Saturday, November 24, 2012

Only in Lebanon: Overlooked Policies

There are little things we tend to overlook in Lebanese advertising.

Items like the brand display policy, for reasons that are yet unknown, or perhaps to set a pattern among icons, are blatantly disregarded.

Here's what you will find in Lebanese ads:




...and here are the guidelines for the social media trademarks:

Facebook
Twitter
Linkedin
Youtube

...You judge.


Friday, November 9, 2012

Entrepreneurship Research: Free Access

I just received an email from the Emerald Group. If you do not recall this brand from your college days, let me help: It's that extensive library you found online whenever you needed to do some well-referenced research, a scholarly publisher of journals and books in business and management (one of my favorites personally).

...and here's the good news: they're offering free access to their Journals - Entreprise and Innovation collection in support of the Global Entrepreneurship Week (November 12 to 18).

Yes, this does mean you do not have access to them right now - although you can have a peak on the titles for now, you will have to wait for November 12 to get access.

This said, I don't quite like the way it is structured, but there's some really interesting articles when it comes to entrepreneurship: gender differences, family business, innovation, SMEs, tech-specific ventures and more (a lot more). 

I also found some Middle East - specific titles:
  • Female entrepreneurship in Saudi Arabia: opportunities and challenges
  • Evidence of the characteristics of women entrepreneurs in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia: An empirical investigation
  • Women business owners in the Middle East and North Africa: a five-country research study 

Here's the link; to access the journals use this account:
Username: gew2012access  
Password: enterprise

Do share with me your favorite articles!




Sunday, October 21, 2012

To the Lebanese Media

To the media that have no censorship when it comes to dreadful real scenes, yet cut fake scenes in a movie.

Be responsible.

Educate the people about the detriments of burning garbage and tires. 
Educate them about those fake explosive detectors at the door of most malls and parking lots. Educate your audiences that a person is a human being, and not defined by his sect. 

Teach them that a politician is not worth more than them. 

Challenge those who boast speeches of patriotism and then act.. differently. 
If the media is not to hold them accountable, who is? 

Be the change we need you to be.



Friday, September 21, 2012

My First Lesson in Leadership

I watched with disgust as an employee blatantly, and with no reserve, insulted the boss, to his face, at a meeting table. I was baffled, struck with anger at his disrespect and ready to take the boss' defense, until I took a moment to stare at the boss' reaction. To my dismay, he held his temper, displayed a poker face, and continued as though nothing has happened. 
I raged into his office after the meeting. 'I would have fired him right away', I said still appalled by what had happened, and completely baffled by the reaction. He just smiled and calmly replied still unmoved 'you have to think about the other employees reaction'. That was my first lesson in leadership. 

I couldn't understand back then. How could letting an employee insult you to your face be thoughtful to other employees? If anything, it would teach them that they could do the same and not face any consequences, I thought. 
Further down the road, as things unfolded, I realized that not taking his own defense made other employees, just like me, ready to reprimand the insulter. I learned that the boss, by not reacting, had the sympathy of his staff. 'Turning the other cheek' as against our nature as it can be, is a valuable lesson. Everyone sympathizes with the victim, and sometimes taking the defensive might be just as bad as an offensive in people's perceptions and only aggravates the issue. 
I strongly believe that evil breeds evil unless countered with good, as hard to implement as it might be.




Thursday, September 20, 2012

Media & Money 'Unconference'

Are you a digital media enthusiast or an entrepreneur? 

Mark your calendars: Saturday, September 29, 2012, 10am-5pm.

Ok, so this is not just one of those events strictly targeted at marketing fans. If you understand and value the opportunity to network, you might want to spare some time for this too.

Let's cut to the chase; I am referring to a barcamp event organized by Altcity (and at Altcity), 'Media & Money Unconference'.

The names of the people on the panel alone should get you all excited. If you haven't heard of them yet and care about the Lebanese online scene, Google might be very useful right now:
  • Wais Bashir, Chief Editor/Editorial News Manager, Demotix 
  • Nina Curley, Editor-in-Chief, Wamda
  • Omar Christidis, CEO & Founder, ArabNet  
  • Marc Dfouni, CEO/Managing Partner, Eastline Marketing 
  • Moderated by Munir Nabti, CEO/Co-Founder, AltCity 
To register, just head to this page http://barcamp.org/w/page/58755030/MediaAndMoneyLB and yes, it is free. See you there!



Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Designs and Promotions in Lebanon - What My Brain Perceives

 Ted - This promotional stand was placed at Abc Dbayeh's Grand Cinemas. I wonder how the mothers will be able to convince the kids that this movie is not for them!

Talking of which; isn't Grand Cinemas logo a bit similar to Genova's bags' logo?

 Haier had something fun in football/ soccer season - they even managed to make the glass look as though it was broken. Beautiful.



Now, I am not sure what's up with this 'new world' but was it trending on our streets or something?



 Have you seen the Bank Audi personal loan ads - what's MSN buddy doing there?!  :)



Msn buddy icon
MSN Buddy Icon

Now you know what crosses my mind when I see some of the promotions out there...




Friday, August 24, 2012

Rise of the StartUps

As you might have noticed through my blogging 'disconnection'. I have been a bit overloaded lately, in a good way. 
I took part of the Seeqnce accelerator program. For those who haven't heard of it, it's a program that focused on finding / building online start-ups. After a rather long ride, we have reached the end. From 433 applicants, we are down to about 30 finalists; 8 cool new start-ups you will be hearing a lot about soon. 

I am just writing this quick post to invite you to join me tomorrow in Hamra at Seeqnce's rooftop event to witness the rise of the start-ups and hopefully welcome a new era of entrepreneurship and online endeavors in Lebanon. You can find me at the Yoofers booth.




Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Discount Card vs Coupon

Coupons haven't caught the trend in Lebanon; while discount cards have started to abound. Could it be a question of maintaining the brand image? I believe so. Yet, for argument's sake, and in regard of sales,  here's why I find coupons to be more efficient:


  •  Limited validity: While discount cards tend to rely on customers' loyalty, coupons offer a 'limited' opportunity; which translates into a call to action. 
  •  Value: Having a coupon in your wallet almost feels like having money redeemable at a particular store or for a particular product; it almost feels like cash.
  •  Percentage vs dollars: Being able to tailor the message to emphasize a dollar amount rather than a discount percentage appears more rewarding for the consumer. Unless of course the percentage is 70% or more.
 Now when it comes to loyalty cards, I always prefer those where you get a stamp every time you purchase, as opposed to the ones where you gather points. It's just more graphic and you really 'see' what you gained. Kind of like a badge on a social network. It feels good.


Moreover, if you're getting your clients to gather points in your loyalty program, you might want to actually reward them for their effort; and not just give them a ticket for a draw (tsk tsk Roadster Diner). Few are those who would go out of their way to gather points for the 'chance' to win. Had the program emphasized smaller prizes with a 'certainty' rather than 'risk' level, it would have gotten even more participants on board.

Nonetheless, it's always good to keep track of your clients and get all the details you can on their purchases and profile. It helps better cater to your 'right' market, and reshape your firm if the need arises.





Friday, August 3, 2012

A Call to Artists


 I am posting this 'humanitarian call for artists in Lebanon' as I received it:
'Chocol'art is looking for artists who are willing to volunteer in a festival of fun, taste, inspiration and creativity in support of regional Children's charities. 
This year Chocol'art is organizing its annual event in Beirut Souks on October 2012 in support of the Brave Heart Fund. '

If you happen to be an artist living in Lebanon and would like to help, you can reach them here: mo@integrityme.co.uk or facebook.com/chocolart.ME



Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Lebanese Real Estate Bubble

I have been following real estate listings for a while now, on a daily basis. This is what I learnt:

Observations

  • Most apartments that were put up for sale 6 months ago, are still for sale today. When real estate agents tell you the market is stagnant, it means they are not selling, not that the prices are stable, as they try to portray it.
  • Prices are going down. Bank Audi's report noted about 4% decline in February... and an article in Dagpa Iqari stated it was a 5% decline. I am sure I wouldn't have been able to note the decline had it been that minimal.
  • Real estate firms would increase the apartment price by an average of 2-3% - a random 'simsar' is likely to put as much as 50,000$ in his pocket. I guess the way it works is this: they ask the owner how much they want for the house, and anything more would be theirs. Whereas real estate firms seem to have a strict percentage they operate on.
  • At some point I would look at the same apartment online, on 2 different websites and the price would vary by more than 100$/m, depending on the date posted (both by the owner).


Potential Reasons
  • Businessmen found a big potential in the real estate field as the prices in Lebanon never fell before, and they had reached a poignantly high price. >>> The supply exceeded the demand, thus prices fell. 
  • The Lebanese economy (as well as the global economy) is agonizing >>> people cannot afford to pay those staggering prices for their apartments, thus prices fell.
  • The real estate  prices were initially over-valued >>> people refused to invest in them by fear of the bubble... and that would be the most dangerous hypothesis of all. It would mean that they will face a slippery slope and will significantly fall. There's actually an interesting article on Wikipedia on the speculated Lebanese housing bubble, it argues that 'property prices have risen exponentially since 2005 (an average 5-fold increase as of February 2010), while the GDP has risen only around 52% during the same period'.
Will we face a bubble burst soon, or is it a simple matter of supply and demand?





Sunday, June 10, 2012

Using a Brand as Your Own

I took this picture a month ago, as I was visiting Saida, this was THE landmark that marked me the most.
Shop in Saida
 Did you know that you can be sued for mimicking a brand's colors and graphic identity, or by using its symbol? Let alone, stealing the whole brand as is, and appropriating it as your own. Property rights, anyone?

For the sake of it, here's a few advantages of 'stealing' a famous brand name:

1-Better brand recall
You are certain you won't forget this name soon, and it definitely won't pass unnoticed.
2-Word-of-mouth marketing
I am living proof that this works. Here I am telling my readers about a random shop in Saida.

Disadvantage? 
It's illegal, it's inconsiderate, it puts your brand identity in jeopardy... Oh, and you might end up in jail.
 
Ps. I am only writing this post to shed light on some 'only in Lebanon' marketing behaviors. Please do not do this! It is bad. Seriously.
 



Friday, May 25, 2012

How to Invite a Blogger

This was not the first time I had received an invitation by a brand. 

 In fact, contrary to popular belief, many brands in Lebanon try to get bloggers to cooperate in their marketing efforts. Yet, the way they go about it is never the same. Here is why I often neglect invitations:
________________________________________
Chivas had the decency to drop this invitation in a private message to my blog's Facebook page.

'Dear bloggers, ...' No, we do not appreciate the idea that you think of us as a random blogger. There are thousands of those out there. A 'dear blogger' e-mail  directly qualifies as junk, as we do not feel personally concerned.
What Chivas did: a personal message with a personalized attached invitation, really, that's all it took.

Zoom-in to the invitation card

Here's why: it matters that the brand knows who you are and takes the time to get to read what you are all about. It makes us feel special. A little quote is all it took.
________________________________________
 Last minute call: It sends out the wrong message. Either I don't think you have anything else to do, or simply, I left you as a second option. In both cases, it's a no-no.

What Chivas did: A 10 days notice - just perfect. With a one week prior reservation request and a same day reminder. What this means to a blogger? 1 - I respect you. 2- I really want you to be there. i.e. you matter.
________________________________________
What's more? They were available to answer their phone, although I arrived late and was calling in the middle of the bloggers' meeting. They welcomed me at the door. They were friendly and courteous; simply chivalrous. 
On a personal note, I really appreciated that their CEO (Fawaz Holding) was present at the event. He was really down-to-earth, open-minded and showed interest in blogging and digital media; something really admirable for a Lebanese boss, if you ask me.

As for the event: we had a little tasting experience, some guess-work and left with an 18-year-old bottle of Chivas...

Cheers!





Thursday, May 24, 2012

Weddings in Lebanon: 5 Marketing Myths

Weddings in Lebanon are the place where a social need overcomes all economic sense. Here are 5 marketing myths, that are very sound theoretically, and yet, appear wacky when it comes to weddings in Lebanon (not that it is not the other way around!)

Marketing myth 1: 
If there is no purchasing power, there is no market
This statement really makes sense. Only, when it comes to weddings in Lebanon, the spending is always way over the normal threshold as compared to local GDP. You can even get bank loans for your wedding (and cry later).

Marketing myth 2: 
Market to the individual not the society
Yes, it also makes sense to target the individual directly. Only, in this specific case, it  is all the family of both parties that gets involved; not to mention their concern for public opinion.


Marketing myth 3: 
If it was less expensive, it would sell more
Yes, if you are selling juice, this might make sense. Only, when it comes to bridal dresses, you're very likely not to sell at all if you are too cheap. Like in all things, the perception of quality is closely related to the price. Thus, a premium pricing might be a better option when it comes to a wedding gown.

Marketing myth 4: 
You cannot price the same offering differently
A little odd concept in the wedding industry: When it comes to make-up and hair-do, you can easily pay 10 times the normal charge, if you happen to merely mention that you are the bride.
This makes no economic sense at all, but its the way things work in this part of the world.


Marketing myth 5: 
When the buyer and end-user is the same person, he is also the decision-maker
You would think that the couple planning their wedding will take their own decisions, given that they are the ones paying and using your services. Oddly, in this line of business, the real decision-maker is often a mother, a friend, or pretty much anyone whose opinion the couple values. 

This often leads to wrong advertising messages, where the advertiser would picture a happy couple and everlasting love. Is that really why they would choose you over your competitors? 






When Public Property Becomes Too Public

This could only be Lebanon. Where else would people so ingenuously disregard the line between public and private property?

Not only do they use the road signs to hang their logos, I am assuming they do it without requesting permission nor paying fees for this 'advertising medium'. Or at least I would like to think so. 


Had they actually been granted permission to do this I would be dazzled. I can already read the headline in my head 'public property legally abused'. (I admit, that would have been a more interesting title for this post.)


After all, it is as important for people to know how to reach their shop, as it is for them to reach Beirut, right?

(The end... Or at least this was supposed to be the end of this post; then, something fun happened.)

 That very same evening when I first wrote this post, I was passing by the same sign, only to find that it was replaced... 






Friday, April 27, 2012

Advertising: Manipulation or Persuasion?

Advertising tends to focus on one of our needs; not to satisfy it, but to imbed the thought in our  heads that the said product would solve your problem and bring about your satisfaction. 

Let's play a game. Here is Maslow's hierarchy of needs:


Mix and match: Where do those recent ads fit?
  • Coffee Mate: Got the coffee, get the mate.
  • Snickers: eza darabak el jou3 drobo bi Snickers.
  • Nissan: I am funky, and I know it.
  • Trident: The flavor you can't get rid of.
  • Lancome: Rouge in love.
  • Gardenia: Eat safe.
  • Clorets: al thika bil nafes.


OK, you got the point. 

No one would acknowledge that, yes, I will buy Clorets, because, well, I think it will give me more self-confidence. This isn't quite how this works; so how can we say that the ad was about persuasion?


What is advertising, and how does it work? 

According to the marketing giant Philip Kotler: "Advertising is any paid form of non-personal presentation and promotion of ideas, goods and services through mass media such as newspapers, magazines, television or radio by an identified sponsor".


'I know that!' you will retort. 

Let's dig deeper together. Advertising is, theoretically, a simple 'presentation', that just happens to be 'paid'.  Certainly, it has a money-generating purpose. So how does a mere 'presentation' of products affect your purchasing behavior and translate into a profit-making machine, currently known as advertising.


There are three stated purposes in advertising campaigns:

1- To inform: creating awareness to a yet unknown product, introducing new specifications for an existing one.. That's what 'informing' is about, right? In the advertising world, this does not quite cut it. It is not about giving out information that will help you make your purchasing decisions. It is about  highlighting the points that might affect you positively and down sizing the effect of the rest.


2- To persuade:  It is about presenting that idea from a point of view that will matter, through a story or a character that can speak to your heart. It is about convincing you, through fake testimonials, or authorities and celebrities who are just playing along for the money. 


3- To remind: To keep the brand name in your top of mind recall, which has proven to increase the probability the brand will get sales. The more familiar the brand, the more likable it becomes. The more you gain a penchant to try it. 



Recently, I was reading a book called 'Buy.ology' by Martin Lindstrom. Basically, it sums up his research on neuromarketing (measuring changes in activity in the brain through MRI tests of people being subjected to ads). 

Here's what you need to know:

Product placement that fits within the setting of the story line or play a significant role works better

In a study conducted on American Idol, Lindstrom concludes that Ford had thrown 26 million dollars out of the window by sponsoring the show. Not only did it fail to increase its brand recall, the ads inhibited this recall, as the viewers resisted being subjected to what they obviously identified as advertising. 
Whereas, Coca-Cola who had smartly integrated its product, colors and shapes into the show, got a great response. Thus, covert advertising works better than obvious ones; which really begs the question: Persuasion or manipulation?


In Los Angeles, Lindstrom tested two outdoor ads, the first featured cowboys with no logo or brand, while the second, displayed the same image with the Marlboro brand. The research results showed that the first ad (with no brand) worked twice better at stimulating cigarette craving; the future of advertising?


Among the lesser known advertising efforts, the use of the senses to ignite a 'want'. For new cars, the smell of leather comes from a spray can; the same goes for fast-food chains like Mc Donald's, the delicious mouth-watering smell of bacon and cheese? From a can too. The fast paced music in shops like Mango during sales? It is intended to make you shop quickly, and linger less. 

Oh wait, was that them persuading you?





Monday, April 16, 2012

What Comes Next

What would you do?

When you have so many ideas and so little time to elaborate them...
    1. Pinterest: when is it worth tackling as a business
    2. What Facebook users can learn from stars
    3. Politicians on Twitter and accountability
    4. Why Google Plus is set for Viral Marketing
    5. A start-up's tipping point: Firms with small vs big budget products


    6. Advertising: between manipulation and persuasion
    7. Corporate Social Responsibility: the best selling point online?
    8. Discount cards vs coupons: why the latter is more beneficial
    9. The meaning of life in relation to the butterfly effect
    10. Weddings in Lebanon: When a social need overcomes all economic sense (5 marketing lessons to learn)

    I chose to write them down to get them out of my system.

    Which would you like to read? ... and in what order?



    Friday, April 6, 2012

    CityMall Paid Parking: Pros and Cons

    On March 20th, 2012, CityMall launched its paid-parking policy. 

    While the CityMall Facebook fans retorted in protest on the Facebook status update, complaining about the financial changes, many were overheard roaring impatiently as they waited in line.Was it a sound decision?
    CityMall parking

    Obviously there's the financial motive to start with. It costs to implement the system, but it certainly reduces the cost on parking lot employees on the long run, not to mention that it provides an additional revenue source for the mall; which until this, had a sole income type: rentals. 

    citymall parking comments-1


    Well, not exactly "one" additional revenue source actually. They get two. Not only are the CityMall visitors paying an hourly rate, CityMall has made its parking tickets an advertising medium that starts at about 8,000$; not so bad, ey?

    citymall parking comments-2

    Nonetheless, this is not the only factor. CityMall has been suffering from a syndrome on the malls market in Lebanon, maybe because of its location, or the presence of a supermarket on its premises; most likely both factors played a role; but the end result is one. 

    citymall parking comments-3


    CityMall has gained a big market share of medium to low income shoppers (a majority, but not to be generalized on all clients). Could the paid parking play a positive role on the long term in that regard?

    citymall parking comments-4

    For the moment, they sure managed to kick out 50% of their clients (personal and random estimation). If you have been to CityMall lately, you will instantly note the ease in which you are to find a parking spot; but mostly, you will be shocked at the sight of the half-empty parking lot. 

    citymall parking comments-5


    Could they manage to gain a bigger market share of the middle to high-end customers on the long run?

    citymall parking comments-6







    Saturday, March 31, 2012

    How to Get Popular Fast on Twitter

    Very smartly crafted and well-planned, this Twitter strategy guarantees a great amount of followers instantly. Curious? Take a look:
    Twitter Follow
    Now, the first thing that came to my mind was 'what a great way to get followers'; but wait, why the hell would Selena Gomez do such a great favor for that account? ...and how can a brand get that kind of exposure? (*jealous* - as if I had a chance!)

    I did the only logical thing to do. I visited the page of my new so called 'marketing prodigy' @funnyLaugh. What I found was even more interesting than the above mentioned tweet! He got endorsements from other popular celebrities too. Impressive? Not quite. 

    Now, you really would have to be dumb to believe there was not some trick in all of that, right? Yet, the tweets were individual retweets from the celebrity accounts and not a self-written tweet by @FunnyLaugh. 
    twitter fake accounts
     It only made sense that the accounts were fake; and they indeed were. They didn't even claim to be the official twitter accounts of the said celebrities. They just needed to appear as though they were when they were retweeted, to reach more people faster and to gain the marketing prodigy his needed follower-base. 
    Yet, since Twitter is such a fast-streaming network no one really bothered to authenticate the accounts. Even more intriguing is that those celebrities did not follow anyone at all! Thus, they did not keep their share of the tweeted deal.

    In any case, this remains a very smart strategy; although not quite an ethical one. What do you think? Would you go that far to get a good amount of Twitter followers?




    Tuesday, March 13, 2012

    Stop LIRA & Incorporate Digital Marketing

    While our neighbors have embraced the power of online marketing years ago, (Read about Israel's digital marketing efforts) what has Lebanon done? ...It presented a draft law to censor and "monitor" the voice of its own nation!
    Wake up Lebanon! 

    The Lebanese Internet Regulation Act is filled with loopholes and certainly does not provide much encouragement for Lebanese to speak up in this world. Far from it.

    If you won't let your own people speak up, who will do the talking? 

    Surely, the internet will not be silenced. 

    The world will still look up the same words, the same questions, the same problems, they'll still wonder what Lebanon is, whether Lebanese were terrorists...

    What if our Ministry of Information, concentrated its efforts on fixing the image of Lebanon through the internet instead? What if it would open a new section, an online shield of bloggers and social media activists?

    Yes, I am a dreamer. 

    ...and now back to earth, fellow bloggers did a great job pointing out the threats lying ahead if the draft Lebanese Internet Regulation Act (LIRA) ever sees the light under its current form:

    in Arabic:

    in French:

    in English:
    They may try to lift our freedom of expression, but they can't cease and desist our rights to dream in a better Lebanon. 
    At least, may the ministry grant us that people of adequate qualifications be put in charge of drafting such laws. 
    #StopLIRA < Twitter hashtag to follow.




    Wednesday, March 7, 2012

    Don't Make It Perfect

    The Lebanese government hasn't done anything wrong. 

    Technically.

    Do you remember the feeling you got, when in front of strangers, you were to speak up for the first time?
    fearful

    Fear. 

    When you have said and done enough that a single more action wouldn't affect the sum of your image, then you'd be more at ease.

    ...But what if you barely ever speak up? 
    Any single action will have a strong weight.

    Think about it: the anti-rape laws, women's right to instill nationality to their children, the embassies' reciprocating behavior demands, maybe even civil marriage...
    justice

    Your fear factor not only depends on your frequency to take action, but also on the time frame in which those actions are to occur.

    consequence
    The problem is not that our government is acting wrong. The problem is that our government is not acting at all. 

    The simpler the execution process, the faster we are to see change. 
    The faster we see change, the more frequent it would become. 
    The more change we see, the less 'absolute' our laws seem. 
    The less our government would fear to take action, the less it would seek 'absolute perfection' and the more we are to get close to attaining it. 

    Fearlessly, yet, surely.
    perfect Lebanese

    Yes, we are Lebanese, but no, we are not perfect. 

    Perfection is in nobody's reach. We can only tend towards it and hope one day we would get close.

    If a girl keeps thinking she will only marry the prince charming that comes on a white horse, she will never get married - he's mine ;) . If you are waiting for the perfect advertising idea to launch your brand, it might never come to be.

    Looking for the perfect solution is like writing on a piece of paper's both sides, one word, and one word only: "turn". 
    turn

    If you are launching the first advertising campaign for a brand, you will affect it majorly - and yes - you should be afraid.  
    The more advertising campaigns you launch the lesser their impact on the overall consumer's image of the brand, given you keep in mind both the frequency and time range within which your campaigns are displayed. 

    It surely will never be perfect, but it will never "be" at all, if you do not take the plunge and take action.





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