When a multi-national corporation (MNC) is trying to decide where to build its manufacturing plants in 2011, it has to consider the influence of the region or location. We at The KIN Consortium believe that the intangibles that are found in the influence of the Arabic Language are a vital component to the decision making process. The fact is most companies have migrated their manufacturing facilities to Asia to take advantage of the cheaper cost of labor. However, that narrow-minded view of cost cutting did not save Lehman Brothers. In our humble opinion, the lack of a huge presence of Lehman Brothers in Saudi Arabia is what led to its demise. It is simply a matter of recognition of the brand name and a shared pool of experiences. The fact that Lehman Brothers was an elitist institutional firm that did not cater to retail investors made them irrelevant when the time came to make a decision on the bailouts.
On the other hand, GM is recognized around the world. I could go to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and ask some local Bedouin about the best car for surfing sand dunes, and he will smile and mention the GM SUV with the local slang, “Jimce” referring to the icon GMC. It is that familiarity with the brand name that kept it alive in the midst of the global financial crises. Let us explore the value of investing and building a corporate image in the Middle East.
The Kingdom is well known as the center of Islam. Millions of Muslims come to pay their respects every year. Everyday they pray toward Makkah at least five times a day from all points around the globe. The words in the Qur'an were first spoken in the Arabic language as they were passed down through divine revelation. The same Arabic language is spoken everyday in the Middle East.
When a foreign multinational corporation sells its logo, products, services and image in Arabic, it is deriving the credibility that is inherent in the language by default. Take a look at how McDonalds, Starbucks, and Hardee's are serving up the highest quality products and services in Arabic. The fact is Hardee’s is gone in the western half of America, yet it thrives in the Kingdom. Furthermore, that influence has brought about new branches of Hardee’s in Asia. The pool of influence extends to the furthest reaches of the Islamic world.
Of course the multinational corporation will have to survive the rigorous quality management tests by the conservative minded audience in the Kingdom. Certain modifications for taste and cultural sensitivity are part of the road to corporate immortality. International brand names can live longer if they invest in building the proper image in the Middle East. It should be seen as a public relations tactic.
(Khalid I. Natto ([email protected]) is chairman & CEO of The KIN Consortium.)