Use and abuse of social media: Should luxury brands ads go digital?

A panel of experts sat down Monday to discuss how luxury brands can take advantage of the digital shift at Arab Luxury World in Dubai

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Many of us live online, be it on Facebook, Twitter or one of the countless new platforms springing up. A panel of experts sat down Monday to discuss how luxury brands can take advantage of the digital shift at Arab Luxury World in Dubai, an event which will see more than 100 industry leaders tackle issues related to the luxury market in the Middle East.

With bloggers and Instagram stars being used to promote brands the world over, how can the providers of niche luxury products enter the fray?

The investigative panel included Taerk Daouk, regional managing director for MENA at Starcom MediaVest Group, Zahra Lyla Khalil, founder of “Lyla Loves Fashion,” Sheelah Odedra, agency partner at Facebook and Stefan Siegel, CEO of ‘Not Just a Label’ representing up-and-coming designers.

The panelists agreed that “social media is a long-term strategy in terms of influencing people,” as Siegel said.

Khalil noted that people in Gulf countries, such as Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, “literally live online,” with a lack of other sources of entertainment, with Odedra confirming this saying that there are 42 million active users on Facebook daily in the Middle East who are checking their social media accounts at least 14 times per day.

Advertising online largely works through word of mouth, as Siegel noted, saying “word of mouth is a marketing tool that no one can buy,” especially, it seems, in a region with such an active online community.

Panelists skimmed over the abuses of social media in advertising, choosing to focus largely on what a brand can earn from going digital.

One pitfall highlighted by Khalil was the sensitive decision to be made by brands when choosing brand ambassadors, as bloggers and influencers need to be able to positively represent the brand and brand message. She also added that “bloggers can help to connect a consumer to a brand” but warned that the bloggers need to be cautious in choosing who to represent as they need to remain credible to their readers.

The Arab Luxury World event takes place from June 1-2 and brings together industry leaders from sectors such as watches and jewelry, fashion and accessories, perfumes and cosmetics, premium cars, tourism, art and culture.

The event comes on the back of Chalhoub group’s estimate that the consumer yearly spend on beauty, fashion and gifts per capita in the GCC is close to $30,000, ten times what is being spend in some European countries, making a discussion on the future of the luxury market in the region crucial according to organizers.

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