Saturday, December 20, 2014

Tuesday, March 11, 2014


In order to keep up with brand consistency and elevate brand recognition, we recommend that our clients undertake an annual assessment of brand. At Unique Image, Inc., we understand the new normalcy of today’s digital and online traffic. It is critical that we evaluate our client’s online presence, messaging strategies and creative. Our long standing track record of brand analysis has helped our clients achieve the highest level of branding for nearly twenty years.

To underscore our commitment to quality branding, we are offering a free digital footprint and website consultation. Beginning March 30th, prospective clients will receive a broad overview of their online brand, along with recommendations on suggested improvements.

Interested companies are welcome send us their website address / social media link(s) for our immediate review here. For a consultation, contact us at

Tuesday, December 24, 2013


1-     Think big and write down your most 10 ideal situations for the year in all aspects of life. 
2- Plan each goal in an approachable way and estimate the time and effort that will take to reach your desirable goal. 
3- Suggest plan B and write down the challenges and how you can turn them into opportunities. Defeat your fear with practice, confidence and determination.
4- Look into your network – eliminate those who drag you down and focus on those who will push you forward toward achievement
5- Surround yourself with partners that appreciate your craft
6- See the end result in your mind. If you see it you will make it happen
7- Elevate your brand and your image. Most people ignore the quality of their brands. Don’t jeopardize it with unsuitable look. 
8- Organize your mind, surroundings, contacts and schedule. Your entire life will change
9- Save, invest and grow your financial strength by following a trend/schedule – save with each check you earn the same amount every time and place into an IRA account 
10- Believe and follow your dreams. Wake up every day with energy, hope and commitment to go through your day with optimistic spirit, award yourself with something daily for a great end of the day accomplishment no matter how challenged the day is. Eat well, exercise and sleep well. Give yourself time to think and thank.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

A Balanced Media

We do it despite the stereotypes and negative influence of those who continue to craft a biased picture of the Middle East—those who often celebrate the antagonists while putting the protagonists in the villain's role. ALO and a few select media in the US attempt to showcase the best of both worlds. But maintaining a balanced position is not an easy task.

Western ideals are not being blended with the thousands of years of culture in the Middle East. We are doing our best to further our mission of showcasing a side of the Middle East―and its citizens in diaspora―that most of the West never sees.

Celebrating our diversity and remaining true to our commitment to draw a real image of the culture remains the focus in every issue. However I must admit I feel somewhat trapped in my own world at times. Like many others, sometimes I am reluctant to stay silenced from the political scene, given how misconstrued and mangled the truth can become.

There is a significant constituency in this world that still oozes favoritism toward one culture versus the other and one religion vs. the other because that pleases the people in power and fills deep pockets. It seems that justice no longer exists because the majority rules.

We all want a voice. Middle Easterners in general lack the true voice with the massive campaign of negativity that always surrounds it. And we hope that with every article, we help you experience this journey; for this is the reason that ALO magazine exists. We tell it the way we see it.

Free of bias and challenging those who think of others as insignificant. The truth is that the Middle East can never be ignored. It must never be misunderstood. It should never be treated as the only culture of terror because terror can always come from any religion, government and faction―and it does.

With that in mind, we embarked on an ambitious survey, where we hoped to take the pulse of the public. The results, in my humble opinion, are pretty amazing. While all of the data is still being compiled, I felt it was important to give you the overview and to share a couple of the most important findings.

We hope that by bringing our findings to light will foster more love and understanding. For only these qualities can patch wounds and heal centuries of conflict and manipulation. ALO will continue to be that little voice that whispers "What if?”

  • What if you explore a little bit of the culture during a visit to learn about the people at first hand?
  • What if you shut your eyes and stop seeing colors, or boundaries or language barriers?
  • What if you just look and observe and stop listening to what others tell you?
  • Wouldn’t that change the way you think?

Now in ALO we begin a journey of healing and open dialogue. We welcome you as our partner, reader, explorer, friend and family. We are reaching out, and we trust you are listening.

Sounding Off

A public survey sounds off on how the mainstream media treats the Middle East and what Middle Easterners need to overcome it.

We’ve recently concluded our first extended public survey since 2010. Putting a finger on the pulse of the customer is always a good idea in business, and our business is no exception. We drafted the questions with the help and input of numerous community leaders, who took advantage of the opportunity to ask some of their most burning questions.

The survey was conducted from June 1 to August 20, 2013, via Survey Monkey and disseminated e-mailings, and 1,442 people replied to most of the 21 questions. ALO will present the full survey online, but we couldn’t wait to summarize some of the most interesting results.

On Media Bias

Respondents, mostly Caucasian, nearly universally agreed there is typically a mainstream U.S. media bias when the Middle East is portrayed.

BIASED ... 74%

UNBIASED ... 19%

NEUTRAL ... 7%

Some Comments:

“…different media sources will give a different slant on news and events regarding the Middle East depending on their political affiliation, or what corporation runs that media institution. It’s difficult to trust the mainstream media to portray a complete, well-rounded, and unbiased image of the Middle East.”

“I find it difficult to believe that we are all terrorists.”

“It’s always negative for men; guys are terrorists and the girls are exotic beauties.”

Overcoming the Bias

Readers and the public alike were asked what they think Middle Easterners need to overcome to achieve a positive media slant. Here are the numbers for the top five responses (more than one response could be given):


POLITICS ... 20%




“We do not need to overcome anything. We need to accept the culture here. If we choose to live here, we need to adapt to the culture and not the other way around.”

“I don’t know if Middle Easterners need to overcome negativity or the media does. That’s part of the problem, given that we don’t know if there is another side to the story.”

Monday, October 8, 2012

Middle East Love Fix

Middle East Love Fix by Bruce Northam
An Interview with philanthropist Wafa Kanan
This article was published: Monday, October 01, 2012 (original article link)

My travels have introduced me to many veiled saints, but my connection to Wafa Kanan, who I’ve worked with in Syria, Egypt, and Jordan, remains a secular blessing. Born and raised in a warring Lebanon, she now resides in Los Angeles, the base for the ALO Cultural Foundation, a non-profit charity she founded that funds social and health programs for underserved communities worldwide. The foundation also surgically reconstructs the bodies and faces of children with severe genetic abnormalities and simultaneously nurtures harmony in the Middle East. Kanan makes a difference one child and one case at a time—trusting that loyalty can transform violence.

The word alo is a warm Middle Eastern greeting. This Los Angeles prime-time news segment says it all, and might bring happy tears to your eyes…

* * *

Q. With what’s happening in the Arab world right now (Arab Spring turned Brutal Fall), how are you redirecting ALO’s mission?

A. Each situation requires intense controversial discussion that gives flight to ideological breakthroughs. Similar to my foundation, ALO Magazine (a publication echoing the foundation’s message, changes with every issue. We build our content to address issues transparently and bridge cross-cultural understanding. What’s happening in the Middle East is no different from what happened in America in the 1900’s, or in Europe centuries ago.

History repeats itself, as the world strives for equality. Unfortunately, equality and its sister—democracy—are sometimes nothing but words. Politicians use them as rhetoric, building on weak foundations. It boils in people’s hearts to breathe free, and when they do breathe again, the opportunists yank them into another cycle of madness. The questions remain: Is there true democracy and equality anywhere? How do you define it internationally?

Q. As Al Qaeda seeks to undermine efforts to build U.S. and Arab relations, do you think it’s possible that the Arab world itself will rise up against such activism?

A. Let’s make it clear first, before I answer this question, that I do not claim to be a political pundit. Personally, I see vital issues that are being missed by both the media and government. People choose to ignore the fact that there is a difference between the policies of a government and the will of the people. Every government has its own supporters and outlaws. Minority groups should have rights and a voice for peaceful, positive change.

We all know how bad news travels fast; controversy sells. This is a huge challenge for Middle Easterners. You must understand the culture of a country and its religious structure, and study its laws to determine the validity of its government. ALO knows that solutions are not resolved by war, but with real development: education, awareness, and social advancement. But it never happens quickly enough.

What happens when a government ignores essential rights for its people? Resentment rises. What happens when the world ignores basic human rights, religion, and history? Revolutions are launched by underground militias in countries that have no other choice but to follow leaders of oppression. Then, greed rules.

Only when all religions and religious leaders begin a true dialogue, while promoting understanding and tolerance, will we rise as one against anyone and anything that destroys humanity.

We should invest our international grants intelligently to bridge the gap and connect people to our common humanity. Violence and war are not the answer. That is why the ALO Cultural Foundation focuses on cultural diplomacy and bridging both sides through philanthropy and involvement—we are connected by our actions and not by our spoken words.

Q. What do most U.S. citizens fail to comprehend about Arab people?

A. If I must categorize, most Westerners have a lack of knowledge about the region. Innocent ignorance that means unfamiliarity with Arabs’ culture, diversity, and customs. In the States, Americans take for granted their lifestyle and independence, and it seems from the surface, they want to run other countries with the same set of values. The Middle East is the source of a 5,000-year-old history that cannot be overpowered by Western methodology or ideology…but rather by contemporary interconnectivity.

Concerned citizens in the U.S. should help change the message sent by the government’s foreign policy, not just the 50 billion dollars changing hands annually. I’m talking about cultural understanding while accepting our differences. Most Arabs face challenges Westerners can’t comprehend. While the majority rules, that majority should be the people and not the government.

Never give up.

* * *

The ALO Cultural Foundation is making a difference;

* * *

Author: Bruce Northam, the writer and host of American Detour, has reported (mostly good news) from 125 countries on seven continents. His keynote speech, Street Anthropology, is a hit on campus and at corporate events and Governor’s Tourism Conferences. His book, Globetrotter Dogma, is an award-winning ode to freestyle wandering. Visit

Insights on U.S.-Middle Eastern Business Affairs

This is an article that appeared in the September/October 2012 issue of Premier Traveler magazine.

Growing up in war-torn Lebanon, Wafa Kanan’s life story covers an unlikely transformation from underdog to overachiever. It was no small feat when as a young woman  raised by a conservative family, she had launched both a travel agency and an import/export business while obtaining college degrees in law and political science—all by the age of 19. But when the continuing conflicts in Beirut cost her these businesses, she decided to start a new life for herself in Los Angeles.

Since relocating in 1990, her list of accomplishments has continued to grow exponentially. In addition to successfully establishing ALO magazine (a nationally distributed lifestyle publication devoted to Middle Eastern Americans), she has worked closely with the governments of Egypt, Lebanon, Turkey, Jordan, the Sultanate of Oman and other countries in the Middle East to coordinate $5 million of public relations for the region. During these campaigns, Kanan stressed the importance of both philanthropic and media representation, noting, “When both work together concurrently, it makes a huge difference for the country.”

As president of the brand marketing firm Unique Image, she was careful to build its business model around this very concept. Working under the umbrella of both Unique Image and the ALO Cultural Foundation, she has worked with hundreds of nonprofit organizations, most recently ensuring the delivery of 1,000 hearing aids to underserved families in Lebanon under the “So Lebanon Can Hear” mission. When asked what the most difficult part of such a massive, international undertaking was, Kanan replied: “Devoting the time, efforts and financial resources to make this project a reality in a difficult economic climate, while keeping a profitable business model and leading a non-profit organization based on volunteers.”

One point of pride is Unique Image’s fruitful partnership with the Chambers of Commerce in Dubai and Oman. Her trailblazing strategizing was instrumental in their rapid development on the world stage. But difficulties can arise in the region and it’s sometimes necessary to be nimble in their wake. When dealing with the government of Egypt, for example, Kanan had a three-pronged model in mind that would enhance Cairo’s sustainability. It addressed job creation, media exposure and the continuation of humanitarian efforts she had begun with orphans in the country, thus improving their education. “However, in a meeting with the minister of social services, I knew immediately that the country was headed towards a major revolution,” she laments. “Our pro-bono efforts remain in limbo because of the government’s myopia towards philanthropy.” Still, she has high hopes for the nation and has kept a dialogue going so that one day they might return.

According to Kanan, the difference between a successful campaign and a flopped deal can all come down to who you know—the importance of networking cannot be understated. But rather than focusing on superficial connections via LinkedIn, she recommends trying to associate with others on a personal level when at all possible. Find like-minded people in your field, she says, and the movers and shakers will come to you. It’s because of this practice that she now counts the former vice mayor of Beirut as her close and personal friend. Both share an ambitious vision of a future Lebanon that’s not just free of conflict, but thriving. In 2006, the two played an important role in establishing sister city status between the cities of Los Angeles and Beirut. With food, fun and entertainment as the three tenets of Middle Eastern hospitality (something that is taken very seriously in the region), you’ll find it’s not all too difficult to make worthwhile connections when you’re a foreign visitor as long as you’re willing to put yourself out there.

On Travel

Between her various worldwide projects, Kanan finds herself flying an average of twice a month (airline miles are reserved for charity work, which she says makes it easy for a business traveler to give back). Regardless of the industry, she notes that we live in a global economy and recommends travel as a means to gain perspective that will bring something new to your work. Although she admits that the experience isn’t as glamorous as it once was— “Welcome reception for weary travelers and the sense of  hospitality are sorely missed at many domestic airports in particular, but also at many international airports”—she commends the cities that are still able to deliver an exceptional experience. Who, in her opinion, is at the top of the game? She gives Qatar high marks for its superior airport facilities in Doha and the eponymous airline for its “elite experience and unparalleled quality of service.”

Insider Business Advice

As an undisputed expert on Middle East-American business affairs, Wafa Kanan shares some of her valuable insight with Premier Traveler to help readers avoid any snafus along the way to a profitable business deal in the Middle East.

  • First and foremost, she cautions people against the erroneous belief that the region has one uniform culture. “Each country is proud of their nationality and they have high-esteemed ideas regarding who they are and where they come from. So, I believe learning about the culture should be one of the most important steps to doing business there. Otherwise your time and efforts can be misdirected and a waste.”
  • “Take a gift or some token of appreciation when visiting a home or a business.”
  • “For some cultures, a woman should not pay at a restaurant, even in a business setting; a man might get offended.”
  • “Hospitality is important, so accept it and make sure you return the gesture with a thank-you note.”
  • “Do not shake hands with covered women or attempt to touch or hug them. Make sure you keep your hands on your chest with gratitude when you greet a person. A woman should also not shake the hand of a man with religious customs unless he extends his hand first. In an open society where citizens enjoy religious freedom, the shaking of hands is perfectly acceptable, but observation of a culture is critical.”
  • “Do not plan a meeting outside the office if you mean to do serious business.”
  • “It is noticeable that most countries in the Middle East stress the importance of status, power, position and brand. They like to work with those who are on top of their game. Everyone loves a winner, right?”
  • “Work the corporate ladder but seek to meet the decision makers. Always compliment your counterparts and be yourself. Trust is a major part of the deal and if there is a sense of mistrust or dishonor, it’s a deal breaker.”
  • And what is the one common denominator she’s observed that ties all countries in the region together? It’s not at all dissimilar to what we’ll find at home. “Everyone wants to know what’s in it for them. It’s all about the end results.”

~ Ally Miola

Monday, December 12, 2011

The Path to Wisdom

Have you wondered in life why your journey takes you down a specific road that defies any intellectual explanation?

It seems that I experience such encounters more often than the norm.

I lived my first two decades in Lebanon and battled the unfortunate reality of the destruction of war. Despite surviving and thriving in this situation, I found myself debating certain choices that faced me every single day.

For me, the obvious choice was to leave the country after 15 years of war. I witnessed my neighbors emigrating within their own borders. I saw their precious pride undermining logic. Hospitality—which many believe was invented in Lebanon— took a complete 180 degree reversal. It felt as if no space within the geographic confines of the land could maintain and sustain the three million hearts that pumped every day in fear of an uncertain tomorrow.

I often questioned with every living vein in my body, “what the heck is wrong with our leaders?” and “why we can’t get along despite our differences?” The Lebanese invented the alphabet and exported goods to the world through the oldest continually active seaport, but we failed to understand the written words of wisdom and comprehend that words with no action mean nothing.

One united voice means everything.

Leaving was the hardest decision of my life. I felt squashed by society’s expectations of women’s role. The immense pressured by the modesty of my family was crushing. I was driven to discover the desire of my soul and the true meaning of freedom. Inspired by the idea of a land where the sun rises listening to the melody of birds and the greenery whispering melodies of peacefulness, I found myself crashing into walls of silence. I had to save what was left of me. It was my destiny to leave. I never expected that the land I dreamt about was actually in my backyard.

Equipped with nothing but a “hello” in English (“ALO” in Arabic), America became my second home; a place that would eventually adopt every emotion, drop of sweat, mountains of perseverance and my greatest intellectual accomplishments. Never once did my mind wander from what the ideal of Lebanon should be. However, I soon realized that the injustice of what I ran away from followed me here to my new home.

Misconceptions of cultural heritage – coupled with its outright negative promotion – were spread with a wide swath throughout the States. It was spread without any regard to true understanding of what life is like in other nations. I decided to carry the torch on behalf of my own people and begin a dialogue of bridging the gaps from both sides. I did it so I could find peace from within. I invested my life into philanthropy and publishing of ALO magazine.

I have gone through horrifying experiences, challenges that a native citizen would have crumbled under pressure, or spent a fortune at their time and money with a shrink but I had the courage to chose my battles and bite the bullets and keep marching forward for the betterment of others. Indeed, as if my own destiny is in the hand of unforeseen power being pushed through these doors of non prediction or the unexpected. Through it all, resides some of the most cherished moments of my life, a place where my joy filters through my soul and pours tears of resurrection.

Through all of the horrifying experiences, some of my most cherished moments are back home. When I remember those uplifting times, my soul pours tears of resurrection. This is how I felt last month when I took a delegation of journalists to Lebanon.

With a group of journalists from the U.S., we headed on a road of discovery to the Bekaa Valley. What’s funny and sad at the same time is that I have traveled the world, but never was able to step foot into the Bekaa Valley. It’s just an hour away from where I use to live in the city of Beirut but because of conflict and war restrictions never was possible.

During our drive to Bekaa, it struck me that for the first time in my life I was bonding with my roots. Tears were frozen in my eyes and a sense of madness overcame me as we witnessed the beauty of the land and surroundings.

How can we destroy a country that was the birth of civilization?

~We stood in the face of the Crusaders, repelling their invasions.

~We kept Alexander the Great at a distance for over a decade.

~We rebuilt the country after being overtaken by earthquakes and tsunamis seven times!

With all of our pride and intellect, we never move ahead and build the infrastructure to become a global archeological and tourism hub for the world.

With the Mediterranean Sea behind us and the mountains of snow above us, I felt as if we were flying above ground, admiring the touch of God as he gave Lebanon a special treatment of nature. It gave me time to reflect. I reaffirmed my commitment to support my country and lend a helping hand to the underserved, women and children and the physically challenged. I was all smiles being in Lebanon again, grounded with a philanthropic mission of delivering 1000 hearing aids to those in need.

Many would avoid the Bekaa Valley. It’s known as a place where there is massive drug growing, a training ground and THE hub for the country’s militias. This is a place where once no Americans would set foot. Today it’s different. With the hashish trade being shut down by government, locals were forced to focus on agricultural endeavors. Here in the middle of it all, I felt the need to stop at one of the local’s house and visit. I convinced the bus driver to stop so I could act on my instinct.

I chose a specific house, but please don’t ask why. It called to me in the same way a specific pastry might call you at your favorite bakery. “There is something about this place” I insisted. The house was small and humble – barely the size of a normal living room. More than 10 adults and children live and sleep there.

The lady of the house, looking much older than her true late thirties, greeted me with a smile. “Ahlan!” she said (“welcome in Arabic). Her face carried the burden of her hard life. Yet, her beautiful hospitality lit the room. She guided us into the house and her mother sat on the floor dicing organic olives with her bare hands. She looked at us with amazement wondering who we are.

While some of the journalists on the delegation used the open air bathroom sheltered only by a cloth curtain, I was drawn to the old women. She was easily in her seventies, but her hands word magic with the olives. I asked her what she was doing to fully understand her theory of making olives. I didn’t get a response. Her daughter stepped in to let me know that her mother cannot hear and she has been deaf for years. She explained that the family was unable to afford the cost of hearing aids.

I looked at the lady in shock… is that possible? I chose to stop at a stranger’s house while I am on a mission to install hearing aids and here it is a woman who couldn’t afford to be helped.

For few minutes, I felt at home; humble and happy beyond explanation. We were, treated with such warmth from a random family in the middle of Bekaa Valley. Who knew that my most precious and meaningful moment on this trip would come from a simple and unexpected stop?

I promised the old woman that she WILL be receiving hearing aids from the ALO Cultural Foundation and that help will be on the way very soon. Nothing can describe the emotional hug and kiss on my forehead she gave me upon understanding the news. Her prayers echoed the rest of my trip in Lebanon and upon my return back to the US. These prayers paved new steps on my path of wisdom.

Today, I reflect again on the past, assess my priorities in life and determine some of the choices that remain ahead. For me, raising awareness about the underserved and their challenges will remain my passion for life.

For 2012, I urge the world to put aside any perceptions, religion differences and false pride and reach within your giving heart to the world. Let us be the leader in showing that it's possible for all of us to overcome the challenge of unity and tolerance. Let's take a trip together so you can witness for yourself what togetherness can do