UAE brands must keep innovating to connect with consumers

In today’s increasingly digitised world, it is important for brands in this country to use even more creative methods to engage their audiences to remain relevant.

Organisations have to be open to complete diversification of their business models, so that they offer a seamless and ubiquitous experience to the customer.

As a result of the efforts made by the UAE to move towards its Smart City Vision, the country has the world’s highest penetration of smartphones and aims to provide seamless connectivity to customers in every sector: from government to transportation, utilities, education and health care. Throughout the country people have instant access to the digital world, videos, social media, each other and the world around them.

This means that consumers are progressively more exposed to creativity stemming from not only brands, but also individuals, viral videos and memes. Hence, their propensity for creativity is consistently desensitised and fatigue sets in easily. For this reason, it is absolutely vital for brands to engage their audiences creatively in terms of both digital media and the way in which they communicate and conduct their business as a whole. And to keep innovating on a constant loop to ensure freshness and relevance of the brand.

One business that achieved this comprehensively and diversified its communications platform in such a way that propelled it from a local SME to a globally franchised entity was Just Falafel. By the then chief executive Fadis Malas’s own admission the brand spent a majority – 90 to 95 per cent – of its budget on digital advertising, predominantly on Facebook.

Utilising Facebook’s newsfeed filtering system, Just Falafel was able to target specific income brackets to franchise the brand. Extraordinarily, in a region inundated with fast-food restaurants, this small brand relied on creativity to attract a global audience and expand throughout the Middle East to the United Kingdom and the United States over the past few years.

Established brands have to adopt similar strategies to keep up with the changing tides of communications. Emirates airline, probably one of the greatest brands to emerge from the UAE, today sits in fifth place on Skytrax World’s Top 100 Airlines list. In 2012 the carrier launched an innovative a traditional and digital advertising campaign called “Hello Tomorrow” to diversify it from a travel brand to a global lifestyle brand. The airline realised that customers required a seamless travel experience from air travel to transport on the ground, hotel stays and activities. They also needed a campaign that would stick in consumer’s minds – hence Hello Tomorrow.

Today there is even more pressure on brands to stay relevant. SMEs are the backbone of the UAE economy, accounting for 95 per cent of businesses in Dubai alone. Creativity is what will separate the good brands from the outstanding brands in the UAE.

Coffee Planet, for example, has made incredible distribution efforts, increasing presence in a large number of petrol stations, grocery stores and small supermarkets. In this way, Coffee Planet is taking some of the market share that would traditionally belong to import brands such as Starbucks and Costa Coffee and increasing brand awareness simultaneously.

Regardless of the kind of business, it is the way in which it is presented to the end user that makes it relevant, and ultimately it must offer the customer an enhanced experience. People’s expectations have been completely transformed from, say, just five years ago and where the customer is changing, the business has to follow to stay relevant.

Creativity in the form of advertising or the way in which brands communicate is changing the way that they are grabbing the customers’ attention. Speaking to customers is vital, as opposed to talking at them, that is the hook; however, the entire business must reflect this creative stance to remain relevant.

Organisations in the UAE must diversify their entire strategy to reflect the transformation that all business is experiencing by becoming progressively more digital and more accessible across all channels of communication, both digital and traditional. Interacting on Facebook and Twitter is not enough to ensure relevance, brands must innovate ideas that grab the customers’ attention and disseminate these across their communications channels and beyond in the form of creative videos, memes and digital advertising campaigns that will make a mark, not just on the local customer but on a global scale as well.

Hala Badri is the executive vice president, brand & communications, du.

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