GULF NEWS: Can networking change the face of an industry?

On a roof top in Tehran, above the offices of a digital start-up accelerator, one of the global marketing industry gurus – and a start-up mentor – was telling me about a global organisation where finance and technology experts gather to talk about what’s coming next, Next Money.

GULFNEWS NETWORKING
A version of this article appeared in Gulf News on Wed 20 July 2016, while I was on holiday in France. Where were you?!

This Australian entrepreneur, based in Singapore, at the time was a mentor to Tehran-based teatalk.io, the digital start-up where global, non-English speakers congregate to practice speaking English. He was evangelising Next Money as the networking event for the community that was – and is – changing the face of finance by giving centre stage to the tech companies who sometimes hide in the wings; the tech companies that we only hear about when they go mainstream. Continue reading

The “Happy Birthday, Mike!” approach to advertising

HBD-Mike2Happy Birthday, Mike. That’s how we opened the conversation on the Industry Insider segment on Drive Live on Sunday 29 May on DubaiEye103.8 FM.

Many have been ranting of late about the demise of mass marketing and how it’s a good thing. You know, where you think broadcasting your message on mass media will promote awareness to a wide audience. Of course, it’s a waste of money since when you try to talk to everyone, you’re likely to be relevant to no-one.

Well, I stumbled upon the apparently-well-known “Happy Birthday, Mike!” approach. Am sure you’ve heard about it in one guise or another:

This man walks up to you in the shopping mall. He looks like a good bloke, dressed a bit like the way your best friends dress when they are trying to impress. He comes up to you, like he knows you from way-back and you rack your brains trying to think how you know this guy. Imagine if he’s going to come up to you and say “Hey, James (or, rather, insert your name here!), it’s been ages, remember when…” and suddenly you do remember. Only this man doesn’t say that. He has all the same mannerisms but he says to you “Happy Birthday, Mike!”. Well (for the sake of this story) it’s not your birthday. And you’re not called Mike.

How do you feel about this man now? Well, I’d feel confused or perhaps suspicious he’s trying to flog me some product or service. Or maybe even steal my wallet.

And that’s the problem today. Brands are now spraying and praying Continue reading

The era of mass marketing is now truly over

June8-2016.001With the second quarter nearly over, it must be time to start to make predictions for 2017. Why?

Because everyone is still “uncertain” about 2016 and “bullish” about 2017 in the “run up to 2020”.

Rather than debate the oil price, regional turmoil and subsequent market fluctuations, one thing is for sure — 2016 isn’t as buoyant a market as many had hoped.

And budgets are being cut. Sure, it’s not 2008 all over again. But let me repeat budgets are being cut. And when that happens every dollar spent needs to be scrutinised even more than before.

Which is why by the end of 2016, there will be no more mass marketing.

Wooing niche audiences is everything. Do you remember Chris Anderson’s 2006 book, The Long Tail. In this oft-quoted tome, he spoke of Amazon’s ability to sell obscure books to obscure people while the high-street retailers only have space to sell the mainstream units. And this is now being adopted across all industries.

I was at the Step Conference in Dubai the other day. Startups and venture capitalists, mainly. And when you look at all the startups, each one of them solves a very singular problem for a niche audience.

A niche audience that will be big soon. Or so their business plan will assure you.

There’s no other reason to set up a business. It has to solve a problem. We set up Blue Logic to help businesses harness their data and add content that collects eyeballs. Monitor what the audience is doing and give them more of what they want. And monetise. Simple, right?

I met at the Step conference a startup called My-Sign.com, a new Continue reading

“Moments of Serendipity” at an Uncomfortable Breakfast

TMSME_brekkieFurther to my piece published recently in Gulf News (see last blog post), here’s an update to the content at that event.

The Marketing Society Middle East sat down for it’s third “Uncomfortable Breakfast” to discuss the hot topic of data. You may ask why we call it such an off-putting name, “Uncomfortable Breakfast”.

It is, of course, a delicious breakfast held at an enviable establishment here in Dubai – such as the fabulous space we’ve been using for the past couple of events, the Armani Hotel.

The “uncomfortable” element is to find a topic that the marketing community knows is important but may not, en masse, discuss in an open forum regularly enough. For this reason there are no journalists present!

This forum brought together forty senior marketers with regional and local remits, and all came to hear more about the story behind data.

Today that’s the problem; we’re talking about data itself and not about the stories it can provide. Taking the latter approach, storytelling, Marilies Rumpold-Preining of IBM Commerce gave us some interesting insights: Continue reading

Too much of an onus on big data?

 

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This article was first published in Gulf News, Wed 9th March 2016

Last month I had the delight to be leading the Q&A at a gathering of 40 chief marketing officers and other big title-holders in Dubai. The premise for the gathering was an “uncomfortable breakfast”.

Now, if you’ve had breakfast at the Armani Hotel at the Burj Khalifa, it’s far from uncomfortable. But the topic was data-driven marketing. And that is pretty uncomfortable, especially since some of those present would have openly admitted they “know nothing” about data.

You see, that’s the problem: data is often unfairly awarded the epithet ‘big’.

It’s true that there is a lot of different sets of data in big business today. A company carries lots of data points that are easy to understand and use.

Sales data, web analytics, social media analytics, email databases, competitive research… and each of these sets tells a story. And the business analyses the story from a single data set, derives some insights and has a good idea how to do things differently.

Hopefully all companies can learn to conduct business differently over time. Mark Twain, Benjamin Franklin and Albert Einstein have all been attributed the adage, “insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different outcome.” Continue reading

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When asked on radio, “how does advertising work?” how would you answer?

Not an easy one to answer, or is it?

If you have fifteen mins, please have a listen and let me know if you agree with how I answered it the other day on the Industry Insider segment of DriveLiveDXB show on Dubaieye103.8.

Yes, this is a podcast with Tim Elliott (@dubaitim) and Alex Hirschi (@radiohirschi), where the opening question sets the tone of the discussion: “how does advertising work?”

https://soundcloud.com/jamwel/industryinsider-dubaieye1038-feb2016

Continue reading

The global reach of the small idea

This article first appeared in the Media Buzz column, GULF NEWS, 23 December 2015.JW_gulfnews_dec2015_v2

Across the UAE, one in three people uses their smartphone to buy products and services. That’s more than in many other countries.

As readers of this business section, what are we doing with this information? Actually, we’re doing well, we’re bringing our products and services online, onto the mobile web and producing great apps from which we can purchase said products and services.

We know that our audiences research online and are starting to buy more and more regularly online.

The UAE business community is providing its online consumers with banking, grocery shopping, the latest fashions, perfumes and consumer electronics. And if these consumers look hard enough they can find plenty of local garden furniture, barbeques and gazebos too.

Local offerings, when really sought after, can be found online.

But before we pat ourselves on the back too enthusiastically, we need to take a step back and realise that we’re building these beautiful, functional castles in the desert without taking as much care and attention to building the roads and signposts needed to find these castles.

Build it and they will come?

The ‘build it and they will come’ approach doesn’t work Continue reading