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The process, the art, the technique of creating, promoting and selling a matter of substance is the desired definition of marketing by those passionate about the practice. The term “Marketing”, due to the vast world of business, has formed numerous definitions, but boiling it down to its foundation, it can be thought of as a formula that binds both the art of communication and the science of understanding.
Anwar Al-Attar, a young professional in the field of marketing asserts that marketing is a long term state of vision, and that it is not a matter that is restricted to the business world, but impacts the everyday life of an individual.
For example, learning new things and developing your skills add “value” to yourself, which in turn makes you more appealing to the world around you, “The Market.” You then use these values you have accumulated to attract employers, relationships or basically anything one might desire is in its essence… Marketing.
Question: Tell us a little about yourself
Answer: My name is Anwar Al-Attar, I am 27 years old, my friends and family often refer to me as the marketing guru, due to the passion I have towards the field. My journey began in 2009 when I worked for a leading FMCG (Fast Moving Consumer Goods). I then moved on and ventured into the international market specifically with LCCS (Low Cost Country Sourcing) and then into the retailing sector. I am certified by the Center of Business and Economic Development – USA, through an advanced management program designed by Philip Kotler.
I was named after my grandfather the Arabic poet Anwar Al-Attar who was a respected figure in Arabic literature and poetry around the Middle Eastern and North African region throughout the past century. His achievements were due to his great passion in his craft, which is what inspired me to do what I love, because only then can one achieve greatness.
Q: What is marketing? And how do you view marketing personally?
A: We first have to establish that Marketing is not a product, it’s the smart way of doing things in the correct manner which is a matter that extends from an individual to a family to a community to international enterprises.
For instance, a person who keeps good ties with loved ones and develops a reputation that forces them to speak good of him is basically (PR) Public Relations 101 in a specific sense which is part of marketing.
In a basic market concept, traders of old realized that simply showcasing their products will not generate more income, more has to be done in this regard, attention needs to be drawn, thus activating their market and giving birth to the science of Marketing.
The science of marketing has many definitions, the shortest one is “meeting needs profitably”, but I personally consider successful marketing as being able to identify gaps in different market segments and counter-fill them efficiently and effectively.
Q: How does the practice of marketing differ in Kuwait and the region from the rest of the world?
A: Often in the region, marketing rests on a misconception with sales, in many occasions I was asked to identify the difference between the two. To put it in perspective, sales is a momentum and marketing is what creates that momentum.
The proper marketing practice should begin with understanding your landscape through the forces that shaped it. I call them the three Ps (place-people-practice), first the geography of the place, which involves understanding the economic environment, the socio-cultural environment, the technological environment, the natural environment and the political-legal environment.
The second is understanding the demography of the people living in the place, for instance, population growth, age, gender mix, education, household pattern, ethnicity and beliefs.
The third is understanding the current needs and trends, generally to conclude reasons for people’s common behaviors.
After that you start identifying opportunities, in order to set your research focus and its criteria followed by forecasting, and when a brilliant opportunity is identified, a marketer shifts the attention to how to do it, when to do it, where to do it and who will do it.
That would be the momentum a marketer creates, sales on the other hand will be the guardian assuring the success of the opportunity because the sales-force is the party engaging with consumers, as consumers look for either answers or advices or both at the same time. A strong sales-force is able to provide both answers and advices whenever needed and however needed. The term sales-force is often misunderstood, it is used to refer to salesmen/saleswomen. The sales-force should be identified based on the nature of the business, for example in a restaurant the sales-force will be the waiters or waitresses, in a supermarket the sales-force will be the shelves the product is placed on, in an interior design firm the designer is the sales-force of the business and so on.
Q: How has the technological era that we are currently witnessing, with its social media and search engines affected Marketing? Is this what gave birth to digital marketing?
A: The term digital marketing doesn’t mean that there is a separate science called digital marketing, it means marketing science itself is conducted over digital platforms. The digital era has been an additional privilege to marketers by giving them the opportunity to pursue marketing not only in “marketplaces” which is what we refer to as the traditional markets like malls and bazaars, but also “marketspaces” referring to digital platforms.
Q: A marketing analysis states that digital marketing will no longer be viewed as a cost in three to five years, they will be seen as a source of revenue, care to weigh in?
A: I have to say that I disagree with the analysis because a marketing practitioner never views marketing as a cost, but rather an investment with both tangible and intangible values.
Also, if you seek to promote something online, you will need to go through different stages and each stage is charged by the promoter separately and varies according to how you want it to be, like Facebook ads.
That analysis would have been true in 1990 when the world wide web was founded but surely not today.
Q: The statement “it’s a marketing scam!” is often heard when discussing matters of advertisements by the public, how can one identify a scam? And what do you believe gave birth to this term in the first place?
A: When consumers find a gap between what they are experiencing in a product and what they have been promised, they get disappointed, that is why they build a negative perception to certain brands or certain offers. In my opinion it is the result of poor marketing practices or poor marketing structures.
That happens because the company is traditional in the way they conduct their business, by that I mean marketers focus on the objectives of their superiors in the company and ignore their customers. The company should become customer-centric and focus on consumers as their top line priority and their last focus should be the objectives of their superiors.
One of the most effective ways to become a customer-centric company is by allowing customer involvement. For example, consider their feedback or ratings and make it easy and accessible for them to do so.
Q: What do you think the Kuwait Chamber of Commerce or other concerned governmental body should do to prevent such poor marketing practices?
A: It shouldn’t be the responsibility of the Chamber of Commerce to prevent them in the first place, it should be the responsibility of the company to begin with, because that would hurt their reputation and cause to them the most damage.
Q: The Kuwaiti public is very fashion oriented, and expensive brands is not really a problem for most, does this factor in when it comes to marketing campaigns?
A: It’s a factor to bear in mind but not really the only factor to take into consideration when it comes to designing campaigns. Marketing campaigns are set to address certain target audiences and every audience will vary from the other in single or multiple aspects.
What I often see in Kuwait is misplaced campaigns, as you will find campaigns addressed in a high class layout but targeting middle or lower classes or low class layout addressed campaigns, targeting the high class. It is the result of not really understanding the trends or language spoken among the different audiences.
Q: What are the factors that marketers prioritize when it comes to analyzing the market on which their campaigns are based on?
A: The need and how needy would the consumer be about it. When it comes to designing campaigns it’s not as easy as most people think it is. There are numerous factors that can either make it or break it. Before doing anything it’s a must to verify and assess the impact of the channels where the campaign is communicated and how relevant are they to the campaign’s targeted customers and by that I don’t only mean the conventional media or digital media, I mean every potential place and space the audience can be in.
After that its mandatory to classify how many times your audience should sense your campaign by either one or more of their five senses and in what period, a process of what we call ‘timing in the period’ and the classification of timing falls under four patterns: the level, the raising, the falling and the alternating pattern. And the classification doesn’t stop here as those patterns have different ways of implementation, the ‘concentration’ which is doing it all in one period, the ‘flighting’ which is doing a campaign in a certain period followed by a nonconsecutive one, and the ‘pulsing’ which is continuous throughout the year at low-weights reinforced periodically by waves of heavier activities.
The other major factor is deciding on the style of your campaign, like for example is it going to be engaging with the targeted audience which we refer to as ‘guerrilla campaign’ or is it going to be a standard one where your audience will sense it but not be able to engage in it.
From here, the factor of integration plays an important role, where marketers should integrate their campaign with their company structure and change the norms of a business day to match the theme of the campaign, assuming their theme has been founded through ‘visual marketing’ already.
The last but surely not the least will be the right deadline of the campaign, all of that is done with the assumption that the marketer’s campaign is actually based on an opportunity or a need to the audience as I said before. Marketers will prioritize the size and elements of their campaign based on their budget limitations as well they will only know how, why and where they are doing what they are doing after understanding the landscape they are in as I mentioned earlier.
Q: Some marketing campaigns in Kuwait have flopped throughout the years, why do you think this is so?
A: In Kuwait and the region, you often end up with an incomplete story of campaigns or missing elements, lack of strategic focus, weak integration and almost 99% of the time the companies start a campaign to promote an offer about their product leaving no chance for promoting the product itself which undermines the possibilities for consumers to perceive the actual value (benefits or beauty) of the product on its own standing.
The most common way of campaigns implemented in Kuwait has the classification of concentration with a level pattern and standard style, and it’s either promoting an offer, discount or a sale. I personally think consumers are overwhelmed by this, to the point that it makes their elasticity score quite low or brand them as “SCAMS!”, which leads in return to the campaign flopping.
Q: What do you think is the biggest obstacle that marketing faces in Kuwait and the region?
A: Most of the business modules in Kuwait and the region are traditional and do not follow the modern ones. I mentioned earlier that the traditional way of conducting business lacks customer focus and the focus is drawn more to the financial indicators or commercial objectives. That kind of focus usually leads the company to work out its activities on a short-term basis whereby a company will miss the long-term sustainability of customer orientation philosophy overtime.
Also, the severe resistance to change over at this side of the world doesn’t really help, along with the fact that failure isn’t accepted in the region’s culture and its seen as a dead end! Unlike the global markets where it’s considered as a starting point and a case study that needs to be analyzed in order to understand what caused it and what are the alternative solutions to prevent it from reoccurring.
Marketing is still emerging within the region, and the biggest obstacle would be the lack of sufficient knowledge on how to apply it properly.
Q: Home grown brands are said to be correct in terms of their business marketing module, but despite that, their impact on the economy is weak, why do you think this is so?
A: When international brands penetrated the local markets, consumers were able to identify the remarkable distinction in qualities, which is a turning point, as they now culturally trust foreign brands over local ones.
The consumer should be aware that supporting foreign brands doesn’t provide local economic sustainability, and the common concept of anything foreign is better than local is a dead wrong idea, consumers must know that foreign brands wouldn’t have been able to make it to the multinational arena without the initial support of its local customers in the first place.
Both consumers and local brand owners must find the balance between the local need and the level of support that should be given, demonstrated in demand.
Unfortunately in Kuwait and the region, you see a very slow development curve to local brands because of two main gaps, either the local brand is following the traditional business module where it never receives sufficient demand from consumers due to its inability to address their needs properly, or you will find successful local concepts that failed to remain part of the local economy due to their limited vision and the inability to see the true potential of their work.
For example, a famous online service founded in Kuwait achieved huge success but was sold for 170M USD more or less, that was too cheap! and a big loss in my opinion especially to the country’s economy. That brand had all the means to make it to the billion dollar figure platform, and just so you know, the company that bought it added as little as few optimizations that doubled its value today.
Particularly in Kuwait, you will find a lot of local bistro concepts that has superior standards and it really competes with other famous bistros, I think the local consumers and especially Kuwaitis should start their support from there.
Q: Let’s talk about the economic sustainability of the country, considering recent frightening indicators.
A: The indicators so far has shown stagnation, its only forecasts that will probably differ from the actual performance. However, the economic nature of Kuwait is strong and will be able to provide stability if needed, even if the economy is impacted, it will not be as bad as people think it might be.
Don’t forget that financial institutions in Kuwait are supported by the government, so there’s no way companies will lose parts of their capitals due to change in economy, unlike Europe and other parts of the world where economic turbulence urge companies to cut costs or reduce the salaries of employees in order to sustain their capitals.
Q: Message to concerned individuals?
A: Every concerned individual who is reading this has probably achieved a significant milestone in their respected positions, my message will be to remain passionate and always think on the long run!
* Anwar Hisham Al-Attar, 1989
* Double Major in Marketing and Business System Consultancy.
* Certified Marketing Professional from CMMP®
* Certified by the Center of Business and Economic Development – U.S.A.
* Member of the Institute of Professional Managers (IPM)
* Patent right for the “Domino Effect” theory in marketing, currently working on a publication addressing the subject.
By Ahmed Al-Naqeeb
Arab Times Staff