By Tim Brooks www.thenational.ae
Although Burj Dubai is likely to remain its colloquial name for some time, retail and restaurant branding as well as road signs and maps were rendered instantly outdated by the announcement of the tower being renamed on Monday.
There was still no mention of the Burj Khalifa moniker in the vicinity of the tower two days after its historic opening. Emaar Properties, which spent US$1.5 billion (Dh5.51bn) on the structure, had yet to make a statement on the name change or its implications, nor had the Roads and Transport Authority announced whether the Burj Dubai Metro station would have its name changed.
Merchandise stalls were still selling Burj Dubai T-shirts yesterday, tourists were sending Burj Dubai postcards to friends and relatives and road signs still refer to the tower’s former name.
David Julliet, the manager of the Mango Tree restaurant, which has a terrace overlooking Burj Khalifa, said he was fortunate that the change would not have an impact on the identity of the business.
“Our promotional literature refers to ‘the world’s tallest building’ so we don’t need to change any references,” he said. “In fact, no practical changes to promotion are necessary.”
In the Dubai Mall, close to the entrance queue for the Burj Khalifa, the Scoozi pizzeria was bustling with diners eager to see the tower for themselves. Ghassan Mezher, its manager, said the landmark would remain a popular attraction whatever its name.
“The tower is still there and people are still coming to see it,” he said.
Still, changing the identification of entities already tagged with the old name could be difficult and costly, said Abed Bibi, the Dubai-based managing partner of the international branding agency Wolff Olins.
“They need to immediately work on a strategy for rebranding,” he said. “It should be about what they want Burj Khalifa to say to the world.
“Rebranding will be expensive and cost millions of dirhams. If they go crazy with logos, advertising messages and promotions then it would cost a lot more than it should.”
It was likely to take at least two years for “Burj Khalifa” to register in people’s minds, he said.
“The perception of Burj Dubai will remain as it’s something that has been talked about for the last five years,” Mr Bibi said. “People advertised it, promoted it, and it put Dubai on the world map. Now the Burj Khalifa will need a story. If said in the right way, it will live.”
One company that will be affected is Explorer Publishing, a local cartography company. Alistair McKenzie, its chief executive, said the map-making firm is used to Dubai’s rapid change and development.
“The UAE is a fast-paced country and we have learnt to embrace change and have the necessary procedures in place to ensure our guides and maps are regularly updated,” he said.
That pace was evident in the fact that Burj Khalifa T-shirts went on sale in the city’s Karama district less than 24 hours after the new name was announced.
There are signs others have begun to adapt as well. May Olinda, a sales assistant at Al Jaber Gallery, a souvenir stall in Dubai Mall, said people had started to request Burj Khalifa merchandise.
“Burj Dubai postcards have been very popular in the last few days, even since the name change,” she said. “But customers are now asking for Burj Khalifa-branded goods and we have made a request to our suppliers for a new range.”
Visitors at the Dubai airport yesterday were eager to see the landmark and were already referring to it by the new name. Ali Abbas, 25, a taxi driver from Pakistan, said he had collected five passengers who specifically asked to be taken to the Burj Khalifa.
“People from Britain and Ireland who have just got off the plane are calling it Burj Khalifa,” he said. “They obviously heard the announcement. Perhaps locals will call it one thing and tourists another.”
* Additional reporting by Praveen Menon