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Who Do You Think You’re Talking To?
With many Arabs today asserting national pride, do marketing communications need to change their tone? Tarek El Jundi reports.
May 3, 2011 3:59 by shafeer
“Whenever someone would ask me, ‘Where are you from?’…I’d say, ‘Fairfax County’. But a professor walked by my
office last week and said, ‘Are you Egyptian?’ And, for the first time in my life, I said ‘yes’.” Khalid El-Arini, a doctoral student, Carnegie Mellon, February, 2011.
As national pride and self empowerment is asserted across the Arab world, has the time come for brands to revolutionise marketing communications too?
“I never ever bought the argument that great creative work was only suited for western markets. The latest Arab revolutions just confirmed that exact same point when it comes to government,” says Hubert Boulos, head of strategic planning, JWT Dubai.
“However,” he adds, “we have learned new things by observing events. Compared to the rest of the world, Arabs seem to be bolder these days and communications have to take that into account. Shouldn’t we address these consumers who risked their lives for change, in a manner that better recognizes such boldness and courage, as opposed to delivering bland messages?”
Marketers must now talk to the consumers in a less collective tone “as it is best for brands to engage in the conversation,” adds Kamil Kuran, CD, Leo Burnett Beirut.
Dimitri Metaxas, executive regional director, Omnicom, inserts a note of caution. “These moments in history should not be hijacked for commercial purpose. “A blatant commercial message would backfire, and quite rightly so.”
Perhaps the most iconic example of effective communication during times of turmoil came during the 2006 war on Lebanon – Leo Burnett Beirut’s Broken Bridge Johnnie Walker billboard.
This campaign assured people that their brands “believe in their country as much as they do,” recalls Kuran.
“We managed to convey messages of hope, via a couple of prominent brands, that Lebanon will survive no matter
“It was not a message to try and sell something, more a message by the respective brands to engage with people and tell them that the brands they love are part of the fabric of their society and believe in their country as much as they do.
“Brands today need to interact with people as people and not as consumers.”
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