Leading regional and international innovation experts gathered together Tuesday at the Digital Media Forum (DMF) in Dubai to discuss ways to deepen the relationship between consumers and brands through connectivity.
Moderating the session, titled “The Next Frontier in Brand Connections: Connected Products,” Rasha Rteil, the regional innovation director at UM MENA, spoke about the need to look at the “connected brand” as part of a larger strategy to strengthen brands’ physical presence with the digital ecosystem.
“We hear a lot about the Internet of Things (IoT), but honestly, it is about the Internet of everything right now: the communication industry, the music industry, commerce, [and] social commerce,” said Rteil, in her opening speech.
“Sitting and waiting is no longer an option. You can’t just sit and wait and see what is the next best thing that you could do. You need to get up and go running,” she added.
One of the innovative ad campaigns Rteil mentioned was Coca-Cola’s bottle-top operated phone booth advertisement campaign “Hello Happiness” last year. Five call boxes were set up around labor camps in Dubai and operated for 10 hours a day for a month. The ad campaign went viral on the Internet.
Participating at the panel, Pedro Dale, the digital interactive marketing manager at Coca Cola, said: “In one month of activation we had almost 40,000 calls made internationally.”
“This goes straight to our mission in Coca Cola which is to refresh the world, to create and inspire moments of happiness and above all make a difference,” said Dale.
“So we think we are really unlocking engagement and we have been successful so far.
“Innovation in media requires a separate system. We don’t believe that innovation can be the same product of every day operations,” said Rami Saad, the deputy chief operating officer at the Digital Media Services (DMS), the media arm of Choueiri Group.
“When we come up with those creative ideas they don’t have to conform to the same measurement system of typical ideas that we come up with,” he added.
To shift consumer behavior, brands need to tap into the “emotional aspect of reward and value,” said Shezan Amiji, the co-founder and managing director of Beam Wallet, a UAE-based mobile commerce and rewards platform.
“When we looked at the ecosystem and we talked about building this wallet we realized quite early on that payment alone, with the convenience of the use of mobile phones, was not going to shift consumer behavior,” said Amiji.
“People have so many choices so you need to add a layer on top of that. And then we came up with the idea of how do we tap onto the emotional aspect of reward and value.”
“If you really want to shift consumer behavior, if you want to move people away from a default behavior to a new behavior … You need to be very clear about what value of opposition is for the consumer,” he added.
Data are key in both understanding consumer behavior and shifting that behavior. Data are central to the “connected brand.”
But unfortunately, in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region “not a lot of people are actually doing something with their data. I don’t think it is the lack of sharing … I believe it is the lack of talents,” said Saad.
In addition, “the fact that there aren’t many data-rich companies that are big enough to actually own and propose a data-management platform” is also another challenge facing the industry in the region.
“It is not only about bringing in experts, you do need to change the way you do things. … Data needs to be a part of your creativity process for example. It needs to drive your marketing engine … You are requesting an organizational shift inside at the agency structure which obviously comes a little bit with time so I believe we are not there yet but there are enough intelligent people that can take us there,” he continued.
“For me, when I think of connected product, data and the Internet of Things, I like to kind of devalue the word Internet and overvalue the word things. I know that there is this obsession with the actual naming the Internet of Things. Connectivity is not new and we will always be connected in so many different ways. The Things are what is getting smarter,” he added.
DMF kicked off on Tuesday and will continue until March 25.
This year’s forum, themed “Digital Technology: Bringing the Future Closer,” has hosted internationally-recognized key-note speakers such as Naseem Javed, president of ABC Namebank; Igor Beuker, internationally recognized professional speaker and marketing and media expert; and Fares Abouhamed, president of Interone Resonance Middle East LLC, chairman and world president of the International Advertising Association.