Qatar Airways, QNB ranked among the region’s most valuable brands

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Trinidade/Wikicommons

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Qatar National Bank (QNB) has one of the strongest brands in the Middle East, according to a new business report.

That news will likely be of comfort to company shareholders, though the report didn’t take into account any potential damage to the bank’s reputation following last month’s hacking scandal.

An annual report by a UK marketing consulting firm released this week found that QNB has the fifth-most valuable brand in the Middle East for the second straight year.

QNB is one of eight Qatar companies that made Brand Finance’s Middle East top 50 list, up from six last year.

A Qatar Airways A380.

Qatar Airways

A Qatar Airways A380.

Other local firms on the list include Qatar Airways, Ooredoo and several financial firms, such as Commercial Bank, Qatar Islamic Bank and Doha Bank.

Rankings are determined by the “value” of a company’s brand, which is calculated by estimating the hypothetical royalties one would have to pay to use it.

Factors include the emotional connection to the brand, the company’s financial performance and sustainability, among others, as well as average royalty rates in the company’s industry and the size of the firm’s revenue.

By those measurements, Qatar Airways’ brand is worth US$3.5 billion – which ranks it among the top 500 firms around the world – followed by QNB ($2.5 billion) and Ooredoo ($2.1 billion).

Emirates leads the list, with a brand value of $7.7 billion.

QNB hack

Brand Finance tabulated this year’s results before the data breach at QNB became public.

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Elysia Windrum

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

The hack resulted in mobile phone numbers, credit card numbers, records of international bank transfers, bank account numbers, passwords, mobile phone pins and email addresses of thousands of customers posted online.

Currently, it’s difficult to tell what damage the breach could have, Robert Haigh, Brand Finance’s communications director, told Doha News.

He added:

“We have seen similar cases with other brands (both banks and those from other sectors) where the medium to long-term impact on revenue, reputation and brand has generally been minimal.”

But in other cases, corporate brands have been hurt by the loss of customer trust following hacking scandals, such as the 2014 publication of private photos of celebrities from Apple’s iCloud system, Brand Finance said last year.

In QNB’s case, a lack of communication immediately following the data breach may have hurt the company.

Five days after the hack became public, QNB’s only statement on the issue was that the company was investigating and does not comment on “social media speculation.”

Only on May 1 – nearly a week later – did the bank confirm that it had been attacked and recommended customers take “the usual precautions of frequently changing their (online banking) usernames and passwords.”

Silence hurts

That approach was criticized by some experts who said it would hurt the bank’s brand.

In a recent blog post, Gulf-based communications professional Alex Malouf said:

“QNB’s silence on the issue is a classic example of how organizations in the region used to deal with a crisis prior to the advent of social media.

You dig your head in the sand and hope it’ll go away. Well, this is what they’ve done and their reputation has gone down with the Titanic.”

In an email to Doha News, Malouf added:

“It takes decade to build a brand and moments to destroy it has never been more relevant than today, thanks to digital and social media. I’m still taken aback by the lack of response from QNB, especially when their customers were looking for answers.”

Poor PR has also dogged Qatar’s most valuable brand, Qatar Airways. Brand Finance told Doha News earlier this year that recent high-profile criticism of working conditions of the airline’s cabin crew “may well have had an effect” on the airline’s score, meaning the company’s brand value growth was “lower than it could have been.”

Nevertheless, the value of Qatar Airways’ brand still grew by nearly 26 percent last year on the strength of its international expansion, reputation for luxury service and high-profile sponsorships such as its tie-up with Spanish football club FC Barcelona.

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