Rise of the Incog­nito


J. Wal­ter Thompson MEA is set to re­lease its full 10 Trends for MENA 2015 re­port, au­thored by Head of Brand In­tel­li­gence, J. Wal­ter Thompson MEA, in Septem­ber. With the re­lease date on the hori­zon,

Strate­gic Plan­ning Di­rec­tor of J. Wal­ter Thompson Saudi Ara­bia looks at one of the ten trends fea­tured in the re­port: Rise of The Incog­nito.

Since its on­set, so­cial media has played a sig­nif­i­cant role n the MENA re­gion, not only by pro­vid­ing plat­forms for self-ex­pres­sion in oth­er­wise cen­sored mar­kets, but also in mo­bil­is­ing peo­ple and points of view. How­ever, de­spite the ris­ing num­ber of so­cial media users in MENA, peo­ple are quickly com­ing to re­alise that much of what they do both online and off­line can be un­cov­ered by any­one who is in­ter­ested. So it’s not sur­pris­ing then, that in a largely con­ser­va­tive mar­ket, online pri­vacy is a large source of anx­i­ety, with 73% of online Arabs wor­ry­ing that their per­sonal in­for­ma­tion is no longer pri­vate.

Con­se­quently, con­sumers are start­ing to ex­er­cise a bit more online re­serve – they have be­come smarter, nav­i­gat­ing so­cial net­works by care­fully choos­ing what and when they share, and even cre­at­ing mul­ti­ple iden­ti­ties or pro­ject­ing dif­fer­ent online per­sonas. With over half a mil­lion Saudis leav­ing Face­book last year, and nearly 100,000 in both Kuwait and Oman for ex­am­ple, oth­ers have grav­i­tated to­wards more niche com­mu­ni­ties that they be­lieve will give them a safer space, such as Snapchat or Tum­blr.

This has also man­i­fested it­self in how peo­ple man­age their online pro­fes­sional rep­u­ta­tion. Nowa­days com­pa­nies are likely to check the pro­files of new re­cruits online, leav­ing peo­ple no choice but to craft pol­ished im­ages across their so­cial net­works – giv­ing them even more rea­sons to use niche com­mu­ni­ties- in fact 60% of re­spon­dents in the UAE state their rea­sons for us­ing pri­vate online net­works were to avoid judge­ment and be­cause there would be fewer con­se­quences.

To­day this has gen­er­ated a new cu­rios­ity for the un­known where pri­vacy and anonymity have be­come the new sta­tus and by in­ter­act­ing in both the public and pri­vate spheres, brands can cap­i­talise on hu­man cu­rios­ity.

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