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In part 2 of the series looking at engaging Generation Z, the ‘net gens’, H+K’s Hasan Badwan tackles’s the ‘#how?’ in marketing strategy.

In an earlier blog post, we discussed why brands should target Generation Z (also known as teenagers) in their communications strategies.  We identified that the fickleness and purchasing power of teenagers represent great opportunities for brands to create brand loyalty for years to come.  There are interesting challenges, however, that make it increasingly difficult for marketers to target this segment.  It doesn’t take a scientist to realize that teenagers have a (very) short attention-span.  Capturing their attention long enough to recognize your brand and buy your products is a major hurdle.  Furthermore, most marketers are at least two generations older/ more advanced/ (insert euphemism here) than their target.  How do we bridge the gap without sounding like we arrived 15 years too late for the prom?

When presented with these challenges, most communications professionals have a very predictable, almost knee-jerk answer – ‘social media’.  They then proceed to create a Facebook page, a Twitter handle, and then shout out their messaging.  Interestingly, this tends to turn off current teenagers than to grab their attention.  The major failing of these methods is that they are not personal enough, and this feature is the secret to success with teenagers.

Take, for example, a Facebook post or a Tweet that was drafted to target thousands of fans.  By addressing so many people at once, the messaging in that post will have to be diluted, thus making it impersonal.  A closer look at teenage online information consumption reveals that they overwhelmingly rely on the company’s website to gather more information.  While this might sound counter-intuitive, access to a website allows teenagers to find the information they need, when they need it. 

Another major source that teenagers turn to for brand information is blogs.  This point cannot be stressed enough.  An effective blogger outreach program will do more to build brand awareness and loyalty than a Facebook page with really cool status updates.  Bloggers are the bridge between our messages and our target audience.  They represent a more honest voice and are therefore more highly trusted by teenagers.

All of this points to the three most important letters you need to know for your brand’s online presence – SEO.  The simple truth is that no one will find you if you can’t be found.  Getting your brand mentioned on blogs as well as online news coverage will increase the chances that your positive messages are the first things teenagers see when they search for you.

We’ve now seen why we should target teenagers and how to do it.  But once you grab the attention of this demographic, what do you tell them?  You might be surprised with the differences (and similarities) in how we address Generation Z, which will be revealed in part 3 of this Generation Zeries.

Hasan Badwan, Account Executive at H+K Strategies Dubai

When thinking of communications, the focus can rest on flashy PR campaigns that generate a sizeable amount of coverage. And when the impact of the first campaign withers away another campaign is formulated create another wave of recognition!

Effective communications is about sustaining a momentum that builds, elevates or maintains the organization’s profile and help it achieve its business goals. Here is an ABCD (and E!) approach to make it happen:

Step 1: Align– understand what is your organization trying to achieve (business goals), where did communications fail or succeed in the past and what could be done better.

Step 2: Build– develop your plan to take you where you want to be and set metrics. Prepare the messages, content and formalize your processes.

Step 3: Communicate– engage with your audience and convey your message in their own language using tactics that they can relate to and channels they trust!

Step 4: Discover– did your message resonate! Did it manage to shape or change perceptions? Research in the form of audits, surveys or focus groups can tell you!

Step 5: Evaluate– revisit your plan, messages and tactics to bridge any gaps identified in the previous stage and engage again.

Communication is an ongoing dialogue between an organization and its stakeholders and never a stand-alone monologue!

It should be looked at as an organic function that adapts to the organisation’s evolution, market change, stakeholders’ perceptions and community needs.

– Tania Atallah, Account Director at H+K Strategies, Dubai

Close your eyes, and picture someone in their teens.  This person will, in all likelihood, possess technology it took you years (or decades!) to get your hands on.  He or she may regard the CD player as the ancient relic of a lost generation.  This person will not remember the global fears of the Y2K bug, but that’s just fine because they can read about it on their shiny new smartphone as they watch television on their laptop.  Congratulations – you’ve just met your new target audience.

In recent years, the term ‘Gen Z’ has become the industry’s new favorite catch-phrase.  While there is some debate as to who exactly falls under the category, it is largely accepted that if someone was born in the mid-nineties onwards, they belong to Generation Z.  The growing trend in the communications industry is to target this group of people, with some sports-wear brands opting to develop messaging exclusively for them.

The question at this point clearly becomes ‘why?’.  Why target a group of people who are fickle, are not independent, and do not have a regular stream of disposable income?  The answer is that brands should target Gen Z because of these traits, not in spite of them.

The indecisive and unpredictable nature of consumption among Gen Z-ers presents an opportunity for brands to reach new customers.  At such a young age, it is unlikely that teenagers have developed strong emotional ties to brands.  This means that brands have an opportunity to persuade teenagers to ditch their current preferences for new ones.

Some may argue that this generation does not have true purchasing power because they don’t have disposable income and because they must ultimately purchase through their parents.  It is crucial however to understand that possessing purchasing power does not necessarily mean one needs the money to exercise it.  By pressuring their parents, friends, and families, teenagers are able to direct money to the brands they most want to build their identities around.  Furthermore, there is a certain ‘coolness’ or nostalgia associated with the younger generation that the older counterparts crave.  By effectively selling to Gen Z, a brand can frame its communication strategies in terms that appeal to all age-groups.

We are seeing more and more brands target Generation Z in order to create a loyal customer-base for many years to come.  Of course, these arguments help us understand why brands should target Gen Z.  We will discuss how brands can carry out such a strategy with in a (near-)future post.

– Hasan Badwan, Account Executive at Hill+Knowlton Strategies Dubai

In the digital age, a brand can no longer rely on a well written press release to sell a destination. The consumer landscape has changed drastically in the world of travel and customers are becoming more and more travel savvy with the help of the internet.

A well-worded pitch selling in breathtaking views or an electric nightlife just isn’t going to cut the mustard.  It is now all online to experience at the press of a button, with 360 degree virtual tours of luxurious hotels where you can practically test out the king size bed via your laptop, to video blogs of crazy students bungee jumping from stomach-churning heights.

So how does the travel PR industry compete with all these new-fangled travel blogs and review websites offering first-hand insight? Quite simply, by embracing them. In order to get closer to their target audiences, brands need to engage travel and lifestyle bloggers and forums. Their opinions are valued by consumers all over the world. From mum’s sharing family travel tips via expatwoman.com to young nomads recommending quick and easy hostels on twenty-somethingtravel.com, the influence of such sites is reaching new heights.

Engaging with these bloggers is now essential for gaining consumer trust. And it makes sense: After all, who would you trust more – a multi-million dollar brand trying to sell flights and hotels or the independent traveler who has first-hand experience?

Many travel brands are also taking it head on with their own social media initiatives, where forums have the power to build a community centered on the brand. Emirates airline for example engages travelers through its Facebook page and encourages discussions on better service. The page is regularly updated with news on new routes and aircraft, but also features interesting snippets of everyday life from the SkyCargo team and YouTube clips of traditional music from around the globe.

Whether it is industry insight, developments in destination offerings, or simply a new hidden gem of a restaurant tucked away in the Nepalese jungle, if you are able to provide a regular stream of solid, insightful, and informative content, you’re already halfway there.

– Louisa Norman, Account Executive at Hill+Knowlton Strategies Dubai

glob·al·i·za·tion [gloh-buh-luh-zey-shuhn] noun: worldwide integration and development

When you look up the definition of globalization, it’s hard to tell if it’s a positive or negative characteristic of the world we live in. On one hand, ‘worldwide’ means universal acceptance – international, wide-reaching; but on the other hand it denotes a common approach, impersonal, and collective.

For brands that can successfully reach across borders, globalization gives the opportunity to truly connect – especially in today’s digital age. And this is ‘everywhere, anywhere, and anytime’ connecting. With that can come highly sought after brand power, equity, and potential market dominance.

Today, a good idea, service, or offering can go global because people generally share similar aspirations, character traits, wants, and needs. Just ask the big names: Cola-Cola, Apple, and Starbucks to name a few. That said, is the world a single market, and can a one-size-fits-all concept satisfy everybody?

Firstly, the world is rich with cultures, values, and traditions, so why should we all buy into global brands? People not only want to feel like individuals, they want to feel special. It is therefore crucial that consumers feel organizations genuinely understand and care about their needs, interests, and happiness. Ultimately, if the consumer is happy and feels a connection, he or she is likely to become loyal to the brand.

So how do you make something global go local in order to make that connection?

Adidas, the global sports brand, invests millions of dollars every year to have international celebrities such as David Beckham as the face of their brand around the world. What it also does on a smaller scale is invest in local brand ambassadors to engage interest in the local market. They recognize that a 14 year old in Sao Paulo, Tokyo, Paris, Beirut, and Dubai may share an immense passion for football and dream of one day being the next Beckham. But they’ll also have a local hero – someone that can more easily identify with from their hometown. Again it’s the personal connection that matters.

What marketers, PR professionals, or even sales professionals should remember is that their product or service must always connect to the target audience culturally.

Take the global reality TV star, Kim Kardashian, one of the most followed celebrities to date. How can we make such an American icon relevant to the UAE and the women in the Middle East? Where are their shared passions and commonalities? In this instance it’s not finding out more about Kim’s life, but rather finding out more about what Kim likes about the Arab life.

The aim of strategic PR is not to gain brand awareness or exposure. It is about connecting to as many individuals as possible, no matter where they are or who they are. Next time you’re in Starbucks, ask why a global brand is making the effort to write your name upon your latte. That personal touch – that brand love – is what it is all about.

– Lama El Ali, Account Executive at Hill+Knowlton Strategies

Launched back in 2010, Pinterest went almost unnoticed by the tech press for almost a year, until early adopters suddenly realised that a site with millions of users had been seemingly created overnight.

Since then, Pinterest has grown out of pure devotion from a dedicated, mostly female (80% cite some stats) following, who enjoy “pinning” items onto their pin boards from around the web.

Unsurprisingly, the popularity of this social network has attracted significant brand attention, and some of the most established and emerging brands now have a presence on Pinterest (as well as Pin it buttons on their websites) by which they engage large and small audiences in different ways.

Here are three currently using Pinterest to great success:

WholeFoods

One of the first brands onto Pinterest, this organic food store has gained over 28,000 followers to date. Pinterest allows WholeFoods to curate images from across the web which help translate brand values to their audience – from community and environment to healthy eating and organic produce. It is important to note that WholeFoods are not promoting their products, rather an aspirational lifestyle.

Better homes and Gardens

Magazines perform well on Pinterest thanks to their good stock of images, editorial content and largely female following. A good illustration is Better Homes and Gardens. They also created a “Pin and Win” contest which called for contestants to create a board using images from BHG.com (via Facebook). They gained a huge amount of Facebook fans and email data as well as inbound links.

U.S. Army

Partly to level out the female sway of this platform, but mostly because it’s an excellent example of how an outwardly “non-Pinterest” brand can use the platform to its advantage, the Official U.S. Army page includes boards such as: “welcome home,” “army history,” and “humanitarian relief”.  While the audience is likely to be made up of Army wives and girlfriends, the U.S. Army is cleverly reaching out to an audience which they may not have been capturing before via other channels.

Opportunity and strategy

While the boards and messages look great, you may be wondering what other benefits exist for a brand on Pinterest. There are many – is the answer – from participation and brand evangelism to relationship building. Additionally, organic search engine visibility will be vastly improved (many brand Pinterst pages ranks above the Twitter pages in the search engine results illustrating Google’s algorithm preference for this platform). However, what brands such as Amazon are discovering is the opportunity to drive large amounts of traffic back to the pin’s original source (assuming the pinner found the image on your website) making it another channel to display your goods or services via valuable third party endorsement.

For brands, Pinterest has become very pinteresting indeed.

– Susan Clowes, Digital Consultant at Hill+Knowlton Strategies Dubai

While the figures vary somewhat, one thing is clear: Internet usage in the Middle East has grown at one of the fastest rates in the world. Today there are almost 80 million of us across the region – a number that continues to rise at a rapid clip.

Ok, facts and figures out of the way, let’s get down to SEO’s importance in all of this. First the basics: SEO stands for search engine optimisation, and it is the process of making the pages within your website visible in search engines such as Google, Yahoo!, and Bing.

Here’s where it gets interesting for you: A recent study found that 90% of internet users use a search engine to find information. So it goes without saying that a solid SEO strategy is needed if you want to be found online.

Let’s think about how a user might search:

  1. Experience the need for a product, service, or piece of information.
  2. Formulate that need in a string of words to create a “query.”
  3. Execute that query in a search engine.
  4. Browse through the results to find a match.
  5. Click on a result.

Now, if your SEO efforts landed you high up on the search query results, your site may well be the one the user ends up on. And going back to that initial need that triggered the whole action in the first place, if your offering indeed matches up, a sale could be the happy end result.

Being listed as close to the top of the results for a variety of search queries that are relevant to your brand, product, or service is crucial to visibility and, ultimately, your online success. This will not only provide a large amount of traffic to your website, but it will also instil trust in consumers – because it demonstrates importance, worthiness, and relevance. There is a certain unspoken respect – or for us tech geeks “awe” – for those companies that end up on the first page of a Google search result.

And it’s worth pointing out that a solid SEO strategy is not only important for e-commerce companies: A large amount of offline sales can be traced back to an initial web search.

So the real question is: Do you SEO? If you do not, then start exploring. It won’t take you long to realize that SEO, as part of your ongoing marketing strategy, will create tremendous opportunities for you to reach your audience.

– Susan Clowes, Digital Consultant at Hill+Knowlton Strategies Dubai

هل تقوم بتنظيم محرك البحث لديك؟

تتباين الأرقام وتختلف، ومع ذلك، فإنّ هناك شيئاً واضحاً وهو أنّ معدلات نمو استخدام الإنترنت في منطقة الشرق الأوسط كان من أسرع معدلات النمو عالمياً. فاليوم، هناك نحو 80 مليون مستخدم في جميع أنحاء المنطقة – والعدد يتزايد يوماً بعد يوم.

لنغض النظر عن الأرقام والحقائق، ونركز على اهمية منظم محركات البحث.

أولأ: ما يسمّى “سيرتش إنجين أوبتيمايزيشن” SEO يدلّ على عملية تنظيم محرك البحث، وهي العملية التي تتيح للموقع الإلكتروني الخاص بك الظهور على محركات البحث مثل جوجل، ياهو! وبينج.

فلننتقل إلى الجزء الأكثر متعة: لقد أكدت دراسة حديثة أن 90٪ من مستخدمي الانترنت يستعملون محركات البحث للعثور على المعلومات. لذلك من المؤكد انك بحاجة الى استراتيجية خاصة بتنظيم محرك البحث إذا اردت أن يجدك المستخدمون بسهولة على الانترنت.
دعونا نفكر في كيفية قيام المستخدم بالبحث:

الحاجة إلى البحث عن منتج، خدمة أو معلومة

صياغة هذه الحاجة على شكل مجموعة من الكلمات لإنشاء “الاستفسار”

وضع هذا الاستفسار في محرك البحث

تصفح النتائج الظاهرة للعثور على نتيجة متطابقة مع بحثنا

انقر على النتيجة

الآن، إذا كانت عمليات تنظيم محرك البحث لديك جيدة وأدت إلى ظهورك في أعلى قائمة نتائج البحث، فقد يكون موقعك هو الذي سيتصفحه المستخدم للحصول على المعلومات. ونظراً للحاجة التي دفعت المستخدم للقيام بعملية البحث، فلدى توفير موقعك لنتائج متطابقة مع موضوع البحث، سيؤدي ذلك الى رضى المستخدم واعتماده لموقعك كمصدر للمعلومات.

انّ وجودك في أعلى قائمة نتائج البحث لعدد من الاستفسارات المختلفة والمتعلقة بالعلامة التجارية الخاصة بك أو المنتج أو الخدمة، فإن ذلك أمر هام سيؤدي بالنهاية الى نجاحك عبر شبكة الانترنت. وهذا سيؤدي الى توليد حركة كبيرة على موقعك إضافة الى تعزيز ثقة المستخدمين بالموقع، وذلك لأنه يعكس الأهمية، الجدارة، وصلته بموضوع البحث. وبالنسبة لنا، كمختصّين بالتكنولوجيا، فإننا نكنّ احتراماً خاصاً للشركات التي تظهر على الصفحة الأولى من نتائج البحث على جوجل.

ومن الجدير بالذكر أن استراتيجية تنظيم محرك البحث لا تقتصر فقط على الشركات التي تتبع نظام التجارة الإلكترونية، وانما هي مهمه للعديد من الشركات التي ترغب بتسويق منتجاتها، حيث أن العديد من عمليات البيع التي تتم بالطرق التقليدية يعود أصلها الى البحث عنها عبر شبكة الانترنت.

لذلك فإن المسألة الحقيقية هي إن كنت تقوم بتنظيم محرك البحث لديك أو لا؟ فإذا لم تبدء إلى، عليك البدء في ذلك فوراً، فهذه عملية سهلة ولن تستغرق وقتا طويلاً، وسوف تدرك أنها تشكل جزءاَ هاماً من استراتيجية التسويق الخاصة بك، إضافة الى مساهمتها في تعزيز فرص تواصلك مع جمهورك.

  Translated into Arabic by Lona Ayoub, Account Executive at H+K Strategies Dubai

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