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campaigns such as perfume or collection launches. To this day, the majority of their digital advertising spends is split between Spring-summer (SS) and Fall-winter (FW) seasons, with almost no brands taking an always-on approach.
Brands have evolved with what we at Havas Media call “Organic Marketing”, based on the understanding that in today’s interconnected world the audience has become the media. This involves a shift in brand behavior from a historical heavy reliance on paid media (almost entirely dedicated to tactical awareness, such as the launch of new collections) to an approach that puts a brand’s digital ecosystems (websites, social channels) and partnerships (shared media) at the center. The communication in this approach is designed to fuel earned media (publicity from nonadvertising sources) as consumers organically embrace and share the brand’s content. The role of paid media (publicity from advertising) in this scenario is to ensure that earned media gets amplified in order to maximize reach. Organic marketing’s wide-reaching implications for the luxury sector include the prominent role that shared media now plays through influencer and celebrity endorsers who distribute content around their owned ecosystems. Balmain, for example, succeeded in raising its global brand awareness through its partnership with the “insta-famous” designer, Oliver Rousteing. The “army” of influencers around Rousteing, including such celebrities as the Kardashians and Rihanna, aggregates close to 50 million followers – a much bigger scope than the 1.2 million Instagram followers of the official Balmain account. This global approach has local implications. The Middle East, for instance, has its own set of fashion celebrities that are now regular fixtures at the major global fashion weeks, and some of these could be potential new influencers that would be instrumental in promoting luxury brands. Welcoming a New Brand Order Robust partner ecosystems are key for luxury brands, even if we exclude e-commerce; research shows that around 40% of offline luxury sales are directly impacted by digital content and owned platforms. Organic marketing is even more of a necessity, since most millennials are tuning out digital advertising; 31% of millennials in the Middle East already use ad-blocking software, and that percentage is increasing. The key is discoverability when it comes to these consumers. It is a no-brainer that the now ubiquitous #hashtag has become a common sight on all luxury communication to ensure all the conversations that are generated are linked across channels (earned, shared, and paid media). Brand storytelling is also extremely important to them as it justifies their purchase.
As a result, luxury brands have gone from digitally timid to embracing elements of organic marketing. They were able to leverage their superb name recognition and catapult a rise of creative content combined with excellent channel management that has drawn consumers into the story without compromising the dream. This achievement remains out of reach of other brands that still rely on paid media alone. Strategies for MENA Brands to Succeed in Digital Marketing While not all brands have the passionate audiences or best-in-class content that luxury brands enjoy, we can all learn from their organic marketing approach in a digital world dominated by millennial consumers: 1. Localize brand platforms: Platforms that address Middle East consumers – particularly millennials – are still few and far apart. Speaking in the luxury consumer’s language is key, bearing in mind that the brand’s website has the biggest impact on purchase after the boutique experience.
2. Offer more than in-store options: With e-commerce at the brand level looming on the horizon, luxury marketers need to ensure that they address Middle East luxury shoppers’ priorities, giving them the tools to customize and access unique pieces, not available on ground.
3. Capitalize on data: Capturing data across channels should also be a priority, allowing granular audience targeting through programmatic advertising.
4. Be always-on: Always-on campaigns, particularly search engine marketing, are rare. By not defending their territory, brands are losing their hard-earned brand equity and effectively allowing third parties to benefit at their expense.
5. Ride the wave of luxury content explosion: To take advantage of the luxury content explosion, we still need to see best in class examples of native advertising (to maximize discoverability).
In January 2015, Snapchat launched its new Discover feature, which allows publishers to push out a bundle of native content optimized for Snapchat, and with a lifespan of one day. At the time, the move was hailed as a great opportunity for publishers to reach a younger audience. CNN took the opportunity and partnered with Snapchat, giving users a daily dose of its news, information, articles, photos, and video. Through its channel, CNN delivers a new Discover edition every 24 hours. Each edition features five or more global news stories, hand-curated and published by its editorial and design teams, specifically for the Snapchat community. Each story will be headlined by a top Snap – a 10-second video or animated teaser. CNN officials said they expect new consumers will discover what the channel is covering through Snapchat, then seek more information through its TV and web channels. In my opinion, the execution was great because it allowed CNN to reach a young audience (people in their 20s and younger) that they could not easily reach anywhere else. A smart use of the channel.