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BRING ON BLOCKCHAIN

 

[NB #nextmoneydxb events are regular. Sign up here, today: www.nextmoneydxb.com]

The problem with blockchain is that same problem that all today’s technologies face. Most people seem to be focused on the technology and not the benefits. The result: the man on the street might feel that blockchain isn’t of interest. But within a few years, blockchain will underpin all sorts of industries. This was a recurring theme during the last “FINTECH Hangout”, a collaboration between Next Money DXB and Emirates NBD.

blockchain
A full house at Dubai Future Accelerators for the NextMoneyDXB event, Bring On Blockchain

Blockchain is still in its infancy. One day, Zahir Khoja of MasterCard, the moderator for this first “FINTECH Hangout”, assured us, no one will Continue reading “BRING ON BLOCKCHAIN”

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An anthropological study, #ONTHECOUCHWITH …

onthecouchwith_02An anthropological study of change agents in the Dubai business community.

Stepping down from the dais after being on “the breakfast panel” at the Siegle+Gale “future of branding” event a couple of months ago, I started chatting with one of the audience who had asked a specific question about the future of video branding. You could tell this Frenchman was a creative, he looked the part and his passion was evident from the outset.

This was my introduction to Gilles G Vidal, the creative director and co-founder of WOW Agency, the video content strategy team. I told him about my upcoming initiative to film business leaders with my smart phone in Dubai asking them a few questions about the future. He looked serious all of a sudden and asked simply, “Why don’t we do it properly?” And he proceeded to tell me about his upcoming work to “interview people in unusual situations, to find something more deep, based upon their own personal vision, experience, less corporate and business…but more on a human way.” And so it came to be.

With thanks to amazing art sales houses, La Galerie Nationale and Ikonhouse, Alserkal Avenue (Dubai), the first “On The Couch With” series has now been filmed; the business leaders all took a deep breath and looked into the deep recess of their minds for answers. Many were uncomfortable at the outset – lying down on a luxurious sofa in one of the art galleries – but many didn’t want to leave when their time was up, as if their session had hardly begun.

My original plan has transformed, from something of a survey trying to capture the zeitgeist; we now have captured the zeitgeist through a creatively deep, anthropological study. That sounds grand for just twenty five interviews, but it’s the start of something much bigger.

The first part of this anthropological study – to be released over coming weeks in partnership with The Arabian Marketer – examines what makes people tick and what they can see that others might have missed.

Well, to save you the suspense – and in an attempt to whet your appetite – I’ll let you know what we’ve found. Every single one of the interviewees has a burning passion, a sense of purpose and is charming. It’s the middle attribute that makes the real difference. There are plenty of passionate and charming people. But without a clear sense of purpose those passionate people are lost – or just salesmen with a target to meet.

The similarity across the interviewees may be because our anthropological study is flawed: the sample is biased. We have invited people we’ve met already, who we think are interesting and who we thought – from the outside – are driving change right now within their businesses. There’s nothing random about this sample. These people are cherry picked.

Everyone was amused by the notion of work-life balance, echoing a sentiment along the lines of ‘if you don’t like your job, if you’re watching the clock, you’re in the wrong job’. Apart from two interviewees who were fiercely pro a division – or balance if you prefer – of work and non-work. And they promote this division actively across their business teams – and use this as a recruitment and staff retention tool.

All the interviewees were prepared for the dark times ahead as business gets tough. They were not teflon-coated in their approach, but humble insofar as they will freely admit that trial and error has been an important part of their growth to date.

But apart from this there was nothing in common with the interviewees as we discussed themes including self-motivation, the tough business climate, foundations for optimism, attracting talent in this region, what is around the corner – yes they can all see round corners, apparently – and their advice for “the future generation”. They were all very individual, to be frank. And that’s what makes this an interesting study.

Please follow twitter.com/onthecouch_with for upcoming soundbites and video episodes.

This article was first published in The Arabian Marketer, January 2017.

james-welch-column

Article by James Welch, Chief Timpanist, ORCHESTRA MIDDLE EAST

The creative concept is an original idea by Gilles G Vidal, WOW Agency, Dubai

With thanks to La Galerie Nationale and Ikonhouse, Alserkal Avenue, Al Quoz, Dubai, UAE.

ARABIAN MARKETER: What will it take to challenge Google and Facebook?

In July 2016, Verizon announced it’s purchase of Yahoo! while we were on holiday in Normandy. I received an email asking if I have an opinion. Sure I have an opinion. Below are the answers to the questions that Sana Mahmoud, Group Editor, The Arabian Marketer, put to me. At the bottom is a link to the final article quoting some far more erudite people than me!

yahoo-verizon-third-force-0011. US based telco, Verizon, has followed up its AOL buyout earlier in the year with now Yahoo, reiterating its focus on content platforms. Much has been deliberated on the significance of owning content platforms – do you see this agreed buyout augments Verizon’s content play globally?

Telcos used to be about pipes and cables. Now they are quickly becoming recognised as important media owners. Verizon – the USA’s largest mobile operator – is collecting some interesting media brands: Huffington Post, AOL, Yahoo. The next six months, as the deal is closed between Yahoo and Verizon a lot will come to light.
Continue reading “ARABIAN MARKETER: What will it take to challenge Google and Facebook?”

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

“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 ““Moments of Serendipity” at an Uncomfortable Breakfast”

Too much of an onus on big data?

 

Onus on data.png
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 “Too much of an onus on big data?”

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 “The global reach of the small idea”

Advertising for the chairman’s wife

This where I write a piece in Campaign Magazine about waste in advertising and how targeting niche audiences on billboards is nuts.

advertising for the chairmans wifeShe’s an important stakeholder. We may have never met her. But she’s the one that the marketing department knows is vital to any campaign’s internal success. And the ad agency also makes certain that she’ll readily find appeal in the latest advertising campaign. Often, the media agency will be told to buy the billboard on the main road near her house. Or on her route to work. Or the masthead on her favorite news site. Bought for a month at a time, when available. The point here is that it’s using mass media for niche targeting: that’s advertising for the chairman’s wife. And that’s an age-old phenomenon which is no longer necessary in such expensive volumes.

We all know there is so much media budget being wasted. Every marketer and creative agency has heard a story about their friend’s media agency churning out the same media plan, year-in, year-out, oblivious to client category or objectives. I’m sure it’s not your agency, but the one next door, right?

This presents a clear opportunity, to minimise waste. Continue reading “Advertising for the chairman’s wife”

The power of frequent, light-weight interactions

frequent, lightweight interactions

Of “the five rules for normal management“, rule number three is short and sweet:

#3. Communicate regularly

The list of “rules for normal management” jumps to internal communication when stipulating the need to communicate regularly with colleagues: “Start each meeting with the minutes and those action steps committed at the last meeting. Don’t be shy to push your colleagues to deliver on their promises. Hopefully they’ll reciprocate. Follow through.

And it’s a universal truth, as every telco will remind you to communicate regularly. Especially on Mother’s Day! I grew up with the British Telecom ads reminding us that 

it’s good to talk.

And if it’s good to talk, it’s also good to inspire future conversations. Like the story teller at the dinner party; everyone loves inviting that friend who’s the story teller who engages everyone and who sparks the conversation. It’s the same in a business meeting. And in terms of advertising too. Story telling is overused nowadays, as a generic buzz word. But it’s not the ‘telling’ that’s vital. It’s the regularly engagement.

Paul Adams was a head of design at Facebook when he wrote his book, Grouped, where he uses the phrase

frequent, light-weight interactions

to describe how we build relationships across social platforms as well as in the real world. Well, we do that in the work place too, as per the rules of normal management: communicate regularly. Continue reading “The power of frequent, light-weight interactions”

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