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This post is inspired by the lawsuit filed by Benihana Kuwait against the author of one of the most popular Kuwaiti blogs for an objective review they did not appreciate.

In my previous  job, working in the International Sales Department, our main objective was to get new agents across the world to represent our brand and supporting them through thick and thin with Marketing Materials ranging from catalogs, brochures, photos, samples, emailer templates, templates, microsites…  And that was not an easy job. Many a time clients would come to us directly from countries where we already had agents because they felt that we could service them better, more efficiently, that we had more know how, or simply because the agent was rude, unprofessional, unethical… And I can imagine how much more pressures you have for controlling standards and ensuring brand integrity in the B2C world, from making sure your outlets correspond to certain standards of look, feel, smell & sound, to a unified experience and service levels… especially if you have franchised your brand and no longer hold the remote control, only having access and being able to voice concerns on matters that are distinctly outlined in that one franchising agreement. Whilst on the other hand the franchisee, has the golden key and has the ability to drive your name into a wall at any time.


Benihana Kuwait, who did you sue last night?

via BlogBaladi.com

Well guess what, with the world wide web, your reputation is not only threatened in that one location, worse come to worse, one slip up can cause a global ripple effect damaging all of your brand’s properties.

So today brands playing internationally also have to develop clear branding and marketing strategies for managing their digital identity and reciprocate those experiences into clear guidelines and strict policies with lots of case studies and canned responses for their partners to follow worldwide, otherwise, you’ll have another Benihana Kuwait nightmare on your hands. And well of course, have a clear cut crisis management plan.


I feel so sorry for Benihana New York  and can imagine the nightmare they are going through at the moment unable to control anything and trying to explain to their partners how much damage they have done and convince them to change course of action. For all of you other brands out there, this is not an excuse for you to get scared of the online world and run away, it is just one more proof that you should be online, listen, monitor and engage in a structured way respecting the community that constitutes a large portion of your target audience and learn from cases such as these.


Make sure to check Mark’s roundup on all the amazing posts the community has written to support him and appeal to Benihana Head offices Japan through this easy was provided by @Alexandermcnabb.

For more marketing perspective also check @youmny’s post at Marketing in Lebanon blog – Benihana Kuwait, the art of creating a PR crisis. You can also check what Lebanese bloggers had to say on this.

Disclaimer: 24am is a blog that I have personally been following for a long while and  recommend for all of you to follow due to the amazing quality of content it has and the objectivity of its authors.

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Women in Technology (Lebanon) have invited me to speak at their Networking and Sustainability Conference  about Social Media/Marketing & Networking in October. The objective was to show the organization members simple and accessible ways to use social media to raise awareness about their NGOs or small businesses without going into complexities. The approach I used was to show these women that are mostly from an older generation that the new technology follows the same rules as the normal socializing that women are so well equipped to do. At the end I listed a few campaigns that relied on social change for fund raising or awareness raising. I had to present in Arabic, so the slides do not say much, except carrying you around a retro, black and white movie theme that was supposed to calm down those ladies, and show them that social media is nothing new and it just simplifies communication. To get the ladies relaxed and less averse to technology I started by telling them that men, who are typically perceived as tech savvy also had their fears, like washing machines, irons, vacuum cleaners… as well as focusing on the strengths women have that make them social drivers. Seconds later they were chuckling and demanding SMEX Beirut for more social media training.

It was an honor to present along with SMEX Beirut , The Amazing Maya Zankoul, The Ostensibly talented Tony Yammine, and the Charismatic Ayman Itani.
It was also extremely touching when after a presentation a girl from the audience gave me a phone accessory which she made herself. She said that she is currently working on her blog, well you can check some of the stuff she is into here .
You can check photos from the panel here.
About WIT Lebanon Networking and Sustainability Conference (NSC).

The NSC in Lebanon brought together over 130 people including representatives from WIT sponsors MEPI and Microsoft, WIT staff, local dignitaries, in-country stakeholders, WIT participants, Professional Development Leaders, and representatives from WIT Partner Organizations. The event was hosted under the patronage of Minister of the Interior Ziad Baroud.
The primary objectives of the Networking and Sustainability Conferences were to create a more cohesive network of local Partners Organizations and in-country teams and strengthen WIT’s Professional Development Networks.

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Identity Chef in Communicate Magazine - Lebanese Bloggers Thanks to Joesbox I found out that my blog was once again featured in Communicate Magazine. The blogpost featured is Gabriel Ghali’s Guest Post about the  Islamic Brand.

Thank you communicate for praising my dear friend.

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Just to tell you that The Identity Chef is now on Beirut.com :)

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Advertising and design companies around the Middle East have always worked on Ramadan greeting cards, which hold corporate messages and link back to the brands of their clients. Every year, the challenge gets even more interesting with a focus on creativity and visual impact that would surprise and inspire. But as globalization takes over the Arab world, interesting developments are easily noticed.

Starting with the design phase, all creative’s scout around for inspiration and ideas to create a card that is visually interesting, modern and creative. An essential part of “Islamic design” is the integration of old and modern Arabic calligraphy, the “star” of the visual, coupled with a layout design including interesting die cuts and new cardboard treatments and rendering the card an interesting design to display.

In the past few years, the display factor has become essential. With designers creating cards that would “stand alone” and display the message without necessarily being an actual physical card. Ideas range from regular cards to developed boxes that would hold two main messages: first, the company name, which would link the message to a specific brand and second, the actual message, which is a heartfelt wish and portrays the “humane” aspect of a caring company.

Recently, we can notice the introduction of Latin and Arabic texts at the same time, something never done in the past, a symbol of adaptation to the world and a way of sending a clear message and communicating the “Islamic life” to countries and people who do not necessarily understand the Arabic Calligraphy.

Similarly, the calligraphy, which is also a beautiful graphical element, is coupled with modern Arabic typefaces, an interesting thing to note. Calligraphy stays a visual link to the traditional Arabic past, a visual and historical story developing over time. In Ramadan, as people read and remember God’s word, they are reminded by its beauty and form (calligraphy is the Islamic expression of the beauty of Allah’s word).

I view this period as a form of advertising the Islamic world brand. All Arabs from around the Middle East unite in a similar manner (the everyday lifestyle adaptation to rituals). This unity creates a global brand forcing itself on the global audience. These greetings, given out to clients and businesses around the globe, are a simple form of communication. On one side, a certain company promotes itself (as noted above) on another side, it promotes the Islamic world, the religion, the people as one group, one complex identity, one brand.

This brand is currently evolving, integrating itself on a global, massive scale (Arabic typeface development is a simple example). On another hand, the global audience is more open to the Arabic language (with so many interested in learning it, and so many learning how to draw Arabic calligraphy) there seems to be surprising developments awaiting us in the years to come.

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Gabriel Ghali

Art Director, Blogger, Columnist, DJ

Blog: http://gghali.blogspot.com/

Twitter: @gabrielghali

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I want to thank Gaby for jump-starting this great collaboration and  his wonderful and insightful review of trends in Islamic art and the development of what is know as an “Islamic brand”, based on his many years of experience in branding and advertising in the middle east. Gaby has also provided the great gallery of cards, which we would like to contribute to as well. Just send your company’s corporate greeting card to contact [at] theidentitychef.com or add a link to it in the comment box.

Do not forget to subscribe to Gaby’s Blog and follow him on twitter for his amazing daily doses of positive vibes. While you are on Gaby’s blog download his Exotic Sensation’s Tracklist, which is simply divine.

Ramadan Moubarak My Dear Readers, I wish you Warmth, Empathy & Spiritual Uplift in this Holy Month.

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I am so flattered to be picked as blog of the week on Lebanon Aggregator.

Identity chef on Lebanon aggregator screen shot

I also remembered that I forgot to tell you about the cool video Blog Aggregator did called “What got you into blogging?”, featuring many Lebanese bloggers. I am featured there too, but I am tooooo self conscious about how I look on video…

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Funnily enough, the post that was featured was mainly a digest provided by the guys at SMEX of our meeting with Gaby Deek . Nevertheless, it makes me happy that the guys at Communicate have considered me authoritative enough to feature it. It feels good to know they are reading and listening…

Big Thank to Danielle from Thisisbeirut For letting me know about this and providing the  images (click on image to enlarge).

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via ivysays.comToday, IVY was giving dating advice on twitter and asking people for feedback on her make a move rose giveaway and planning a tweetup dinner.

Yesterday, at the table, we sat arguing for around 20 minutes whether IVY is real or not.

The whole week before, people were passionately interacting with IVY on twitter…

Two weeks ago, Ivy registered to attend a tweetup and blogged about it.

And the truth of the matter is that we shouldn’t care if IVY is real or not. We should be happy that companies have finally understood the language of digital natives and is creating campaigns that resonate and interact with us, as well as the other poor mere mortals. After EXOTICA’s  unexciting Different Christmas campaign, that even failed to point us to the blog on their billboards, Leo Burnett, Exotica’s ad agency,  reviewed all of its mistakes and came up with something with a phenomenal snowball effect. Yes, as I said before my friends, social media marketing is sparking to life in the middle east and you are either with us, or eaten by the competition.

Things to learn from Exotica’s IvySays Project.

1- Give and you shall receive

The IVY we have come to know and love is a giver. She started by giving us dating advise, which though we may not all apply, but we all loved and we felt compelled single people everywhere felt compelled to try out Ivy’s moves and then… Ivy slipped a rose into our hands and made it all the more easier. Think about your clients, think about what they need. And even if you are B2B business, think: Do your they need education, help, comfort, care, empowerment? All of us do, don’t we? Now how can you use all that your expertise to help them, regardless of your product?

2-Engage and you shall be engaged

Before IVY got to her first post, she got a twitter account and after that, she did not just re-tweet her own posts, she replied to people, she talked to them, shared her opinions on outside issues, gave them advice and encouragement. There was no pushing her message or asking for anything for herself. That is why, when IVY asked questions she got enormous feedback, even from those who were in doubt about her true identity. And that is value you will not be able to leverage unless you create a genuine online persona [not to be confused with a retweet bot].

3-Go where they go, do what they do!

Ivy blogged about various creeks and corners in Beirut, be in Kayan, Greedy Goose or Le Grey, and that is what made her connect and resonate with her audience. Ivy did not blog about flowers she blogged about fashion, make-up, glamor, plastic surgery, national pride, chocolate- SUGAR, SPICE and EVERYTHING NICE – and we all like nice things.  Then again, she went to twitter to reach digital natives and, mind you,  she even guest blogged and re-blogged it on her own site. Did IVY ask girls to go to EXOTICA to get the flowers? No, they went out to  the most up and coming place – Gemmayze, Achrafieh and Hamra. The only thing that could’ve been done differently would be  giving out roses all around Lebanon, and not just Beirut.

4-Empower and you shall be empowered

Even if they did not comment, retweet or send emails, thought they actively do, with every dating tip IVY empowered ladies to take actions. Girls, being the gossip machines they are, would discuss it – which means GOING VIRAL offline. And then again with every rose given out to a guy Exotica created a positive sentiment, that is teh first step to along lasting relationship, not with the guy, but with the brand. And come 2011 I expect more girls to send out flowers to beau’s, and now, not because they[roses] are free, but because it makes them feel good. And this is the golden key to any successful brand. And did I mention the publicity, Ivy’s campaign is getting from mainstream media?

5-Going against the current and bringing the currents together

There are two stakeholders in any relationship – MAN & WOMAN. Exotica’s outdoors visuals empowered men, by teasing them with images of women they could have had in 2o09 if only they were brave enough. While Ivy, took a less traditional approach, and she looked to empower women. Mind you, women are not traditionally the ones we think first of when we think about selling flowers, right? But then again, I have seen countless times flowers being delivered to men at our offices from girlfriends, wives or wanna-bes. And then again, think of it, if a girl gives a guy one rose before valentine, and the guy likes the girl, on Valentine he will get her no less than a bouquet and what will his 1st choice be? Certainly EXOTICA. So you see, by bringing people together and spreading love Exotica may actually have record sales on February 14.

Finally,  I want to congratulate Exotica on the Brilliant Initiative and hope that IVY , whoever she is, continues blogging even after February 14, otherwise the digital natives all around, both those who think IVY is Real and Fake, will feel beguiled and disappointed.

Googling I found this song called IVY SAYS, I wonder if it had anything to do with the origin of the campaign.

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It has been a long time since I have published a tangible post and a lot has been happening in the media scene in Lebanon. And a lot of exciting things have been taking place in the Lebanese Social Media Scene…

I have got the best news for you: the educational sector is finally catching on on the gap between the dogmas and the realities. This Spring Ayman Itani will be giving a course in LAU on Media, Culture and Technology. The course will provide an in-depth overview of everything out there for complete beginners and focus on teaching  not only the how & why of  using these tools, but also the New Media Mindset empowering them with real case studies and practical work shops. Ayman also has a couple of surprises up his sleeves for the lucky students taking his course and will be updating us on their progress all through the way, so stay tuned!

Media Culture & Technology course at LAU spring 2010

Another fabulous thing is that traditional media has now also acknowledged the new media channels and with the help of Social Media enthusiasts like Amer Tabsh it is starting to get the coverage it deserves. Below are Video Clips from a Live show on Lebanese Future TV interviewing Maya Zankoul, Samer Karam and Ayman Itani regarding their twitter addictions. Hopefully this will encourage new active Lebanese twitter users as well as companies to experiment with twitter and other media.

In other news, you can check my Bloggers FaceOff on Chanty’s blog.

So what’s new in your lives my dears?

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Resisting Change

Photo by the fantastic Naeema Zareef (twitter.com/naeema)

Two events have been the highlight of the last week of 2009 for me. One of them was my darling’s stiff resistance of the flu and the other was a live encounter with a typical Marketing Manager 1.0. And , eventually, yours truly got to celebrate the assent of the new year in bed with fever as well… making the lessons learned from these two encounters all the more vivid.

1)Ignore it, Maybe it’ll go away

Years of evolution have not killed the breadwinner’s instinct in men, which even stands above the instinct of self preservation. When your man falls sick, he would always keep on going to work, as usual, doing all his house chores in an exemplary manner, without admitting that something is wrong. I suppose in ancient tribes, the sick were isolated or cast out of the villages & left to die alone. So God forbid for your man to admit that something is wrong. But what goes in the manager’s 1.0′s head is beyond my understanding. M1.0 says that the marketing has not changed and that the foundations and underlying rules still remain valid, he has a moment of truth when he condescends to admit that advertising has changed, and then he switches back to denial by saying that advertising is only a part of marketing, he goes back to touching on changing customer needs, but breaks off at specifics… And, of course, in the same manner that prince charming audaciously refuses to take a sick day and stay in bed, M1.0 would say, – “We do not need a website now, we’ll start working on it in a couple of months, we’re studying our competition for now.” But by the time they are weakened and overpowered by their disease, the first would’ve plowed through a week of 20% productivity at work and then lying in bed for 2 days to recuperate and another week and a half of insane coughing, which is a significant trade off for staying at home for two days, as I did, and then going back to work a 100% recharged.  And our M1.0 Would greatly benefit said competitors by not having a significant online presence by as much as he will frustrate his prospects, who would be unable to find a way to contact them and find out more about their products. And no, a Facebook page is not as good as Corporate website (if you disagree with that, let me know, I’d be more than happy to share my views!).

2) Time Heals everything

Mon Beau will tell you that it takes seven days to cure a flu anyhow, so why bother and put your life on hold? M1.0 says that brand awareness will come with time, after my comment about missing opportunities 5 months after market entry. Well, in my dictionary, one week equals, on average, 70 tweets, 3 blogposts, and a possible email marketing or other online campaign. Multiply that by 5 and you will have thousands of touchpoints with your clients that come at a fraction of a cost of traditional media. Maybe our generation is too aggressive, but less than a month in my new job, I am already feeling unproductive for not bringing in more value and having to cram up on literature/research 50% of my time and that is precisely why, I use the remaining 50% to make actionable change NOW. In my eye, less is more in the long run, and little things done now, be it a greeting card, sms, news release… may not just prevent you from LOSING an existing client, but also get you a new client TODAY!

3) Expenditure = ROI

When hubby does reach a pharmacy, after 5 days, he’ll sweep off the shelves everything  that can remotely help him, or at least that is what he thinks. But by that time, the poles have shifted and all he needs to do is really wait, sip orange juice and rest to recover, instead of ingesting antibiotics which will further drain his life -resources. M1.o will also go to extremes, after 5 months, hiring top models, pampering them and doing runway shows, publishing ads in glitzy magazines… in two words maniacally spending!  But same-same, time would’ve done its thing, and that extra investment would’ve been too little too late! But that does not mean that you shouldn’t still take in your vitamins regularly. Don’t wait until you get a soar throat to take action. Act now, act always! Because,

4) Nobody Cares about YOU, as much as You!

Your boss is not going to give you a day off when you are saying you are a little sick but already came to work, and your clients are not going to run 20 google searches, searching for your coordinates if you landing page, facebook page, twitter handle or corporate website have not been SEO and keyword optimized. And if your marketing campaign does not relate to me, your target client, and if I do not find what I want about you, no money in the world would buy you my consumer’s sentiment and loyalty. And beware, I am too studying your competitors, and so far , they are ahead of you.

5) Birds do it, bees do it…

Men have this secret solidarity pact about enduring illness at the office, when I used to take a sick day at my previous job, I sometimes felt my boss took it as a personal offense. On the other hand, my spouse’s boss can call him while he’s sick saying, – “Aren’t you man enough, chuck on some pills and get on going!”. Bizarre and unacceptable, but, nonetheless true! But, even if denial is the trend, you should take advantage of it. While everyone is “hachooing” at the office, retreat and come back rosy cheeked and productive. And while your competitors are stuck in their old ways, you have the time to experiment, innovate and advance! Your mindset is your only handicap!

Post Approved for publishing by Prince Charming, M1.0 feedback pending. What about you?

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