Thursday, June 30, 2011

How marketing messages change post revolution - lessons from Egypt

As the Wall Street Journal recently covered, there has been an increase in ad spending in certain sectors in Egypt, but perhaps more interesting is the anecdotal evidence in the change of messages that are resonating with consumers.

In the weeks since Egypt's uprising, the television airwaves and Cairo's streets have been filled with revolutionary slogans.

"Build your country!" shout billboards hovering over the city's congested roads. "Develop your country!" urges another over smaller text demanding that Egyptians "Don't stop!"

But the signs aren't the work of revolutionaries. They are advertisements for Snicker's, the candy brand owned by Mars Inc., the U.S.-based confectioner.

Since thousands of protesters ousted former President Hosni Mubarak in a nearly three-week revolt, the enthusiasm for revolution has been redirected and repackaged for television ads, billboards and jingles selling products including hair gel, soft drinks and candy.

A television spot for Coca-Cola Co.'s Coke, which looks similar to a Latin American commercial called "Sky," shows hundreds of kids dressed in trendy clothes climbing to the tops of buildings in downtown Cairo. There, they lasso the sun, pull it out from behind menacing storm clouds and bask in the radiant glory that is the new Egypt. "Make tomorrow better!" the slogan beseeches.

A Pepsi ad urges: 'Think, Participate, Dream, Express who you are.'

Local brands are not to be left behind. A restaurateur renamed his cafe "January 25 Cafe," after the starting date of the uprising. In the middle-class Cairo suburb of Agouza, a billboard for Mink brand hair gel shows a young man with a spiky hairdo. The background of the billboard is an Egyptian flag next to a slogan that reads, "I am Egyptian."

This re-messaging for the Egyptian market has helped to lift ad spending in Egypt for consumer products.

Ad spending in Egypt actually increased to about $329 million in May from $310 million in February, according to data from Ipsos, a regional advertising and marketing research firm.

The revolution was hard on high-end products and large investments. Expenditures on household appliances and real estate between February and May of this year were down 46% and 44%, respectively, from a year earlier.

But in the category of fast-moving consumer goods, Egyptian advertising has increased in 2011. Advertising of soft drinks and snacks and appetizers surged 30% over the same period.

How will the more subtle art of public relations re-package messages in Egypt? We think the answer is obvious.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Friday, June 3, 2011

How today’s media is changing Public Relations

The Huffington Post built a media empire from the digital zeitgeist.

The Huff’s genius involved a nose for water-cooler conversation and an eye for resultant keyword searches. Its unreal ability to dominate the search by re-serving the public what it was already discussing allowed HuffPo to exit for a very real $300 million.

For the sake of comparison, Newsweek sold for $1.

Is Newsweek 300 million times worse than The Huffington Post?

Of course not.

But Newsweek never decoded that hidden strand of The Huffington Post’s DNA: Today’s winners no longer try to make news; they instead try to be nearby when news is made.

And here is the bedrock of where media is changing PR. For PR folks to be successful they shouldn’t try to be the news; they should try to participate in news.

Easy to understand, so how does that happen? We’ve represented many different types of client at NettResults – some have experienced spokespeople and some do not. Here’s what we have learned:

1 – if a company does not have a spokesperson then there needs to be a lot of news around new unique features or advanced product development that the user actually cares about.

2 – better (and less expensive for the company) to have a spokes person.

Next up – how do we get that spokes person to participate in the news?

Back to traditional PR – the ability of an agency to position that spokesperson with the media through introductions, interview and good old-fashioned face-to-face interaction. Through this process, the spokes person gains the ‘credibility’ of the media. Yes, vital – credibility. It doesn’t happen overnight and it is a distinct and almost contradictory PR action than the daily KPI of gaining publicity.

Once credibility has been obtained, it is the job of the agency to keep the media informed on what subject matter the spokes person has preferential insight to – most probably because of their corporate experience. This is how the spokesperson becomes an ‘expert’ in their area of business.

Then, later on in time, when the news is looking like it is approaching the subject that the spokesperson has claimed insight and credibility, it is the job of the agency to showcase that spokesperson. This could be as simple as a one-to-one contact (picking up the phone) or it may be more appropriate to showcase the spokesperson in a one-to-many communication (for example a press release).

Before the spokesperson is ready to reach out to the media and fulfill their spokesperson duty, it is the agency that has to create and curate timely content around the news.

It’s not rocket science, but it does take some medium term planning to achieve success.