Building Brands in a Digital Age – an interview with Samer Shoueiry of Publicis Dubai
Digital Transformation is everywhere. Taking a look at any process in any given industry, things are changing and digital is being invoked to make the processes more and more efficient. From responsive websites to public relations via the social media, digital is the way to go. While Digital Transformation impacts processes, it has a significant impact on brands too. Brands continue to be important as more advertising moves digital, but new strategies are required in order to improve brand presence. To understand what a 21st century digital marketing strategy looks like, Samer Shoueiry, head of digital and social marketing at Publicis Groupe ME, provides advice.
How digital and new technologies have changed the way brands are built?
Here’s a simple equation that will put things into perspective; we had less brands, less people and less channels v/s all the brands, all the people and the unlimited channels we have today.
Before digital became mainstream, everything had to be delivered between TV, Radio and Print. Mastering these mediums with well-crafted executions and big ideas enabled a few brands to sustain a dominant presence on a limited number of channels. With the coming of the Internet and the power of the mobile phone, everyone is now reachable.
This new ecosystem of media that was enriched by digital and innovation is in constant evolution. We have new channels being built as we speak, with new techniques to master, all this available to us thanks to the technology breakthrough that is allowing us to create experiences that were not available to us before.
What does it mean in practical terms for marketers?
Today brands need to be more meaningful and distinct. They need to be more useful and helpful. A brand purpose needs to come across with actions that deliver on a brand promise. This is what people react to. People don’t want interruptions, they are asking for an added value. Brands have become publishers; they produce content, not ads, content that people can build upon and engage with. The best participatory campaigns are acts that represent tangible proof that a brand promise is brought to life in a meaningful manner, by helping and being useful. When this happens people will endorse and participate. We need to accept that the way stories are told has changed: people today have a voice equal to brands. We need to think of how we engage with our audience and allow them to contribute through different mediums and co-create these stories. What digital has done is giving a share of voice to consumers, hence making them intrinsic players in the building of any brand. Today digital and social allows you to join, guide, lead conversations that will contribute in shaping your brand perception. Charles Vallance once described the changing audience behavior in today’s media by saying “we’ve moved from a download culture to an upload culture”. This has an immediate impact on how brands tell stories and how we as brand builders contribute to these positive experiences.
How to reinforce the brand across numerous digital platforms?
Here, I would like to differentiate between digital and social. People go on social media for a purpose. They expect brands to do the same. Every channel on social media is different. We cannot treat Twitter the same way we treat Facebook. The behavior and expectation of people going on YouTube is different than when they zap on Instagram. For people, a brand is equal to a friend on their news feed. Brands need to understand this and they need to be more interesting so that people want to spend time with them. But most brands go on social media without a clear social purpose, a cultural human purpose. Brands need to make sure to have compelling missions that will resonate with people. The articulation of the social purpose, what we talk about and how we do it, all need to answer “What is our brand about?”
Digital, however, can allow for bigger flexibility that other channels can’t have. Digital can create more engaging and interesting spaces that allow enhanced customization, be more focused, and offer people better experiences.
How digital allows you to measure a brand’s value?
We currently live in the age of data, and today, on digital, everything is measurable. We can start by listing all the metrics that we can monitor and capture. We have equipped ourselves with the best in class global tools that allow us to monitor even the smallest interactions that can feed and inform our strategies. Setting up campaign KPI’s based on a business objective is crucial. Still, rethinking what else can be monitored is also important, as an evolved medium requires a different way of thinking. Of course digital allows you to measure your brands value, but value is not only generated on digital. As we mentioned earlier, it’s people who create brands. People live on digital. They do so by leaving traces, by interacting with brands. The more a brand creates meaningful interactions the bigger the value. The higher level of thought here is to make sure that you are engaged in the conversation when the scale and relevance is of use to you. Make sure you generate as much positive interactions as possible to impact positively your brand’s value.
How digital has influenced traditional marketing?
People don’t see the difference between digital and traditional media, so why should we? We simply need to adapt our strategies and thinking to make sure that the split between digital and what we refer to as traditional marketing is invisible. We have great stories of brand experiences we’ve created, where we used online to drive offline behavior, with TV spend tying it all together. TV is important, and so are print and OOH. We shouldn’t forget that TV in our region still has a significant role in our lives. TV is not only a segregated box, it is increasingly becoming digital. A successful campaign ecosystem needs to have a TV experience that is tied to an online experience, and vice-versa. Only then will we see the exponential impact that a campaign can have and how these efforts can be more efficiently combined. Before we end, I want to stress on the fact that the ability to create stories in a frictionless context will be amplified by digital. It will be more measurable, and should definitely become more local and drive more integration.
Digital is a terminology that came from the inception of the Internet. Its story started 20 years ago, and social media’s 10 years ago. But this is just the beginning. The impact of digitization in our daily lives is only bound to grow. With new technologies becoming mainstream and with the coming of artificial intelligence, these are exciting times that will continue to grow our media landscape. We at Publicis Groupe are doing everything to remain at the forefront and identify these changes as they happen. We do this by investing in our people and offering our clients the best of both creativity and technology.
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