Robert Govers

Dubai, Qatar and Abu Dhabi: competing place brands in the Gulf

Robert Govers - Saturday 16 April 2011 - 07:48 - 2006 x read

By: Robert Govers for Placebrandz.com

With this week’s Qatar talks on Libya, OpenDemocracy.com published an interesting paper by Kristian Coates Ulrichsen on Qatar and the Arab Spring. It provides food for thought on how some Gulf States, or rather, Emirates, are competing for nation brand hegemony in the region. Readers of our blog and our 2009 book on Place Branding will know that we have studied case Dubai extensively and Kristian’s paper has provided us with some fresh insights.

For many years since the start of the new millennium, Dubai was THE example of the modernization of the Gulf in the 21st century while rapidly building place brand image awareness. How come that they seem to have been overtaken, considering the recent media coverage of the Gulf, with lots of attention for Abu Dhabi, its grand prix and cultural projects, and FIFA’s stunning decision to have Qatar host the 2022 World Cup.

One major difference between Dubai and Qatar and Abu Dhabi is that the latter two are resource rich, while Dubai was forced to diversify its economy because it will soon run out of natural resources (since 2007 these contribute less than 2% to Dubai’s GDP). The strategy to build an internationally strong brand through the launch of large scale developments aiming at trade and tourism supported with foreign investment (in 2006 the UAE – predominantly Dubai - attracted almost as much foreign investment as the whole of India), was not all that irrational. Unfortunately, the global financial crisis came at a very bad time, right in the middle of Dubai’s investment hype. Others might argue that the timing was exactly right; putting everyone back with their feet on the ground before it was too late.

However, the international debt crisis induced postponement of payment announcement for Dubai World forced the Dubai government to lay low for a while in order to let the dust settle in the international media. In the meantime resource rich and thus less crisis affected Doha and Abu Dhabi made use of this Dubai silence to build their own brands. In fact, one could argue that Abu Dhabi’s financial help for Dubai, created the opportunity for the dominant Emirate to leap-frog Dubai’s strong brand, exemplified by the renaming of Burj Dubai - the world’s tallest tower - to Burj Khalifa; taking everyone by surprise (literally everyone, because even the souvenir shop at the 124th floor of the Burj Khalifa had to initially sell incorrectly branded gadgets).

Tourism in Dubai is still doing very well with constant growth in airport traffic and profits for the airline, but Dubai’s brand has been damaged. The focus on creating a brand image of luxury, prestige and modernity has boomeranged with the financial crisis. Since then, Dubai has launched an interesting place branding initiative with This is Dubai that shows an intimate human face of Dubai, but it seems too late and that the damage is done, creating opportunities for major competitors such as Qatar and Abu Dhabi.

Abu Dhabi has recently had its own share of Dubai-style negative media coverage with the art world’s boycott of its Saadiyat Island’s Guggenheim and the arrest of three human rights and democracy activists (update on April 18: arrest of four activists). Has Qatar moved to pole-position as the most respected nation brand in the Gulf? What do you think?

Like this post? Like it above, follow us on Facebook or LinkedIn and Like Placebrandz as a platform:

Latest Change by: Robert Govers on Wednesday 29 May 2013 - 08:29

Comments

William Coombe
William Coombe -  (2011-04-16 22:17)
I would tend to agree. Based on my research, news is the #1 source of information among global professionals regarding Dubai (and I imagine Abu Dhabi & Doha as well). In my survey, 85% of global professionals received information on Dubai from the news.

Although it's been one year since I tracked the data, Abu Dhabi has attracted a lower volume of international media attention compared to Qatar. In 2008 and 2009, Abu Dhabi received about 50% the volume of Qatar's global headline coverage.

According to the Nation Brand Perception Index (which is actually a media projection index), Qatar ranked #4 in the world in 2010. Unfortunately, Abu Dhabi can't be compared on this index since Abu Dhabi is not a country.

@ArabBrands
Robert Govers
Robert Govers -  (2011-04-18 15:18)
Thanks for that input William and indeed, unfortunately, comparisons are difficult in that region, because of the variation in governmental structures.
Someone from UAE
Someone from UAE -  (2011-04-20 13:12)
Why do people always seperate Dubai and Abu Dhabi like they are two seperate countries? They are both in the UAE and to most of us here, considered one of the same and are not in a big competition with each other.

Qatar is a country. Dubai and Abu Dhabi are emirates within one country, the UAE.
Robert Govers
Robert Govers -  (2011-04-20 14:42)
Obviously Dubai and Abu Dhabi are part of one and the same country, but one could argue that even within countries, cities, and particularly city states, compete with each other. Both Dubai and Abu Dhabi have their own airline and major airport hubs; financial centres; ports; or educational offerings, so it seems fair to me to assume that there is some healthy competition between them, as there is between cities and states within other countries. Check www.strengtheningbrandamerica.com which argues that the different states in the US should cooperate more to build brand America, as opposed to competing as fiercely as they do. A better terminology might be "co-optition" where there is cooperation and competition at the same time, at different levels. So we are not saying, as some superficial observers do, that Abu Dhabi was gloating at Dubai’s challenges as a result of the financial crisis. It is not surprising at all that Abu Dhabi has offered their assistance to the government of Dubai, because, of course, indeed, in the end the two emirates are part of the same country; the people in power even part of the same tribe; and it is therefore in everyone’s best interest to keep the mutually entwined economic engines going, which does not mean that there is no competition at other levels. In any case, in their own way, both Dubai and Abu Dhabi have succeeded in establishing themselves as major global place brands in a limited period of time; an achievement to be respected for either city or the UAE as a whole.
William Coombe (@ArabBrands)
William Coombe (@ArabBrands) -  (2011-04-20 16:31)
Someone from UAE-

One challenge is that many in the world actually view Abu Dhabi & Dubai as countries, and not as both emirates & cities. I have read a number of newspaper articles and even Dubai-specific academic papers where they referred to Dubai as a "country." One reason may be that Dubai has been so prominent in the international news - appearing three times as frequently as the UAE from 2008-2009. As a result, people seem to be much more familiar with "brand Dubai" than "brand UAE."

I wonder how many other countries receive less global media coverage than one of their cities or regions? A good reserach topic, which I unfortunately do not have time to do. Any takers? : )

@ArabBrands
sadfasgag
sadfasgag -  (2014-08-25 08:02)

Maillot de foot pas cher et Obtenez le Don Alleson réversible Blank Adulte Football Jersey pour une touche de balle! Choisissez vos couleurs de football en jersey et tailles! Donnez à vos collègues amateurs de chaqueta y chandal un spectacle exceptionnel de fierté de l'équipe et tout le fanatisme dans La Liga Nike Broncos de Denver Game Jersey. Inspiré par l'engin impressionnant que Peyton Manning porte sur le Ligue 1 terrain et con?u pour un confort total, cette réplique maillot dispose d'un ajustement sur ??mesure con?u pour faciliter le mouvement, une étiquette de cou sans étiquette qui offre un confort propre et ventilation stratégique pour une Premier League meilleure respirabilité.
-  (2014-08-25 08:23)
La Liga Scarpa d'Oro precedenti cinque stagioni,maglie di calcio 2015 tutti appartengono a Messi e C. Ronaldo.Paris Saint Germain PSG Messi ha ottenuto tre della Scarpa d'Oro Cup,Maglia Bayern Monaco C Lo allora ha vinto due dei premi. Nella nuova stagione,Maglia AC Milan i giocatori che hanno più probabilità di diventare il vincitore del Golden Boot? Fase di Messi,Maglia Juventus società di gioco sono generalmente più ottimisti circa C Bassa. Anche se Suarez a essere vietate fino a fine ottobre, ma le probabilità sono ancora davanti classifica Benzema Maglia Liverpool. Bwin e Bet365 aziende in compagnia fuori delle quote classifica, prima di sei candidati identici.Maglia calcio Arsenal Bwin a C Lo Hoi fuori un perduti 1.75 probabilità, Messi ha preso le probabilità di Golden Boot era un perso 2,25. Anche se Suarez a essere vietate fino a fine ottobre,Maglie Chelsea FC ma è ancora terzo Golden Boot popolari,Maglia Manchester City quote bwin del campionato per lui da un perdere 11.Maglia Atletico Madrid Bet365 a C Lo Hoi-out odds Scarpa d'Oro per un perso 1,72 per Macy fuori le probabilità per una perduta 2.37 per Suarez fuori delle probabilità ha raggiunto uno perdere 21.Maglia Barcellona Bwin e Betfair probabilità in classifica, IV Scarpa d'Oro popolare Benzema e Manzù Keech, prendono le probabilità Scarpa d'Oro sono un perdere 26.Maglia Real Madrid Neymar è classificato sesto, le due società gli ha dato le probabilità Golden Boot di 1 su 34 persi. Successivamente differenza classifiche, Bwin Bell e J Lo Hoi pagare probabilità sono 51, ??Bet365 a Bell e J Lo Hoi-out probabilità erano 41 e uno è stato un perdere perdere 67. Due società di gioco successivamente hanno scelto Gerry Mann, le probabilità sono anche di perdere 67.http://www.magliedicalcio2015.com Golden Boot Odds giocatore Real Sociedad di Bella sono anche una perduta 101, egli era fuori dai primi tre, oltre a Ovest sopra il vincitore Scarpa d'Oro più favorita.

Comment on this article

You must be logged in to leave a comment.

Subscribe via email

Follow the comments of this article by email: