Ensuring Singularity Amid The Marketing Clutter: Derivation, Disruption, Differentiation Today's marketers must combine creativity and service excellence to make a mark on consumers.

By Abdulwahed Juma

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Strategic brand differentiation is becoming increasingly challenging for brands in today's digital age, where competing for a share of voice has become even more competitive amongst traditional players and disruptors. Today, a marriage of creativity and service excellence is a must for marketers to make a mark on consumers, and with loyalties flailing, brands have no option but to make a big impression every single time.

What does this mean for marketers? It means running multiple, simultaneous campaigns in a manner that is fresh and new each time. It means creating and co-creating interesting content, driving synergies with consumers through partnerships that will drive an emotional/brand love quotient, and it means taking more risks to reach more customers. Loyalty amongst consumers is flailing– this is a fact. According to a 2015 study by Catalina, a leading digital and consumer marketing firm, 90% of consumer packaged goods brands experienced share declines, driven predominantly by the fact that customers are switching, and loyalty is playing a smaller role.

Having said that, in the consumer technology space, one company seems to continue getting the loyalty formula right– Apple. In fact, Apple has become a benchmark for many when it comes to marketing and driving consumer behavior. Apple credits its continued customer devotion to offering an innovative, differentiated product, and ensuring a satisfaction rate that is consistently in the upper 90 percentiles. Driving brand affiliation and resonance is a key point of differentiation; in addition to offering a superior service, we need to consider a number of avenues that brands can take to ensure singularity in a cluttered environment.

Derivation: sticking to our roots
As a local brand, championing the heritage of the brand roots is a strategy that drives affinity amongst consumers. A whole lot more than merely creating products for a particular market, it is, in fact, creating a conversation amongst consumers and serving them in a way that is familiar. Humanizing the brand to become a valued member of the community through the formation of highly customized interactions, through products and services, is an important driver of brand loyalty. According to Deloitte's 2016 Millennial Survey, 73% of millennials said that business must have a positive social impact on society, as such companies that integrate within local communities are far more likely to drive brand affinity. At du, amongst our many customer service touchpoints, which include in-store, digital/ online and social media amongst others, we also have a 100% Emirati call center for national customers. Not only are we proud of our heritage, we are also forward-looking and cater to our customers in a way that they are becoming more and more accustomed to, by offering more digitization and automation in our services. At the same time, we continued to stay true to our roots by integrating with the local communities through a variety of initiatives including our annual Mawaed Al Rahman initiatives, as well as socially relevant campaigns such as #digitalfasting and #postwisely.

Today, when a brand stands behind a social cause, its power can be amplified even further afield owing to this incredible proliferation of the internet and social media that we are witnessing– and when its messaging is emotional and speaks to the consumer on an individual level, social change can happen. When brands take on the onus of driving a social conversation and inspiring positive change, they become more than their product and corporate image– they become aspirational.

Disruption: changing the game
As technology continues to change the way that we live and do business, it's also changing our relationship with our customers. In today's consumer driven market, it is up to us as a business to tap into that market's mood and offer an exciting and viable solution– this is where disruptive marketing takes its cue. What we have seen globally is that disruptive marketing goes hand in hand with innovationone of the go-to brands as a success benchmark is Red Bull: the company has become a publishing empire that happens to sell a drink. The company has consumers excited about the brand. By tapping into individual sensibilities, and catering to them, a brand differentiates itself from its offering to drive affinity. At du, we believe in creating platforms for our consumers to achieve their dreams, and we have done this successfully at a grass roots level with our Agent 055 Network and the duFC platform, as well as various initiatives with Zayed University and the American University in Dubai. Today, our customers know that we are their number one supporters, and this helps us further entrench ourselves in their lives.

Differentiation: standing out
While communicating a product, consumers weigh its success based on its delivery of promise. Is the product good? Is service delivery sufficient? Does it meet the standards set in the communication? If a product falls short of its promise of differentiation, consumers lose trust. In a cluttered market, product differentiation is key– but how do we showcase that differentiation through the clutter? As marketers, we have to speak to consumers in a way that they are now accustomed to. We have to humanize the brand, give it personality, and our offering and marketing strategy will ensure it stands out. The new reality of branded content sees creative narrative becoming human again. We see the latest reality of creative brand experiences, beyond just activations directed at educating and familiarizing. We see a new reality of digital influencers and digital natives. As such, content has become king, and there has been a migration from a monologue to a dialogue.

No matter how secure a brand may feel in its market position, it should never feel comfortable. Every single brand has a responsibility to its consumers to strive for differentiation, from competitors and from itself to deliver a fresh and exciting proposition- a promise of relevant, differentiated benefits will ensure increased customer loyalty.

Related: Follow The Leader: Elie Khouri, CEO, Omnicom Media Group MENA

Abdulwahed Juma

Executive Vice-President of Brand and Corporate Communications at du

Abdulwahed Juma is Executive Vice-President of Brand and Corporate Communications at du.

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