Saturday, May 19, 2012

Morsy; Branded as Egypt's CEO, not President

Away from the political debates taking place in Egypt nowadays, the Muslim Brotherhood presidential campaign, that campaign of Mohamed Morsy is, in my opinion, the best campaign when it comes to Marketing, and more specifically Political Branding.

Let's first find out what is Branding
A base definition of branding is provided by Dr. Margaret Scammell as “in marketing, a brand is the psychological representation of a product or organization: its symbolic rather than tangible use-value”. So in other words, if a product's price and quality are their tangible values, branding is any other intangible values beyond that. Take soft drinks as an example, most of the time their taste and prices are the same, so what makes you get this can of cola rather than that one? It's the brand, deep inside your mind one of them is associated with youth (people with skateboards in their advertisement), awesomeness (Lionel Morsy ... ehm, Messi), being different (Sprite advertisements aired nowadays), being smart, etc.

Morsy is the new CEO of Egypt
All other candidates are running for presidency, but Morsy is here to become Egypt's new CEO and not its president. This is how he is being sold to us, and there are obvious reasons behind that. The Egyptian constitution is yet to be written later on, and guess who is going to write it, the parliament whose majority are from the Ikhwan (Muslim Brotherhood), the same group who Morsy belong to. So till now, no body knows the job description of the upcoming president, hence they need more flexibility to have program that can be achieved either by the president, the parliament, or by them both, depending on the new constitution they will write later on. Another reason for marketing him this way is the fact that he was not their presidential candidate in the beginning. When the Brotherhood decided to enter the presidential race, Khairat El-Shater was their prime candidate, they then announced that Mohamed Morsy will be their secondary option, since there were doubts that El-Shater might not be accepted by the Elections Committee for legal reasons. Since then Morsy is widely known among most of the Egyptians as the Spare Tire, and he is being mocked all the time for being just a secondary option of the Brotherhood, and since he is not their first choice why voters should choose him. Add to this the traditions in the Brotherhood where they all follow the orders of its Supreme Leader, and Morsy shoudn't be an exception here. So the Brotherhood had more reasons to promote him as a CEO not president.

If you pay his campaign's website a visit you will find out the site's domain as well as the banner, all include the prefix Dr. before his name. It's very nice title to have in your C.V. when looking for an looking for a job as a Manager or Executive, but is it really needed when running for presidency? May be.
We write Arabic from right to left, so let's visit the campaign's website once more, what is the first link you encounter there? Morsy's qualifications? Nah. Morsy's latest news? Nah. What then? El-Nahda Project. So now you might wonder, are they promoting a president or a project?
Vote for El-Nahda Project
It's not Morsy who's being promoted here. It's not him whom the Brotherhood are selling to us. In fact, who is running for presidency and who is being promoted here is their Nahda Project. Now it is clear what brand the Brotherhood are promoting. And here comes our real analysis.

El-Nahda can be translated into Renaissance or Rising Up. It's the Brotherhood's vision, how they are going to build Egypt in the next 15 to 20 years (Notice, a president can stay for 4 to 8 years only). Once more, Morsy's slogan has no reference to himself, his slogan if translated into English will read, "Renaissance ...People's will". When Obama chose to focus on promising "Hope" and "Change" he knew that about 70% of the population thinks the country is going in the wrong direction, so those words were part of his brand. Here in Egypt, the sentiment among the people can be summarized in two points, on the one hand they are looking forward for a new regime that is not as corrupted as Mubarak's regime, a one that builds Egypt economically, but on the other hand a lot of people are blaming the revolution for the economical recession the country is experiencing nowadays, the lack of new investments, job openings, as well as lack of security. And I see the word renaissance as a word that is not as radical as revolution (the revolutionaries brand), yet not as Mubarak-related as stability. It's something in between. It promotes change, but a non-radical one. It also plays on that propaganda spread by the official media that Egypt is now at its worst, very low, down on the ground, dead, so it is time to bring it back to life and stand-up on its feet again.
One more thing; the same term, El-Nahda (Ennahda), is also used in Tunisia as the name of the Muslim Brotherhood's sister party there. So, seems that is has its own significance in the Ikhwany jargon as well.

Wheels of Production
Once more, economy is the keyword, people want better economy, and one word that has been used a lot in the past year and half is the Wheel or Gears of Production, it's a metaphor used a lot to refer to the economic state, and how the revolution and the protests have stopped this gear from revolving, hence the bad economy, so voilà, here you have got, not only one gear, but two of them in the logo.   

They know their market segment
Like any good marketing campaign, you have to know your audience, the market segment you want to target, and for them, one very important identification for target segment is that they are all Muslims. They stated it clearly in the logo that this renaissance is one with Islamic basis. For sure there are ready interpretations for this, it's Islamic renaissance that will treats all Egyptians regardless of their religion, etc. But mathematically speaking when it comes to a country with more that 80% of its populations and all you need is 50%+1 of the votes to win the elections, who cares? Also let's be frank, even if they try to, non-Muslims will not vote for them. It worth mentioning here that another candidate who is aware of his market segment is Ahmed Shafik, he also knows how to please that segment and care about no one else. He was Mubarak's prime-minister, so doesn't try to hide this, he says bluntly that he respects Mubarak, because he knows that those who respect Mubarak as he does are his main voters. Shafik's example here is better seen in contrast to Amr Moussa, who also was a minister during Mubarak era, yet he tries to please everyone, and he might not succeed in pleasing anyone at the end of the day.

The Campaign's Posters
Like Aboul Fotoh and Shafik they chose stick to certain colours in all their marketing collateral. But unlike those two candidates, the brotherhood's choice of colours has a message to deliver too. Everything is in Red, with text in black and white. The red is eye-catching, but also those are the colours of the Egyptian flag, and if you know how the Muslim Brotherhood are always accused of being funded by gulf countries and that they have their own agenda, and that they are looking forward for a regional pan-Islamic state, so the use of the Egyptian flag is needed here to reflect the patriotic and nationalistic aspects. 
As the biggest political group slash party in the country now, they do not lack funds or capacity to have their billboards everywhere in the streets of Egypt. And although, they are consistent in delivering the same message, they might tweak their banners add a phrase here or there to be more appealing to voters in different geographical areas and social classes.
Also in Egypt about 40% cannot read and right, so other than logos, we have symbols for candidates so those who cannot read and write can vote. The party of the Muslim Brotherhood is called Freedom and Justice, so they chose scales as their symbol. Easy to remember and adds more consistency to their campaign. 
The typeface used in writing the word Nahda, is a modern tweak of Andalus or Kufi fonts. Both are very old founts, and their names are bounded to historic and geographic locations when the Islamic civilization was in its peaks. I believe it is meant to stress on how they want to build the counties future using heritage of the past.Which is what the word renaissance means, add to this their stress on its Islamic roots.

The TV Advertisements
Candidates for sure make use of TV ads as part of their campaign, each try to appear in those videos and deliver short messages to the audience. But Morsy's ads are different, he is simply not there. Well, as we said earlier, it's not about Morsy it's about the Renaissance project, so they all have cheerful people in greenfield. You've got this video, with kids in greenfields. And kids here a symbol of bright future, renaissance. One of those videos ends with a banner of Morsy, and the other one where he silently appears at the end of the video, he is sitting on a desk, so CEO-esque, right?  The fact that Morsy is an executive working on the Brotherhood is also marketed sometimes to people as choosing him will make the president and the parliament work in more harmony, since they will be working on the same agenda and goals.
It worth mentioning here that another candidate, Hamdeen Sabahy, whose slogan is, One of us, so in many photos spread online for him or in his videos he is seen in protests, eating or talking with people in the streets, just ordinary person from the people. 

Related Resources

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Integrating Online & Offline Audiences

This year in re:publica, I attended a session by Janet Gunter (@JanetGunter) about integrating online & offline audiences. Janet started her session by giving example of a newspaper in Mozambique called Verdade (@verdademz), which literally means The Truth, a la the Russian Pravda, similar names but sure totally different approaches, and showing how they are able to integrating both their online and offline audiences.

According to Wikipedia, since 2001, Mozambique is one of the world's top ten for annual average GDP growth. However, Mozambique still has one of the lowest GDP per capita, one of the worst human development index and one of the highest inequality in the world. Janet highlighted how this results in a low internet penetration ratio there, she also added that Radio is more popular than television there, since it is cheaper. And like many other African countries they rely a lot on mobile phones and SMS's in their daily lives.

Back to Verdade. It started 3 years ago. They rely on tuk-tuks as a low budget distribution system that can reach rural areas easily. They sure have online presence whether via their website, twitter or Facebook page. But they also came out with new ways to engage with their readers outside the internet. Readers send them their comments via SMS, they also use text message for citizen reports. They also print their articles and publish them on walls, and readers comment and interact with them via writing on walls with chalk! The collect all those feedback channels and try to re-bring the voices of their readers to the masses

Another attendant to the session was Markos Lemma (@eweket). Markos is an Ethiopian blogger who also was having a session in re:publica this year about blogging in his country. In Ethiopia you can find bloggers like Abel Asrat who prints his blog posts to be able to reach larger audience there. He said, "When I get frustrated and discouraged with low reading statistics on my blog I start to print out my blogs and give to peoples to read it that in turn added more traffic to my blog"

Adam Thomas (@SourceAdam), who was also attending the session, and who works on creating open source tools for newsrooms, offered some other examples. West Africa Democracy Radio (W.A.D.R), which is based in Senegal, also have online presence in social networks and they use SoundCloud to both publish their programs online and to collect listeners feedback. But also they distribute their audio materials on CD's to reach the disconnected community. In Los Angeles, VozMob is a project aimed for immigrants and low wage workers there. It enables people to create stories about their lives and communities directly from cell phones, and to communicate them to a larger audience.

I highlighted two examples from Egypt, the first is Kazeboon (Militia are liars) and the second is called #TweetShare3 (Twitter in the Street). The former tries to set a sort of YouTube channels in the streets. They set data-shows, and screen videos of regime's brutality, where passengers gather to watch them and then have discussions (a la YouTube comments), the later tries to bring discussions taking place on twitter to people in the streets.

Débora Medeiros (@debmedeiros), who is a Brazilian studying in Germany also shared her ideas about the state of blogging in her country.

Finally, I think it worth mentioning that the case of integrating online and offline audiences is not only limited to poor countries or countries with low internet penetration. Even in countries where users are having the latest always-connected smart-phones there is a need to tie ones physical surrounding to the internet. During my stay in Berlin, I've noticed that QR Codes are so popular there, most of the advertisements in the streets and in the metro cars do have them, and for sure this is a way to reach offline audience and offer them short-cuts to your online presence. Raspouteam (@RaspouTeam) is a French project that uses QR codes, online maps and historical documents to connect important moments of French history online and in real life. In re:publica itself you've got what they called, an analogue twitter-wall.

Monday, May 7, 2012

RT Books

I was reading a book in an aeroplane on my way back to Cairo a couple of days ago, when I decided to write the following rules on it, before giving it to the passenger sitting next to me.
  1. You do not sell this book
  2. You give this book to someone else after you finish it
  3. You write those rules on books if not there before sharing them
  4. You add your name to the list of names of those who shared a book before you
  5. Enjoy reading the book now
What do you think of this book sharing idea?