• Transform magazine
  • April 04, 2020


Smart, social and segmentation: Dubai Lynx, Day 3


In the Minority Report, Tom Cruise’s character walks through a fictional future city and is recognised at places like the Gap and targeted with a personalised, computerised video advert at the entrance to stores. Despite the film’s other messages, for brands, this fictional dream may soon become a reality.

Smart cities are on the rise, data is being analysed, social media and social enterprises are becoming more common and accurate segmentation is increasingly possible to achieve. At the third day of the Dubai Lynx festival, and the final day of the conference, speakers from around the world discussed the future of possibilities for brands.

Mike Weston, CEO of Profusion, a London and Dubai-based data science company, says, “If we understand the data in the world around us a little bit better, we can make it better.” His company is working with Dubai and other places around the world to create smart cities. Not only is this a boon for advertisers looking to target consumers at the personal level, as in Minority Report, but it could benefit utilities and public services providers, make for more efficient and environmentally-friendly cities and improve the standard of living.

Yet, the challenge, he says, is in regulation those who have access to the data and for what purposes. The iPhone is both the most useful tool in the world at the moment in terms of data gathering and George Orwell’s worst nightmare, he says. Another problem remains integrating data from different devices and data sources and aligning the various governmental, business and popular stakeholders involved.

Rio de Janeiro, a city striving to enhance a lot of its basic services and its international reputation, is set to host the 2016 Olympics in only a few months. The Olympic logo becomes, for that two-week period, one of the most prevalent symbols in the media and on social media. Thus, for Tatil, the Rio design agency run by Fred Gelli, the Olympic and Paralympic brands had to be just right.

Tatil’s goal was to create a brand for the people and the city of Rio, but to also break new ground in Olympic branding. The Olympic logo they derived is the first 3D logo and the first sculptural logo. “The ordinary people in Rio understood it and found themselves represented in it and started to find new meanings for it,” Gelli says.

The Paralympic logo is also sculptural, but it integrates sound, light, texture and vibration to allow all of the Paralympians to interact with it. Both logos reflect the shapes of the city of Rio, a concept which extends across the brands and has helped define the spirit of the Rio games.

Another land currently reinventing itself is Afghanistan. The central Asian nation has been the subject of a decades-long conflict exacerbated by the NATO incursion beginning in 2001. But, as the team from Tonic Agency and Roshan say, normal life carries on in the country. And part of normal life today has to do with smartphones and mobile service.

Thus Roshan, a telecom provider under the Aga Khan umbrella and designated as a non-profit social enterprise, had to define its brand by what people need and how they live in modern Afghanistan. In a competitive market, the only point of differentiation lay in careful segmentation of the market and the creation of a sub-brand, Yaraan, to cater to the youth audience.

The company is Afghan through and through, with Afghans representing 98% of employees and eight of 15 managers. Competition, however, came from UAE’s Etisalat and South Africa’s MTN. Roshan’s existing brand was strong and complemented by a memorable audio brand that built awareness. Business growth though, was stagnant.

The Yaraan sub-brand spoke in a youthful tone and introduced a new type of telecom provider into the market. And it worked where others might have failed because the brand worked with its young brand ambassadors and other young people to make it authentic. The economic situation in Afghanistan at Yaraan’s launch was poor, Altaf Ladak, COO, says. Yaraan inspired hope and encouraged young people to make a difference and make their dreams a reality, a strong message in a dark economic time. Yaraan, he says, “Kept the brand essence of Roshan.”

Without a time machine, the future is impossible to predict. But brands and their partners around the world are working to better understand the issues that will affect future generations and to put themselves in a better place from which to experience future change.