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Rebranding the Brand
What if we woke up one morning to discover the pyramids had vanished (maybe stolen along with thousands of artefacts currently being picked from our museums and tombs)? What if, as we rise onto that expansive plateau, we are taken aback by the absolute nothingness of the endless desert, instead of overwhelming stonework? Would Egypt still be Egypt?
The Pyramids of Giza are a pretty overpowering brand to tackle. For centuries and centuries, they have cast a shadow over the sprawling landscape that has come to be known as Kyme, Kemet, Gypt, Misr and Egypt. This brand was created by the Pharaoh with the intention of immortalizing himself for all eternity. The nation that came into being, absorbing and digesting peoples from all corners of the earth, could never escape the grip of the Pharaoh; which incessantly attributed all that later came and became to the builder of the pyramids. This was all good and well, until now.
After all, it has been a free ride. We need only exert minimal effort to market our small part of the desert to the rest of the world as most of the work was done five thousand years ago.
All we had to do was take photographs! In spite of the many recent shameful failures of that brand on international and local markets, like getting zero votes in the bid to host the 2010 FIFA World Cup, that sense of complacency persisted until something snapped on the twenty-fifth day of the four-thousandth-five hundred and seventy-firstyear after the completion of the pyramids.
A potential icon for a new brand suddenly jumped to the forefront, Tahrir Square. What does it mean when modern Egyptians, wanting to break loose of their restraints, choose to congregate in Midan al Tahrir and not around the Pyramids of Giza (disregarding the fact that it is closer and easier to get to using public transport)?
Is there any significance that their slogans -unlike during football games- had nothing to do with being descendents of the Pharaohs? Why did the colours of the flag suddenly become so important to everyone’s lives that they now adorn every other tree in our cities? I believe that it all means that it is time to rebrand the brand.
The break of that twenty-fifth day was not only a break from the grip of a pharaoh, but more importantly, it signified a break from the domination of the past. “Thank you, Mr. Pharaoh.
” said the Egyptians of Midan al Tahrir, “It was nice traveling under your wings for all these centuries, but it is time now to fashion ourselves a new set of wings.
” The new brand -as of yet unclear- is all about the future, or so indicate the signals. The emerging dimensions of this new brand personality include courage, daring and innovation, all of which are essential characteristics of a forward-looking personality. The brand experience promises us a higher level of social awareness, genuine care and authenticity, creatively collective energy, deep focus on human potentials and individual power and of course, the usual tongue-in-cheek approach to life. Obviously, this new brand we are looking at is still a personality in the making. It is still a youthful body not so well nourished, with pants only and no shirt, ribs slightly jutting out behind the sun-baked skin, but the black eyes are glowing with life and the energy focused on the horizon. The shadow it leaves behind is that of a hunched frame with a potbelly, clothes emulating royalty but were actually a pastiche of uncoordinated colours crudely covering rips and worn out parts of the fabric, the head was tilted downwards and the eyes constantly shifting in all directions. At the 2011 International Tourism Market in Berlin, songs from Tahrir Square and the revolution were playing in tandem with the traditional attractors of pyramids and the sun, sea and sand.
Agents and tourism enthusiasts stood waving the Egyptian flag proudly, perhaps these passed few months could be an additional attraction to the land of the Pharoah?
Is it Tahrir, the unspectacular urban space, that the world is looking forward to visiting? Or is it the Tahrir Square created by the masses and portrayed on television screens worldwide for a full eighteen days? Tahrir Square created such a tremendous concentration of human energy unprecedented by the world before, and through inexplicable means and tools. So much so, that it has now been deemed a phenomenon to be analyzed and studied. The brand is an emotional contract with the consumer who is promised a future benefit. Today’s consumer expects to be challenged before getting emotionally engaged. The stimuli are abundant and diverse, filling the skies, microwaves and airwaves everywhere.
Any new brand has to offer something remarkable if it is to attract, engage and sell. The question we pose here is which of these has more potential for engaging the over-stimulated global consumer:
the pyramids or the masses of Tahrir Square? If I were to invest my money on a new campaign today, I would definitely choose the latter. Not only because of its current attractiveness to the external consumer, but more importantly because of it importance to the local consumer as the pyramid based brand is focused on the past, while Tahrir is focused on the future. The former highlights the glories and achievements of ancestors, while the latter focuses on the potential and aspirations of the current generations and those yet to come. Imagine the strength of this new brand on the international market if it succeeds to win over the initial buy-in of eighty-five million consumers, its popularity and profitability would be enormous! Brand building is now a fairly straight forward as a process. Branding a nation however, is not an easy process. Like the making, or molding, of a new human personality; it requires a tremendous amount of dedicated work, careful nourishment, and extensive envisioning.
The current context in which it is expected to grow is necessarily hostile, since the pharaohs of the past wont want to let go of immortality. The context is overpowering, it is full of pyramids and edifices of an attractively glorious past. How can one avoid being taken in by it all? How can one not marvel at the accomplishments of the past, which incidentally, save us the trouble of doing the work ourselves?
I guess one alternative is to start building new edifices that we can marvel at today and tomorrow, or maybe we can wait for the pyramids to get stolen!