The unprecedented growth of digital media in the Middle East has given consumers the power to expand their influence and voice over certain products or services. Many companies have quickly adopted the new medium as a real opportunity to establish brand visibility. With the speed and convenience in passing on information, companies may find social media to be the best way to communicate and market their products.
The traditional word-of-mouth referral has been exponentially amplified and multiplied in this generation where the idea of sharing has never been more generously explored than now. Such accessibility however, does not automatically translate to a purchasing power. Going viral does not always necessarily mean influencers and their followers will become product users. While there is a lot of benefit in branding through the social media, the key thing to remember is to optimise its value. When an influencer tries and buys the product or service, post it, snap or tweet on his page and make recommendations, it definitely creates an impact on the brand and therefore increases the visibility and the chances of creating another brand advocate from among the influencers’ followers. It is indeed, significant. The platform for consumer brands is rapidly evolving, giving magazines and other specialty publications a strong competition when it comes to the authority of delivering the key messages and the right information a consumer could be looking for.
Of course, it is up to the followers or what we can call our potential customers to believe the experiential aspect shared by bloggers and social media influencers. At this point, it is important that marketers identify its brand influencers and know the influencer better. Just because a social media influencer has earned many followers, it is important that marketers also consider their expertise and credibility in carrying a brand and whether the influencer is the right ambassador for your product. It is always smart to check as well the relationship of an influencer to its followers, if he or she can truly create leverage for your brand. In short, quality check remains a key factor and marketers have to do this homework carefully in order to maximize its investments. While often, going viral is a global phenomenon, it remains crucial that we know the nature and location of influencers. For example, UAE influencers will have a different characteristics than those of other countries in the Arab World. The number of users of social media will always rely on accessibility to smartphones and connectivity, which means, a country with higher internet penetration has higher visibility on social media than another Arab country whose access may be limited. These factors should also be considered. Digital and social media are still not the representative of the majority of a brand’s target consumer and the public remains an open space where opinion can be differentiated from the rest of the public. It is still widely debatable in the media and marketing space as to the level of influence and strength of social media influencers as compared to traditional media such as print and broadcast given that a section of consumers may not have access to the same platform. A popular TV celebrity may still exert stronger influence depending on the product and the target consumer.
The important things that marketers must ensure is the visibility and reliability of the product and how many have been captured in a particular campaign. If the product is seen in some postings or in some online advertisements, it is easy for it to slip from the mind of a potential customer if it is not visible on the retail space. Remember that out of sight is out of mind. The product is reinforced only if it is seen by the consumer on the shelf. There are time-tested brands that have made a success so much so that their brand names have been attributed as if it was a generic term by millions of users such as popular toothpastes, detergents or shoes. And they have remained successful brands even in this age of social media. It is no doubt that the digital space offers huge potential to create a positive influence especially among the young generation who are the most often users of social media and mobile technology. Millennials, for example, are among the generation that rely heavily on social media. However, FMCG products usually cut across segments and have a kind of ‘universal’ appeal, which makes it important to find other means to reach out to target consumers. It pays to carefully examine their strength and reach as ultimately it is the end consumer that has the power to make or break a brand.
Brand visibility is very essential for business to succeed and sustain growth especially in markets such as the UAE and the Middle East. With presence through marketing tactics, it is difficult to be competitive in a market saturated with all types of FMCG products coming from many countries. To build market differentiation, here are 5 main mantras every aspiring consumer brand should remember to stay on top of their marketing game:
This is the first, and always, the most important job of a marketing person - to understand and know your product’s target market. Not knowing who your customers are means you do not know the reason why your product even exists. Before creating a brand positioning, it is imperative to know all the aspects that concern your target buyers. Start with their demographics – how old are your consumers, are they earning or studying, fully dependent on their parents, male or female? These basics already provide ample information to start segmenting the customer.
Geographical reach as well as cultural engagement within those geographies are also necessary. Some cultural sensitivities have to be considered if you are to craft a marketing plan to make sure that it does not violate the countries’ ethics and belief systems. Establishing the customer’s buying pattern is also important in building brand relationship. How often does the customer use the product? Does he also try using the competing brand? Knowing preferences helps identify what the customer is exactly looking for in a product and therefore, provide information on the individual’s needs, effectively creating a niche market. Marketers can then plan carefully on how to approach target consumers and satisfy their needs.
Part of understanding and knowing the consumers is also ensuring that the products being sold are what the customer exactly needs. Knowing what they require and prefer in order to meet daily needs guarantee that the product is serving a particular market segment, addressing a particular demand. Knowing that the products you are selling have market following is a success in itself because market is guaranteed. However, it is important to ask some questions to help guide the marketer establish the connection between the products and the customers:
- What aspect of the customers’ need was met by the product? Did it satisfy the customer?
- What attracted the customer to the product – the scent, the packaging, the design, the color – what is most appealing about the product?
- Will customers still get the same product benefit from other cheaper or more expensive choices?
- What do customers expect to get from the product after use?
Finally, the most well-known activity about marketing is communicating the products, its features and benefits to customers. Media is the most popular means to spread the word, although nothing beats word-of-mouth referral among friends and relatives, to reach mass market, key media platforms are significant. Social media, for example, has become the most popular medium to share almost any type of new products especially here in the Middle East where there is higher percentage usage of mobile communications and digital platforms. However, while there are various forms of media, choosing the right channel depends on the product and whether the target customers are using such outlets for their communication needs, whether it is print, broadcast or online.
Keeping the product images visible on billboards and TVs, and sharing them on various social media channels are not going to be effective if products themselves are hard to find on shelves and retail counters. Spending a little bit to highlight the product in supermarkets to attract shoppers could go a long way through danglers, posters, banners or extra designs that would capture the interest of – many times – unintended buyers. Dedicated stand-alone counters also help loyal consumers easily spot your product. And finally, consistently do an inventory to make sure the product is always available at your retailers’ shelves. Unavailability means there is a high chance you may lose a loyal customer and push them to try other products. Always check the counters!
Yes, looking after customer satisfaction is an essential role for the marketing guy. During sale, there will be situations when some products return due to damage or sometimes poor quality. It may sound cliché, but still holds true that prevention is always better than cure, so always ensure there is minimal product returns by implementing a strict quality control system along the chain – from production level to packaging, storage, up to the dispatch and delivery. When the product has returned, ensure that replacements are done immediately. This sends an important message to the customer that you care about their wellbeing as much as the product that they intend to buy from you. Communicate and address the customer as well as the concerns of the retailer to avoid similar problems from happening again.
Anshu Paras is the Head of Marketing of Allianz International Holdings for the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. Anshu’s experience and expertise in marketing, business development and brand management, has greatly contributed in driving the growth of the company to its current position as a pioneer in its industry at the forefront of its competitors.
Anshu holds a Bachelor's degree in Business Administration from the Emirates Aviation University in Dubai and has a Master's degree in Marketing Management, which she also obtained from the same university. Over the years, she has also received key marketing certifications and has attended many trainings and workshops that have added to and advanced her marketing skills. Her ongoing education in business administration has enabled her to conceptualize new and innovative ideas, while putting them into action across a number projects. As an expert in the field of brand awareness, Anshu has generated remarkable interest for Allianz International Holdings Ltd, and its subsidiary company, Darlie Global’s recently introduced personal and oral care brands, Dr. Neem and Mr. Darlie. Dr. Neem is a global pioneering brand name of all-natural treatment products that aims to accommodate the growing interest of the regional market in healthy and balanced and all-natural plant-based resources for improved individual health.
Mr. Darlie is a global brand known for its innovative variety of sustainable oral health care remedies. Prior to her work with Darlie Global FZC, Anshu gained a wealth of experience working for a dynamic list of companies in the fields of business development and marketing. Her significant roles included fulfilling the position of Head of Marketing and Promotions for Master Promotions LLC where she was awarded Best Young Marketing Leader from MEA awards 2015. She also worked as the Brand Marketing Manager – GCC, for JP2 Events and Marketing where she achieved the best practices for managing brands and activations for over 50 active retail clients, in addition to working as the Marketing Manager for Grill Republic Group, where she handled all Marketing & PR related activities for the brand across a number of countries including the UAE, KSA, Qatar, Oman, Iraq, India and Bahrain. This cumulative experience has enabled her to excel in her position as Head of Marketing for Allianz International Holdings Ltd, on all levels.
Her work ethic and ability to develop positive and successful marketing strategies has significantly increased the awareness of the company at an international level, and sparked interest from key industry players all over the world. Anshu learned the tools of the marketing trade by taking part in activities across its many segments, which range from promotions, events, advertising to brand building, especially covering several Fast-Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) companies.
Anshu’s strategy and approach is based around formulating new activities that focus on target audiences to increase brand awareness for Allianz International Holdings Ltd., and its subsidiary companies such as Darlie Global FZC. Anshu focuses her work on enhancing the overall brand image, through efficient and clearly thought-out marketing strategies, while striving to position all entities, clients and companies as leaders and pioneers at the forefront of their respective industries, through which she has proved successful.