Category Archives: Marketing

Yes I’m a blogger, but no thank you…

I recently received an email from an agency that I will not name asking me if I could give them the visibility over my blog stats to assess whether or not engaging a relation with me and my blog would be interestinf for their clients!

Actually this subject about relationships between brands and bloggers has been making some buzz lately. These relationships can be both exciting and ambiguous and sometimes difficult. But the main issue here is that brands (and therefore their agencies) are not getting the fact that a blogger is a person who writes about a specific subject by passion and deep interest. Therefore, they should respect their privacy and their opinions by acknowledging the fact that bloggers can do whatever they want whenever they want. Also, their level of influence (and of course their visibility) is not always linked to their blog stats and doesn’t depend on the number of actual readers they have on regular posts.

I’ve been reading so much nonsense about bloggers waiting for brands to offer them gifts and money in order to write about their brands on their blogs, but no, it doesn’t always work like this. So I think this deserves some clarification.

How brands must manage relationships with bloggers?
As a blogger, I am often approached by companies, agencies or brands that want me to talk about their product or service.
In most cases, this first approach is materialized in the form of an email, usually non-personalized, which contains a press release or an invitation. Some of them, very clumsy, might also send an email by copying several bloggers, or they might also put the wrong name or wrong address of the blog. No Comment!

So… Here are some recommendations if you guys (companies, brands and agencies) hope to have a chance with bloggers.

Practice the direct approach: Avoid mail for initial contact. Instead, send a short tweet with a link… The blogger will then remember who you are more easily

– Then follow up on the mail, once the initial contact is established, send the blogger an email with the most personal information. Do not copy and paste the press release (again!!) but explain succinctly and clearly your service (or the things you want to talk about) in your own words.

Stay within the themes and topics; target bloggers that match your theme: If you want to announce something related to what’s new in your restaurant, do not waste your time trying to convince a tech blogger to write about your news, because even if he is a client, he won’t talk about it on his blog.

Do not force hand: bloggers feeling compelled to write an article will never do it or worse, they might be “evil” and tell their bloggers friends about their experience with you, and then BAM : bad buzz. So try to establish a real relationship with them, without expecting something in return. Ask them for their opinions, offer them your test, invite them to meet you. Be cool, frank, honest and transparent. Do not over-play, do not try too seduce or mislead about anything you are talking about.

Let go: if you see that the feeling is not there, it’s not worth insisting. Check back regularly to them when you have an update or a news you want to share with them but do nothing more.

– Actually, the real thing, and what brands should start doing ABOVE ALL is to propose an experience, a real project in which the bloggers will be proud to participate. This way you can be practically be sure that they will be talking about their experience with your brand, sharing with their readers something they actually liked doing. This way you are sure you would have created the best brand’s ambassadors.


Social Media Week comes to Beirut!

Following on the great success of Social Media Week February 2011, the next iteration of Social Media Week will again span the globe this September 19-23, 2011, with simultaneous events in cities from all over the world. Confirmed locations include returning cities like Milan, Berlin, Buenos Aires, Bogota, and São Paulo, plus new entrants from Rio de Janeiro, Moscow and now happy to announce BEIRUT and I am thrilled to be part of the organizers.

With each successive iteration, Social Media Week has grown exponentially, leading up to the February 2011 edition, which hosted simultaneous events in nine cities with over 600 events, 30,000 attendees worldwide, and generating more than 300M impressions online, made it the largest distributed conference in the world.

Far more than just a conference, Social Media Week is one of the world’s most unique organized events, providing through a series of interconnected activities across the world a global and local perspective on emerging trends in social & mobile media across all major industries.

Social Media Week Beirut (SMW Beirut) will be organized for the first time in Beirut, brought to you and produced by 90:10 Group Middle East. SMW Beirut is aimed to be a unique and innovative social media week, happening over 5 days, with more than 30 events in different venues in the city, giving access to as large audience as possible, connecting people & content around diverse and rich themes, with speakers and participants from different horizons, bringing to all the learning experiences for a better understanding of social media in each of industry sectors.

SMW Beirut will be as well fun 🙂

Your thoughts, advices, tips and all are more than welcome.
You can follow Social Media Week Beirut on Twitter or on Facebook

Go Beirut!

Go viral and Keep Lebanon Walking with Johnnie Walker

Have you seen the latest Johnnie Walker campaign in Lebanon? I am sure you all did, at least on Facebook. A great example of how a brand can produce content and go completely viral. Lets have a quick review at the campaign created by Leo Burnett who once again marvels us with their great work.

Today, (almost) all marketers (and therefore advertisers) are seeking to leverage and intensify the reach of their communications by creating ads that become viral even though the viral potential of a campaign is fairly rare.

In fact 4 ingredients are necessary for an ad to become viral:

– The awareness index which is a measure of the engagement potential of a campaign and its connection to the brand, used for a long time y advertisers to predict the success of the TV campaigns

– The buzz which identifies wether an advertisement or a communication campaign is likely to naturally spread or not

– The potential of the featured celebrity and his profile when used in advertising

– The distinction of the campaign and the measure of its originality

Actually, the thing that is great about this campaign is that it generates a great deal of emotions (the music is really great) and raises interest by touching a large audience. Architect Bernard Khoury clearly gives scope and carries the brand message.

The campaign is integrated into many media a part from traditional TV/and press. The website is actually very well conceived since it delivers branded content from one part (videos telling the great stories of Bernard Khoury) and “social” functionalities from another (integration to Twitter and Facebook) to disseminate this content.  The campaign also calls upon user’s imagination in the creation of small sentences in order to “Keep Lebanon Walking”.

The small films are also easy to find on the Youtube dedicated Keep Walking channel which makes it easy to predict the viral success (only it’s just too bad the channel is not branded Johnny Walker)

The last (but not least) thing I would like to point out, is the fact that the concept, as amazing as it is, reminds me of the Journeys campaign launched by Louis Vuitton with ad agency Ogilvy Paris in 2007, one of the greatest campaigns in terms of branded content that simply tells the story and reveals the wonderful journeys of celebrities (such as Catherine Deneuve, André Agassi, Keith Richards and many others…) who made it out there with great achievements.

“Adapt locally and keep Lebanon walking…” 🙂

Ghandour wants us to eat “Tarboush” instead of “Ras El Abed”

I think everyone knows Tarboush… or should I say “Ras el Abed”?

8 years ago, Ghandour, the leading producer of Cocoa based products, Bakery, Confectionery, as well as Food and Beverage items, launched a school contest in Lebanon asking students to propose a new name and a new design for one of their best selling products, the famous “Rass el abed” (“Nigger’s Head” for the English translation). The main challenge was to erase the “racist” overtone of the “abed” part, so people had to propose something significant, catchy and new. And that’s what I did. Actually, me and 5 other random people had the great idea to propose the name “Tarboush”.

Why? First, because of the “approximate” resemblance there is between the tarboush and “Ras el bed” shapes. And second, because of the strong relationship between the word tarboush and what Ras El Abed represents as part of the “Lebanese heritage”. Crunchy on the outside, soft and creamy on the inside, everyone who grew up in Lebanon has tasted this local “delicacy”, or is just addicted to it (yeah I know some people who are and actually, 38,903 people like this on Facebook).

Let’s go back to my story: 2 years after sending my proposition, I received a phone call from someone at Ghandour telling me that my project was selected. They had organized a small gathering, in order to give away the rewards, during which they made it clear that the new product identity will not be adopted directly, but that it would take some time to completely change the identity and that this refurbishment will occur step by step. Fair enough. They didn’t want their customers to get confused with a brand new product, and they didn’t want them to think that Ghandour had abandoned the famous Ras El Abed.

The changes first appeared on the packaging on which they started adding a tarboush, and then, only five years later, they launched a big (?) communication campaign around the new name.

Too slow?   I think that indeed, they could have established a communication plan on a shorter period of time, because I personally can’t wait for the new packaging to be launched.

How much time will it take you to start calling it Tarboush? 🙂

You want to know more about Social Media?

Social Media Exchange (SMEX) is organizing Lebanon’s first dialogue between local grantees and representatives from major donor organizations about the role of social media in civil society in Lebanon and the Middle East tomorrow, on Saturday November 21 from 2:30 pm to 5:30 pm in their offices in Beirut.

“President Barack Obama called for a ‘new beginning’ in America’s relationship with the Muslim world during his historic speech in Cairo in June. Speaking in Morocco earlier this month, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton signalled the US would turn to the web to reach this goal, announcing a $5m initiative to ‘empower grassroots civil society organizations’ by helping them use digital technology.”

With this foray into ‘social media for social change’, the US government is demonstrating that the internet will be at the center of foreign aid and development policy in the years to come and funding opportunities are on the horizon for civil society and non-profit organizations in the region.

What are the real opportunities for organizations in Lebanon and the Middle East and how social media tools are already being used?

Many practitioners will be talking about their projects and the problems they encounter working with online technology in a low-bandwidth environment explaining whether social media really can help empower us and our communities.

Register or view the entire press release.

Online Marketing and Advertising: Why is it growing slowly in Lebanon?


Online advertising is still in double digit growth worldwide: after a 19% growth in 2008 and a 9% growth in 2009 (yes it is due to the crisis and NOT to the market saturation) worldwide online advertising growth is expected to reach 11% in 2010 (according to e-Marketer). So yes, the spending on online advertising is very healthy ($64.69 billion).

Online advertising and communication include many frameworks. Whether it is to create a website, an online newsletter, to launch banners on many existing online sources (newsmagazines, diverse websites, social networks…) or to monitor what is being said about your brand on social media and to engage online communities in your brand’s (or company’s) project, online media are very efficient (if not the MOST efficient) when to comes to acknowledging reputation (by mastering word-of-mouth), targeting people according to their interests, and measuring the impact of your campaign, especially for small businesses (contrary to what one may think)

But why are we still behind in Lebanon?

There are about 1 570 000 internet users in Lebanon today (for a population of 4 million people) against 950 000 in 2007 according to Internet World Stats. Despite this growth of 65%, the online advertising market is still behind especially compared to other forms of advertising. It appears that one of the main reasons comes from the advertising agencies themselves that are still reticent which is why they do not always include an online section part of the global strategies they sell to their clients.

Why? Simply because there are two types of clients: the ones who have caught the importance of being present online, because their marketing executives are young and they were born with the digital era, and the ones who still don’t see the interest in converting to these new forms of marketing because the traditional means are enough for them. They do not understand that internet is the unique mass media allowing a direct interaction between the brands and their consumers. Will all lebanese based advertising agencies will be able to sell cross-media campaigns to their clients when it is the right thing to do?

The main obstacle to an unstoppable growth of online advertising strategies in Lebanon is essentially (and unfortunately) structural. It comes, and it is no surprise for anyone, from the underdeveloped telecommunications facilities. Without the appropriate infrastructure, internet will never become common practice whether it is for the ad agencies, their clients or the consumers.

The explosion of the number of Lebanese on social networks such as Facebook and Twitter  and the emergence of bloggers and other digital influencers talking about subjects other than politics as well as the majority of newsmagazines going (or growing) online is, without any doubt, the main signal that the Lebanese audience is ready, not only for online advertising, but most certainly for a web 2.0 revolution.

Let’s just hope that broadband won’t be arriving very late…

Malik’s bookshop beats Kassatly Chtaura


Bouncing back on Kassatly Chtaura’s “mediocrity of the year”, Malik’s bookshop figured they were legitimate enough to exploit Michael Jackson’s death for their “back to school” campaign. I hate to break it down to you, but adding a fineprint that says “in loving memory of Michael Jackson” doesn’t make it right.

But putting aside whatever moral issues might be at hand, Malik’s is actually, as they (rather clumsily) put it on their billboard, an integrant part of university life, both in AUB and LAU. Every book we bought, original or copied, every binded document or photocopy we made was, by definition, Malik’s business.

Yes they’ve been here through the fun school days and the rough project overnights, they have. so… how exactly do we move from this to “we like Michael Jackson, so do you, please love us”?

I think Malik’s has more than enough assets to actually establish a powerful, long-lasting brand identity, that indeed could create that “unbreakable bond” with students, but this is definitely not the way to do it.

maliks_bookshop_-_jackson_tributePics from Beirut NTSC, Identity Chef and Bruz