Brand UAE: we have so many good stories to tell the world but need a clear way of doing so

The unique attributes of the seven emirates deserve to be showcased – but first we need to tell the world who we are

Abu Dhabi Hotels Record Strong Double-Digit Rise in Revenues in Q1 of 2019. Courtesy DCT Abu Dhabi

Helicopter point of view of sea and skyscrapers in Corniche bay in Abu Dhabi, UAE. Turquoise water and blue sky combined with building exterior.
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Malaysia is "truly Asia", Britain is "great", Singapore "made passion possible", New Zealand is "100 per cent pure" and "I love NY" is quoted the world over. So what, then, should be the epithet that embodies the nature of the UAE?

This is the question the country’s leaders have challenged us all to answer as we approach 2020, a momentous year for the Emirates.

A national competition is now underway to create a brand identity for the country. Seven artists from each emirate will work on designing a logo and slogan to market the UAE in campaigns overseas.

Of course, those of us fortunate enough to live in the UAE already know the reasons why our nation is beloved by residents of more than 200 nationalities: the sunny climate, natural beauty, friendly people, a rich and unique culture, and values such as tolerance, generosity and inclusivity.

On the world stage, we have much to highlight. From our championing of interfaith dialogue and tolerance to our leadership in foreign aid, we are a constructive force in the world.

We empower our women to take ownership of their lives and the country’s future, invest in our youth and always try to generate optimism in a region that often needs it badly. We are progressive, ambitious and open.

Yet we do not always get the recognition we deserve. There are misconceptions and stereotypes about our country that are neither fair nor true. The challenge, then, is to collect our many attributes, spread across our seven emirates and weave them into a unified identity which can help explain who we are.

When the world's eyes are on us – as they will be next year, when Dubai opens the doors to Expo 2020 and prepares to welcome millions of visitors – we need a symbol that will 'tell the story of the UAE to the world'

As Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, put it: “The UAE is at the heart of global economic, social and cultural development. The nation brand will deepen the country’s impact and soft power across the world.”

When the world’s eyes are on us – as they will be next year, when Dubai opens the doors to Expo 2020 and prepares to welcome millions of visitors – we need a symbol that will “tell the story of the UAE to the world", to borrow the words of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai.

I often reflect on the story of just how far this nation has come in such a short time.

It is said that Abu Dhabi and Dubai are virtually unrecognisable from just 15 years ago. Abu Dhabi is a green oasis that serves as the beating heart of our federation. Dubai has risen from the desert to become a global centre of commerce and one of the world's top tourist destinations.

Then we have Sharjah, forging a reputation as a cultural hub of international renown; Ras Al Khaimah’s exciting emergence as an up-and-coming visitor destination; Fujairah, known as "the jewel of the Middle East", with its stunning mountain scenery and lush farmland; the historical significance of Umm Al Quwain dating back to the Bronze Age; and Ajman’s international excellence in manufacturing and construction.

Many of the above attributes are already known to the world but it has been down to emirates to communicate their stories individually in various campaigns, from #MyDubai to Abu Dhabi’s "extraordinary stories" and "I found Ras Al Khaimah".

(L) Geologist and conservationist Maral Khaled Chreiki, Conservation and Operation Manager of Wadi Wurayah National Park, with the Emirates Wildlife Society in association with the World Wide Fund for Nature, hikes through the Wadi Wurayah National Park on Tuesday, March 4, 2014. On 16 March 2009, the Wadi Wurayah became the first protected mountain area in the United Arab Emirates, after a three-year campaign by the Emirates Wildlife Society in Association with World Wide Fund for Nature.
(Silvia Razgova / The National)

Section: National
Reporter: Lindsay Caroll
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As a strategic communications professional, I constantly reinforce the need for clarity of message. We have so many good stories to tell the world, but it will only listen and understand if it can hear us clearly. Often, telling a good story requires introducing who we are before we can try to explain what we are doing.

Country brands must be consistent and rooted not only in values but also a vision. For the UAE, this means reflecting our rich culture and heritage while maintaining our forward-leaning orientation. Our nation’s Founding Father, the late Sheikh Zayed, laid the groundwork for the futuristic advances we are pioneering today. From sending the first Emirati astronaut to space to announcing the world’s first artificial intelligence university in Abu Dhabi, the UAE is proud to be at the forefront of scientific development and social transformation.

Moreover, the best brands are inclusive and for the UAE, that means celebrating the hundreds of nationalities who call this place home. The tolerance we display for each other, our faiths and our cultures is worth sharing with the world.

We already have powerful brands. Our leadership, our emirates, our companies, our values and our culture are all products of our values, innovation, ambition and determination to succeed.

Now we can build on the achievements of our many parts to create an even better whole, a unifying brand that truly speaks to who we are as a nation, both for ourselves and the wider world.

Hend Al Otaiba is director of strategic communications at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation