Posts Tagged ‘marketing’

On the record

In Communicate, Dubai, Marketing, Published journalism on November 22, 2010 at 11:06 pm

It pays to be superlative as Guinness World Records prepares to publish the second edition of its trivia trove book in Arabic. Can brands cash in?

Originally published in Communicate, October 2007

The region in general, and the UAE in particular, claims a lot – the world’s tallest building, the fanciest hotel, the largest man-made marina, the biggest inflatable bottle. So it is perhaps surprising that of the 48,000 official records set since 1954, only around 120 belong to the Middle East and North Africa.

Now companies in the region are working with Guinness World Records to give themselves something to shout about. It seems being No. 1 is good business, whether a brand has sponsored more football teams than any other or unwrapped the biggest box of chocolates.

“Arab people are proud people,” says Myriam Hoballah, regional project director for Guinness World Records. “And I believe they are the right people to enhance Guinness’s brand. Why? Because they are so positive about these ideas. They like the fun part and the showing off.”

Al Waseet International, a Kuwaiti company best known for its weekly free classifieds publication, represents Guinness World Records in the region and is ready to help companies looking for a record to break.

The company also plans to launch the 2008 Arabic version of the Guinness World Records book at the end of this month in Abu Dhabi, the world’s richest city.

Many of the claims made by Dubai businesses of being the biggest, the best and the first are never validated. “Most of [the region’s claimed records], I am sure, are not listed as Guinness World Records,” says Hoballah. “This makes a big difference. Guinness World Records is the records institution to validate a record that you set. If you don’t go through Guinness World Records guidelines and are not certified as a Guinness World Record holder, it is not a record.”

She explains how the relationship with marketers often works. “A lot of companies have understood the importance of breaking records,” says Hoballah. “For example, I might have a company that wants to do something for a new product launch in order to grab more attention in the market, and they want to link into breaking a record. Or when a company wants to rebrand, again it makes sense.”

Al Waseet advises companies free of charge on which records can most easily be broken, and it can lobby for a company to appear in the book, provided it actually breaks a record or sets a new one deemed worthy of inclusion by the book’s editors in London. Customers can also order special branded editions of the tome, which can be printed – with a special cover and dedicated pages – before the next public edition is even out.

The company charges fees for organizing branded events based around record-breaking feats. Further income comes from book sales, merchandise and the special editions (though no companies from the Middle East have ordered any of those yet).

In a region with an ambitious spirit, the most mundane record can draw admiration and emulation. Gargash Enterprises, a UAE-based car dealership, for example, set a record for the largest procession of Mercedes-Benz cars in April, when the owners of 153 C-Class Mercs turned out for a parade around Dubai.

Now Mercedes in Syria are interested, says Hoballah. “They heard about what they did [in the UAE] and they might go for it. So it might become a competition.”
Another one in competition is the world record for creating the biggest football. In November, Doha Bank took the prize with a diameter of 9.07 meters.

But, when they took their eye off the ball, telecom company MTN Sudan overtook them, showing off a 10.5 meter inflatable on August 26.

Regional records: a marketing tool?

World’s largest box of chocolate bars: A giant carton of Kit Kats weighed in at 1,700 kilograms during Dubai Summer Surprises 2005.

World’s tallest unsupported flagpole: 126.8 meters, in Amman.

World’s most expensive phone number: The identity of the Qatari bidder who paid $2.75 million at a charity auction in May 2006 was kept secret, but he can presumably be contacted at +974-666-6666.

World’s largest same name gathering: 1,096 Mohammeds gathered in a Dubai park, also during Summer Surprises 2005.

World’s largest kite: 25.47 by 40 meters, flown by Abdul Rahman and Faris Al Farsi in Kuwait.


“Want that one!”

In Advertising, Communicate, Dubai, Marketing, Published journalism on November 22, 2010 at 10:51 pm

When marketing to kids takes off in the Middle East, parents won’t hear the end of it

First published in Communicate, June 2007

Real kids are never as sweet as the ones in adverts. When they want something they can be nagging, pestering, whining brats until they get it. And savvy marketers know how to tap into this pester power to sell products to pre-teens. The more spoiled the kid, the better for the advertiser.

Gaurav Sinha, who owns Think, a UAE magazine marketed to teenagers, says that, as consumers, children are unique. “Which adult do you know,” he asks, “who would pester another person to make a purchase on their behalf the way kids do?”

Eric Schlosser and Charles Wilson, list seven types of pester in their 2006 book Chew on This: From the pleading pester, when kids repeat words like “please” and “Mom,” through the tantrums of the demonstrative pester, to the pity pester, where the child emphasizes how heartbroken and humiliated he will be without the purchase. Advertisers who know their audience know how to make kids nag until their parents crack.

Supermarkets, for example, have long cashed in on the manipulative efforts of children. The displays at checkouts usually have sweets and treats at children’s eye level, and within reach of tiny, grasping hands.

In a tacit acknowledgement of this, Spinneys supermarket recently introduced special check-out lines at some of its stores. “We’ve kept one aisle which is specifically for those parents who want to ensure their kids don’t end up picking up something inappropriate,” says a Spinneys spokesperson. “At point of sale it is mainly low value, impulse lines that are displayed. At this particular checkout there is more of the health range. There are some cereal bars, and mostly stuff that is not bad in a health-related way.”

In the Middle East overall, though, children are yet to be exploited with the ruthless efficiency shown in the West, claims Moneer Barakat, creative director at Memac Ogilvy. “Funnily enough, marketers here don’t play on pester power. Marketing to kids here is very limited. The use of pester power is still a bit naïve. And it’s not being used widely enough. If we are not using it enough, it will not be sophisticated.”

But the market is ripe for the picking, says Barakat. “Kids in this region, they grow up very spoiled,” he says. “Every whim and every wish is catered for. So the power they have over parents is amazing. It’s much more than when you compare it to the West, where there is a sense of discipline. There’s pester power too, of course, but there is a certain discipline. Here, the kid has a lot of power. The kid can command.”

And pester power does not just apply to products specifically for children. Take buying a television, says Sinha: “They will influence you from going with the cheapest one to maybe something which meets their values, that’s maybe the same as the one the guy next door has. It helps to maintain the whole ‘keeping up with the Joneses’ philosophy. They play an important role.”

Marketing to pre-teens is often frowned upon, though. In the UK, the Committee for Advertising Practice, the industry’s self-regulatory body, issued guidelines that ban the advertising of any food or drink to under-16s except fresh fruit and vegetables. This currently applies only to television, but will be extended to the Internet, newspapers, billboards and cinema on July 1.

The UAE, however, has no such restrictions. A statement from the GCC Advertisers Association says: “Currently, the GCCAA has not worked on enforcing global advertising standards with regards to advertising to children. Most of the big multinationals follow internal standards in line with industry guidelines. However, there is no collective effort at a regional level.”

Questions about marketing to children tend to raise an icy and defensive response, like the eventual reply from Kellogg’s to questions about their youth marketing strategies: “As a responsible company, Kellogg’s ensures that our messages to children will accurately portray our products in a way that is in keeping with their ability to understand our intent and using language that is appropriate for this audience.”

The reason for the mind-numbingly corporate response, says Moneer Barakat, is that when you use pester power, “somehow the tune of the campaign becomes a bit politically incorrect, because you’re using the kid to manipulate the situation.”

But there is a place for these strategies in the Gulf, he maintains. “The market is experimenting with new ways of putting across a message,” says Barakat. “Brands are becoming very brave, very lateral, very fresh in their thinking. So when an agency handling a brand focuses a full campaign on pester power, gets the kid to initiate the request for the brand, once everyone sees it works, everyone will follow.”

Until then, kids in ads will remain sickly sweet. And the real ones will continue to pester, whether they’ve been told to or not.