Etisalat versus Du | Brand Messaging

Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is a prominent psychological theory used to explain human needs, motivation & behavior. According to this model, human needs can be divided into 5 key stages:


The theory posits that the lower needs have to be fulfilled in order to advance to higher levels. However, once the basic needs for survival (food, shelter, safety etc.) are met, we can constantly fluctuate between the higher need-states. For example, when searching for a new job or promotion, esteem needs are triggered.  Thinking about volunteering? That’s the self-actualization talking!

But how do brands tap into these human drivers?

Let’s take a look at the most established telecoms in the region – Etisalat & Du. Both brands’ recent advertising campaigns are given below:



 Etisalat’s key messaging taps into esteem needs – respect, recognition, prestige. This positioning fits the brand’s history, as it was the sole telecommunications provider for numerous decades, and is still the market leader  (TRA stats: Etisalat = 52.6% ).

Du’s messaging focuses more on belongingness needs – social connections & friendships. As Du started out as the contender in the region, this approach has helped differentiate the brand, maybe even helped them reach out to a different audience.

It’s also interesting to notice how strategies change when entering new markets – check out Etisalat’s advertising in Egypt as a new entrant, where the messaging emphasized day-to-day needs:

etisalat egypt


To all you marketers out there, where do you think your next campaign would fit? I’d love to hear!




The psychology behind the Google Glass backlash

Love it or hate it, everyone seems to have an opinion about Google Glass. With the product recently making headlines through a one-day sale, the introduction of a free trial period, and major changes in product design, this surge in attention is only fitting.  A significant portion of the consumer response has been negative, with privacy issues being the key concern; a recent poll has suggested that 72% of Americans would refuse Google Glass based on privacy reasons alone, with safety and distractibility issues following close behind.

I believe the strong response to the product is linked to a fear of the unknown, and the basic physiological fight-or-flight response that we all possess in the face of a perceived threat. Google Glass can be seen as an unknown ‘threat’ of sorts, as it has no predecessor, and using the product leads to a fundamental change in the way we understand and interact with the world around us.  Adapting to wearing Google Glass is another interesting challenge, as it requires the creation of a new set of behaviors, and does not build on any existing traditions (hello smartwatches!).

The strongest consumer backlash, however, has been directed towards Google Glass wearers within communities, with numerous public altercations, refusals of entry in bars and restaurants, and even muggings being reported. This can again be linked to the fight-or-flight response: imagine the feeling of being watched, unable to know whether you’re being recorded, filmed, or investigated. Sounds dramatic perhaps, but this is the mind’s split-second response to being in front of a Glass wearer. The key difference between Glass and other technological devices is our inability to easily understand whether the device is being used, which automatically creates a distrustful mindset towards the wearer.

Of course, there are numerous other factors behind Google Glass’s lack of success; it’s still in the initial stages of market penetration, with only a small percentage of early adopters having real access to the product. Moreover, the price is high; the marketing strategy is confusing, and the design could be improved. However, solving these issues won’t have a significant impact until the basic product is modified to resolve the psychological barriers that have impeded its success.

Should you get Google Glass?

Here’s a simple Venn diagram to help you with the question!   should-i-get-a-google-glass


 This article has also been published in Al Bawaba Business & Arabian Gazette

Facebook’s new redesign | Why make ads look like posts?

Facebook has recently introduced a host of changes to the home page, specifically to the right-hand side ads – these are now bigger, aligned differently, and allow you to like the page directly.

Here’s a quick comparison of old versus new:

Image        Image

The new right-hand side ads have the same overall shape as regular news feed posts – which increases user engagement by up to 3 times, according to Facebook News.

But why is making an ad look like a post so effective?

Let’s explore the psychological concept of schemas, which are mental frameworks that help us organize and interpret information.  For example, a child might develop a schema for a bird as having a feathered body, wings, short legs and a beak. So whether the child sees a crow, an ostrich or a seagull, the schema helps him/her understand that these are all birds. Schemas are also called building blocks of knowledge.

Similarly, most Facebook users have developed a schema for a regular post or status update from their friends or family on the news feed. My schema would go something like this –  A funny/interesting/sad text description, large image below, a button to like or comment below that.  You’ll notice that the new Facebook ads follow the same schema! This could be why we’re more inclined to look at these ads, as they confuse our existing schemas for Facebook posts versus ads (my old schema for Facebook ads – boring, lots of text, small image)

So, with the new ad design, I might automatically associate some qualities associated with regular posts (interesting, funny, engaging content) with the ad, and read it anyway. However, we constantly adapt our schemas based on new information, so this is bound to change in the future!

What do you think of Facebook’s ad re-design? I’d love to hear 🙂