Lessons from 2011 & wishes for 2012

When the Internet was introduced as a new media, there was a tendency to use the website as another calling card. So companies in the Middle East started to copy their brochures and transform them into digital experiences. Most web addresses became dot com version what companies and brands wanted to say about themselves. But today brands that continue to hold this opinion do so at the risk of becoming obsolete in the messaging. With the way we’ve witnessed the evolving power of social media tools in 2011 especially in our region this is simply not enough.

A lot has changed over the past 5 years. On the one hand, there’s been a proliferation of tools to connect & engage thanks to popular platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube etc. On the other hand, there is a dawning realization that the Internet is not a passive information source – it is rather a dialogue vehicle that enables consumers to engage with the brand & vice versa.

In our region it is only now that brands are playing catch-up to this “state of the market” or new reality.

As a multidisciplinary team of designers, strategists, architects, and writers our approach here at Zaman has always been to stay true to our role as which is to help Arab brands find their authentic voice. In 2011 we worked on a variety of interesting campaigns, creating productive dialogues on behalf of the companies and events that we orchestrated.

In March we were commissioned by Dubai Art & Culture Authority to create an identity for ‘SIKKA’ a new fringe art fair to coincide with the ever successful Dubai Art Fair. Housed in the evocative Al Bastakiya area of Bur Dubai, the fair was intended to expose emerging Emirati and other locally based artists as well as support the artistic community at large. We got fantastic media coverage and reviews from attendees as well as our client. More on our blog here.

Frustrated with the absence of platforms that celebrate Arab brands in a region of the world that can probably boast “consumer savviness” (in terms of brand recognition) in May we then launched the “100 Most Authentic Arab Brands” initiative  which called on consumers across the region to vote for the brand they regard to be most authentic. The positive response from both the brands we reached out to for participation and the votes received from the public confirmed that we need more platforms / instruments to celebrate Arab brands.

In September we partnered with Al Ain City Municipality for the inaugural launch of the Al Ain Photographia Award – an extension of their ongoing tourism marketing efforts. Photography contests are gaining popularity across our region and as such the campaign was a resounding success with an outstanding 4,370 photo submissions received. Case study here.

I believe this is going to be the tone for 2012. More Arab brands stepping out of their comfort zones & experimenting a little more with all the company profiles that they’ve dutifully created on the popular social platforms. Of course, there are companies that don’t want to do that yet because they don’t know the potential of instant dialogue or they are still thinking in terms of words and images. The Internet makes companies look more robust and purposeful. My wish for all our clients this is year is that we start embracing this medium and become the architects of our own future.

Here’s to 2012!

By Grace Yacoub – Zaman CEO


Flickr image – @jdkvirus