Thursday, August 17, 2006

From the Gardens to Ibn Battuta

How would you describe a company whose portfolio looks like fantasies of an overambitious kid in the Dubai Monopoly game. Despite $30 Billion worth of projects under construction and some unabashed Dubai Government backing and facilitation, Nakheel has never managed to break away from the shackles of internal squabbling, bureaucracy and the seemingly unending shadow of its rogue little brother's marketing expertise.

So when Nakheel was busy putting the Dubai on the Map(and vice versa), little brother Emaar ran away with all the applause for its matchbox properties near artificial lakes and golf courses - thanks to the entrepreneurial skills and vision of its Chairman, Mohamed Al Abbar.

Futurebrand was hired to resurrect Nakheel as a recognizable brand and were successful to an extent in doing so as they did for Emaar. Aided by limitless marketing budgets and extensive outdoor advertising, people in the UAE finally got to know the company behind all those ‘funny-shaped islands’. But for the international community, Nakheel was still ‘the palm company’ or a sometimes a virtual non-entity as they thought Emaar was behind all projects that happened in Dubai.

Nakheel always had a problem with positioning and associating themselves with their projects. The paranoia they have for negative publicity has lead them to fire their PR agency, Hill & Knowlton and using government influence in forcing the UAE media to refrain from publishing articles against their projects.

How the Gardens Mall became Ibn Battuta Mall
When Nakheel embarked on a unique shopping mall project themed on the travel routes of the a 13th century traveller, they could have got it terribly wrong again; had they gone with the name of ‘Gardens Shopping Mall’ and positioning it as just another mall which made peoples eyes light up the minute they hear names like the springs, meadows, gardens, lilies and all things Keats in the sandlands. Fortunately, someone (apparently from the PR agency itself) had far more foresight and the mall was renamed Ibn Battuta Mall. Not that easy to pronounce and wild theories of people actually thinking IBN is some software company tying up with a local guy fondly called ‘Battuta’ to build a big shopping mall – the name did take them a long way in positioning the brand as it ought to be.

Here are some photos which reflect the architectural details of the mall. Callison Architecture,
Dewan Al Emara
and a host of other consultants has done a great job in going a level above a mere imitation.


Blogger secretdubai said...

Wonderful pictures of Ibn Battuta!

12:39 pm  
Blogger Seabee said...

The shops are all the usual suspects, all very boring, so the mall itself is the attraction. They've done it pretty well I think.

5:21 pm  
Blogger The Lady said...

I do like the I-B-N Batutta mall (if only I had a dollar for every expat that referred to it as such).

There are some good stores (namely Sharaf & the Apple Store), Geant offers an interesting selection of treats, and the usual suspects such as Nine West, etc keep the regulars in. Additionally, those comfortably wide seats in the theatre are fab!

I'm easily satisfied.

11:04 am  
Blogger sruthi said...

hey i used to live in dubai. that place has so much money to throw around...or build islands in the water. But then again, if chicago drilled oil, i bet we'd be doing the same thing.

11:47 pm  
Blogger hannibal said...

Ibn Battuta mall has barred blue collared workers on the weekends there..

lovely rules to match the lovely architecture

1:05 pm  
Blogger shansenta said...

Hey! that's a nice piece for Ibn Batuta Mall.
I tend to agree with your descriptons of the positioning issues for the mall, but I feel "Ibn Batuta" name is a duo-edged sword for the mall.
On one hand the name is unique, has history associated with it (although don't know how relevant!) that associates with "Arab" if not necessarily "Arabia" and the divisions well matched with perhaps the shopper communities dominant in the UAE. On the other hand, the name doesn't really ring a bell to associate with "shopping". Added to this, there's severe wastage of valuable Gross Leasing Area - reduction of which could have indeed increased the sales per day for the mall.
Perhaps this is the reason why it never took off the way MOE took off. It waits to be seen whether the late pick up of sales is going to sustain in the current months. Depends on how it is marketed, not inside UAE but in GCC, Europe and other countries as well.
Looking forward to more such "promotional reports" from you.

5:03 pm  
Blogger Woke said...

I agree with on the name not reflecting the shopping aspect. Such compromises they made on the Leasing area and the name might be justified considering the upcoming super-sized malls in the UAE.

While the Dubai Mall is positioning itself as big, modern and heavy on fashion and retail, Mall of Arabia in Dubailand will be the biggest(with an internal rail network). This is apart from the Emirates Mall and the likes. So a historical relevance and a bit more effort in architecture does not seem like a bad idea considering the blunder Nakheel did with the Dragon Mart.

5:12 pm  
Blogger shansenta said...

Waiting to see what Mall of Arabia will harp about. I suspect it will again go on the MAF's tried and tested "leisure activity" based destination - like we saw first in DCC and then again in MOE :)

12:44 am  

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