=157not systematically enforced. 6. Kingdom of Saudi Arabia – Ministry of Commerce Industry The Law of Trade Names – Royal Decree No. M/15, Article 3 http://www.commerce.gov.sa/english/print.aspx?PageObjectId=726The chart above shows a range of legal requirements in the Gulf pertaining to 7. Kingdom of Saudi Arabia – Ministry of Commerce Industry the use of Arabic in branding and marketing. Limited awareness and irregular The Law of Trade Names – Royal Decree No. M/15, Article 2enforcement of these regulations create confusion among many clients (and http://www.commerce.gov.sa/english/print.aspx?PageObjectId=726even local trademark attorneys) about the existence, extent and intent of the 8. Government of Dubai – Department of Economic Development Trade Names – Conditions for Selecting Approval of Traderegulations as they relate to the execution of different marketing materials. Due Namesto this ambiguity, clients and their agencies tend to be overly cautious in their http://www.dubaided.gov.ae/main/gn/DoingBusiness/ TradeNames.htmapproach to the use of language in naming and brandmarks. There is widespread 9. overnment of Dubai – Department of Economic Development Gclient-side preference for brandmarks that use bilingual typography, Arabic names Permit for Signboards – Note #6or calligraphy in order to be politically and legally “safe.” http://www.dubaided.gov.ae/main/gn/DoingBusiness/ CommercialPermits/Signboards.htmThink ahead. Stay ahead.www.futurebrand.com
  • 7. Arabicization 6August 2009Global BrandsAs interesting as the range of options presented are, we are equally intrigued bythe choices some international companies make in their attempt to Arabicizetheir brands. Do iconic global brands that simply create a mimicked version oftheir logo really attain their goals? The answer remains largely in the eye of thebeholder, but to the right are three examples that we feel have not effectivelyachieved balance, clarity or elegance in their Arabic execution.Virgin, FedEx and Coca-Cola each are expressed in Arabic in a way that feelsforced, creating tension between legibility, recognition and symbology. The Virginmark captures the identifiable “V” of the English Virgin logo, but in Arabic itappears at the end of the word as a “G N”. Because there is no “V” in Arabic,three dots were added to the top of the beginning “faa” character to force itto read as a “V”—a solution that is seen as unsophisticated in terms of Arabictypography design. A similarly inelegant solution, the Arabic FedEx identityhas the distinctive arrow forced into the Arabic characters of the mark. SinceArabic reads right to left, the white arrow points left. This left-arrow not onlyfeels contrived, but could be misunderstood by cultures that read left to rightas suggesting or symbolizing “backwards.” The Coca-Cola logo also wrestlesbetween legibility and recognition. The alternative-language wordmark sacrificesmuch of the primary version’s character to read properly in Arabic. In emergingmarkets where knock-offs flourish and trademark protection is weak, thisapproach is likely to compound the challenge of brand protection.These examples also call into question whether alternate-language, mimickedidentities are even needed for such established, globally renowned brands. Wouldyou (if you were fluent in Arabic) purchase a Rolex watch with the standard logoor prefer the same timepiece with an Arabic version of the brandmark? Does thepotential goodwill these brands create by crafting an Arabic expression outweighthe risk of brand dilution, being perceived as inauthentic or the loss ofrecognizability? Would these major brands perform better overall with a simpleArabic translation of the word near the English-dominant logo, instead of mimicry?Creating a brandmark in a bi- or multilingual marketplace is just the beginning ofthe challenge for both the brand creators and those who are deploying and These examplesmanaging the brand. Issues like typography present additional challenges that must also call intobe strategically managed across multiple marketing touchpoints. For example, there question whetheris a limited (but growing) number of Arabic and English typefaces whose const-ruction makes them well suited for working side by side in layouts. Selecting these alternate-language,complementary typefaces means weighing the benefits of visual balance against mimicked identities arereduced proprietary ownership, given the small number that are available. This may even needed for suchbe a worthwhile consideration if creating bilingual marketing materials is desired. established, globallyAmong the most common options for creating bilingual materials are Arabic renowned brands.and English on the same page or spread, Arabic and English starting at oppositeends and meeting in the middle, and separate Arabic and English materials. Someof the brandmark solutions from our identity spectrum are better suited to onelayout style than another, which illustrates the benefits of deciding on identity,typography and layout styles together and ensuring that a logo decision is madewhile considering where and how the brand will promote itself.Think ahead. Stay ahead.www.futurebrand.com
  • 8. Arabicization 7August 2009DeploymentOnce a brand is ready to deploy, the process then generally involves developingkey components, including a series of guidelines and templates, as well as ensuringthat there is a clear strategy defining how to best leverage the Arabic designcomponents if they exist across marketing touchpoints, languages and culturalbarriers. When multiple identity signatures are used, the clarity around which assetsto use and when becomes further intensified by the requirements that vary acrosschannels and geographies. To effectively deal with these complex issues, we dependon BrandHub, our proprietary online guideline system. This toolkit includesstandards, best practices, assets, templates and help desk to give marketing managersand agency partners a dependable lifeline to help navigate these requirements.ConclusionThere is no single or clear “right answer” for dealing with the topic ofArabicization. We begin by gaining a deep understanding of the brand and its The insights written in FutureBrandstrategy. We then follow with a flexible set of design variables, informed by our articles are the thoughts of each authorArabic logo spectrum. This gets layered onto the creative process of naming and and are by no means a FutureBrandidentity creation. We consider whether the brand is new or established, where it consensus. Rather, with experts fromwill be focused geographically, and through which mediums it will be principally our 24 offices across the globe authoringdeployed. This aids us in shaping an Arabicization strategy, recognizing regulations article topics, we strive to show a varietyand planning for near-term effectiveness. We also look at the long term and of opinions and ideas that reflect thefuture-proof to ensure that the brand’s ultimate aspirations will be achieved. diversity of regions, challenges, disciplines and topics that are vital and inspiringThe overall Arabicization goal is consistent with the main objective of any to us.branding exercise: simply, to create a compelling and memorable brand thatresonates with audiences and stands for something that is original, differentiating This article was formatted for screenand enduring. Middle Eastern brands and global brands deployed in the Middle viewing as a PDF. It may contain linksEast will find that a carefully navigated Arabicization process can play a critical and information not accessible on printedrole in achieving this goal and can aid in deploying the brand effectively. copies. If you do print this article, please consider passing it to a colleague or recycling it when you are done reading. We welcome your comments. Please let us know your thoughts atThis article was released in August, 2009. futurebrand.com, where you may also forward a copy of this article to others,This article was written by Mario Natarelli. Mario has pioneered some of the browse previous articles, find a list ofMiddle East’s most successful brands and is a 12-year veteran of branding in the sources that inspired our thoughts on thisregion. mnatarelli@futurebrand.com topic or be alerted when new articles are released.Contributors:Karim El Fetouh kfetouh@futurebrand.com Contact FutureBrand:Rina Plapler rplapler@futurebrand.com Dubai – 971.4.367.1625Mike Williams mwilliams@futurebrand.com Abu Dhabi – 971.2.406.4120Cover art by Nermin Moufti New York – 212.931.6300Think ahead. Stay ahead.www.futurebrand.com

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