How brands should communicate in the digital era: Osman Sultan, CEO of EITC

Exclusive: Osman Sultan, CEO of Emirates Integrated Telecommunications Company (EITC) on why creativity is essential to attract consumers in the 'attention economy'
Du's #PostWisely campaign was aimed at users who post videos and images of serious accidents and incidents on social media.
By Osman Sultan
Sun 25 Mar 2018 11:17 AM

We are operating in an industry in a state of constant disruption and innovation.

We talk today about a tsunami of data being generated, captured and used to predict the Next Big Thing.

Artificial intelligence-powered smart assistants shape our daily lives, recommending the best route home or suggesting we fill a gap in our busy schedule with meditation.

In the not-so-distant-future, things will be delivered by drones. Professional research is carried out via the internet, social lives are orchestrated on social networks and shopping is increasingly done online.

So the questions every brand needs to ask itself are these: as everything has an increasingly digital element, what is the trade-off? Are we losing something in return or merely easing our lives? And given this scenario, how do we articulate communication accordingly?

In my opinion, technology, digital in particular, has shifted the goalposts dramatically from a marketing and communications perspective.

We refer today to an “attention economy” with consumers’ focus, or eyeballs, being battled for by brands’ omnichannel presence on a minute-by-minute basis.

Consumers across demographics are literally glued to smart-devices, broadcasting, engaging and consuming information on today’s high-speed internet digital highway.

Today, these very same consumers have their world in their palm. This new tribe of consumers has put marketers in a state of flux; whose success and failure is dependent on their whim.

In retrospect, compared to telecommunications, how much has the communications industry really changed in the last decade?

We have had many digital upgrades, of course, as Facebook and Google have cornered an unprecedented share of communication revenues.

Brand budgets have moved towards digital channels where social networks offer clear metrics for engagement and consumers have shifted their attention towards channels they feel in control of.

While such innovative platforms have perpetuated and redefined marketing conventions, brands today are coerced to embody a new communication mix dictated by consumers of the attention economy.

Personalising brands

The power balance of brands is shifting. The conventional thinking of products and services has transcended to a new marketing nomenclature of “people’s brands”.

Today’s brands are expected to have an opinion, to take a stand and demonstrate values the individual can resonate with.

From a pure communication perspective, many brands have moved from one-way broadcast (TV, billboards) to two-way dialogue (social media), but is this enough today?

Our role as a telecom and ICT leader is not to give you a phone line – that is a given, an expected and essential commodity.

Today, we must customise and humanise technology specifically for you. We must personify technology and communication in a way that resonates with every single customer and not as a whole.

This is challenging for brands the world over and for marketers. But in every challenge there is opportunity.

The recipe to navigate through this dynamic environment is not to get way-laid with what technology has to offer, but to continue to personify your brand values in spite of it.

We are privileged, as one of the leading brands in the UAE, to be touching the lives of millions of people every single day of the year, and it’s something we do not take lightly. It is imperative that each and every one of our employees, our brand ambassadors by default, treat each and every customer interaction as though it were a face-to-face meeting.

Only with this mindset are we able to offer the kind of bespoke services that would appeal to the 100-plus nationalities in the UAE.

So how is this done?

I believe that creative risks are essential for a brand to remain relevant by cutting through the clutter of today’s media and industry landscape.

We continue to operate on a human-to-human basis and remain true to our brand instincts regardless.

Brands bring people together, they unite emotions, hence we should not be afraid to shout the unspeakable for the benefit of society, reminding them that, behind the latest technologies and gadgets, we are only humans telling our story to other humans.

An example of that is our #PostWisely campaign, which we believe was as disruptive a digital campaign as it can get.

Several people deemed our public safety announcement on the risks associated with oversharing on social media as too risky for a telco to launch. But we always try to take into account the triple bottom line, and the impact we can have on our people, the planet as well as profits are of equal importance.

Refreshed for 2018, #PostWisely raises a red flag, asking the UAE and the wider online community to be mindful of their activity across social networks, pleading with individuals not to forget their humanity when sharing negative content to their own circles.

During the course of the last 10 years we have embarked on a journey that defied prescriptive thinking – we never once diverted our focus away from what’s important to us, and that is our customers.

To sum up, it is imperative that in this clutter of technology, brands keep the spirit of human values alive, and communicate through relatable, connected experiences. This is the true power of a brand.

Osman Sultan, CEO of Emirates Integrated Telecommunications Company

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Last Updated: Sun 01 Apr 2018 09:46 AM GST

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