For du, 2015 was a good year, and 2016 is expected to be better. Unlike most other advertisers, the telecommunication company takes a different approach to award festivals. One of the examples is the 10th Dubai Lynx International Festival of Creativity, where the brand had entered the awards itself and walked home with one Grand Prix, and two each of Gold, Silver and Bronze. Last year du had over 17 international awards under its belt in addition to the regional awards including eight (three Golds, four Silvers and one Bronze) metals at the 2015 Dubai Lynx. Add to this, the fact that the UAE-born brand’s value increased to AED 1.69 billion in the year made 2015 a growth year, albeit not without its challenges.
Hala Badri, the Executive Vice President for Brand & Communications at du calls 2015 the year of the ‘perfect storm’. The decade-old telecom brand continued with its efforts to embrace the ‘My Number, My Identity’ initiative. “Our decision to deactivate users who were no longer registered with du had a positive outcome as we were able to solely engage those on our database who were active. As such, our ‘My Number, My Identity’ campaigns continued to engage our customers on an ongoing basis. The increase in our brand value indicated that we were doing something right from a market, customer and shareholder viewpoint. I am very optimistic that this will translate to growth in 2016,” she says.
The talks of an economically challenging 2016 is not worrying Ms Badri. She states, “For us, every year is a good year. Our management has always pushed for efficiency and has always made its goals very clear. This motivates us to do things differently, and to be more innovative in our approach.”
A People-First Approach
Whether it is consumers or employees, in every way, du has put people first. At the end of day, du is a challenger brand that decided to come to the market on its own, instead of tying up with any international brand, and was making foray in what appeared to be a highly saturated sector at the time.
“From day one, the management and the board knew what it wanted to be represented for. Our aim, from the very start was to add life to life, and make a difference by offering customers more choice in telecom operators over the incumbent who has had a national presence for 30 years. Our values included bringing choice and creating a segmented approach, and these had to reflect in the brand. We wanted to be surprising and do things differently, whether it was in our services or in the connection with the community. We wanted to be friendly and approachable, and not intimidating and egotistical,” says Ms Badri, as she recalls the first steps of building the brand.
She explains that du’s values not only included being transparent with its consumers in its brand promise and billing but also honest in its employee contracts. Employee engagement was top priority for du since its inception. “We had brought in Gallup to measure employee productivity. That has grown and put us on a global ranking, where we are doing better than some of the very old, global brands. It shows we are connecting with people in the right manner,” Ms Badri says.
The brand sees itself playing a different role to different people, in different situations. The first campaign du launched was about communication itself, making an analogy to water and its various forms. “This is how we looked at the brand at the time and how we acted upon it. We took on CSR even before we launched our commercial offer. No matter what the segment, we are bridging market and consumer need gaps,” Ms Badri asserts.
Digital Budgets On The Rise
du’s marketing strategy puts a premium on digital. The brand has been increasing its digital budgets, and the trend will continue in 2016. “We see value in the reach, frequency, and the precision targeting of the medium. We can track and tweak our digital campaigns to ensure we reach the right audiences, in the right manner, and at the right time,” Ms. Badri explains.
The increase in digital has come at a cost of other media. “As the media landscape evolves, so does our marketing strategy. We have definitely diversified our spend and focus in the last few years as digital gained prominence compared to more traditional media channels. At the end of the day, we are a technology company, and we should be able to effectively communicate with our consumers across the channels that they are most comfortable with,” she says.
Ms. Badri cautions that media strategies differ from segment to segment, and the channels used for the budget segment are very different from those used for premium. Social media however, has delivered for du, across all initiatives.
Staying true to its challenger spirit, du is among the early adopters that used social to interact with customers. du’s game-plan had speed in embracing new platforms and sensibility in using different social channels for different purposes. du’s commitment to social was seen when it created a smaller customer care backend that was authorized to respond to queries on social media and work with the tech team to resolve issues faster. Ms Badri informs, “It allows us to become human and create trust between us and the customer. We also used social to become closer with other like-minded enterprises and open up newer opportunities.”
A Journey Of Firsts
A guiding statement in du’s marketing philosophy is to not create a customer base but a fan base. And to achieve that, constantly challenging the status quo and looking for new and unprecedented angles was critical. According to Ms Badri, du has many firsts to its credit. Whether it be per-second billing, the family plan, the Emirati plan or the way it celebrates National Day and Ramadan, or its social media response, du intends to stay connected with its customers. She says, “We have put a KPI on social media turnaround time, so the response time is less than 10 minutes. We put very hard metrics to keep improving year-on-year. The customer is evolving fast, and we need to do these things to stay in pace with the consumer.”
du’s Awards Success In 2015
Film Craft Cannes Lions (for a second year in a row)
Black Cube (Best in Show), two Golds & two Silvers at the Art Directors’ Club of New York
Yellow Pencil (Gold), a Graphite Pencil (silver) & five Wooden Pencils (bronze) at the D&AD Awards
Four Gold awards at the New York Festivals World’s Best Advertising Awards