Brand Positioning and the Plutchik Wheel

Robert Plutchik’s wheel of emotions showcases a wide spectrum of human emotion, and the various ranges within each category. The 7 primary emotions are shown in the centre, and peripheral emotions indicate a combination of multiple primary emotions. For example, optimism would be a combination of anticipation and joy (a hard combination to beat!)

Where would your brand positioning fit? Go ahead, mark your spot 🙂

plutchik wheel


Spending patterns of UAE residents revealed

What determines how, where and why we spend on the things we do? When we talk about consumer segmentation in the UAE, the focus is typically on demographic-based information, such as age, income, nationality or occupation. While these characteristics are important as a first step to understand consumers, I believe there are psychological factors that have a large impact on segmentation, and can produce unifying behaviors even among a seemingly diverse group of people.

I’d like to explore the concept of spending patterns in the UAE through the creation of 5 behavior-based personas, which are purely based on observations of behavior patterns when it comes to spending habits.

Super Savers

Favorite Quote: Save big, spend wisely

These are cost-conscious individuals that make saving a priority. Typically family-oriented, and could live with family in the UAE, or send money back home. Prioritize affordable yet comfortable housing, but prestige is not important. Engage in frequent leisure outings, such as meet-ups with family and friends at familiar locations, but heavy spending is reserved for special occasions. When it comes to shopping, value for money is key. Investing in long-term goals and stable, low-risk strategies for financial security are significant drivers.

#YOLO Experiencers

Favorite Quote: Spend well – you only live once

These individuals live for the moment, and spend on experiences they find unique and interesting. This could be the latest restaurant, a new outdoor activity, a coveted vacation spot, or anything else that pertains to their interests. Time is valued, hence they seek out the best opportunities available. Saving is not a big priority, as the focus is on short-term goals; however, a level of financial independence is maintained to sustain spending activities. Fulfilling individual goals and supporting peer group aspirations are strong drivers.

Image-driven buyers

Favorite Quote: Spend to be seen

These individuals spend to achieve and maintain prestige, reputation and peer admiration. Typically spend larger amounts, but in a planned manner– whether it be on shopping, leisure activities, housing, or other investments. Brand recognition and loyalty are the strongest within this group, and ample research is done before a brand becomes a regular staple in the individual’s buying pattern. Financial security is a priority, but typically takes the form of targeted investments versus long-term saving schemes.

Deal Hunters

Favorite Quote: Spend smart

These individuals are generally on the lookout for the best deals to spend in a smart, efficient manner. Cost-conscious to an extent, but also interested in a variety of luxurious or thrill-seeking experiences. Trust and transparency from brands are most important to this group, as the quality of deals is valued very highly. They are the key audience for deal-based sites, along with radio/social media competitions and sweepstakes. Typically have a tight-knit social circle to share experiences. Focus on achieving a balance between spending, saving and investing.

Casual Spenders

Favorite Quote: Spend on small luxuries

These individuals spend on routine, but enjoyable experiences. Typically have fixed spending patterns for big-ticket items, but can be prone to impulse buying for smaller purchases. Aim to maintain a casual, relaxed lifestyle, and put in some thought to plan finances accordingly. Quality and reliability are of key importance, hence this group is strong on repeating purchase patterns and behavior – be it restaurants, shopping, housing, vacation destinations etc. Focus on maintaining a fairly steady pool of financial resources, hence are careful with larger purchases to avoid disrupting these patterns; appreciate convenience and value over prestige.

It can be possible to identify with more than one of the five personas, based on your current circumstances. As this is a purely observational study, there is definitely scope for more in-depth research into the characteristics and causes behind each persona.

Also published on Kipp Report

The Evolution of Brand Dubai

With the recent launch of Dubai’s new brand logo and identity, it is only fitting to examine the social, cultural and economic factors that have shaped Dubai’s image. Rapid growth and development over the past decades has established Dubai as a global trade, tourism and finance hub, and set a new lifestyle precedent in the region.


Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is a prominent psychological theory that seeks to understand human motivation & behavior. This theory views human needs in the form of a pyramid, divided into 5 key stages: biological/physiological, safety, belongingness/love, esteem and self-actualization needs. These needs are arranged in an ascending order, wherein the needs at the base of the pyramid have to be fulfilled in order to advance to higher levels. The lowest needs are the most basic such as food, air and shelter, followed by safety, which includes security, law & order, protection and stability.

Love and belongingness come next, which include relationships with family, friends, and the community. These are followed by esteem needs, such as achievement, status, reputation and responsibility. The highest needs are those of self-actualization, or personal fulfillment – think of this as “being all you can be” and reaching your full potential. These needs can be represented by any number of activities, from volunteerism and spirituality to entrepreneurship. We can also fluctuate between these need-states based on our current circumstances. For example, when searching for a new job or promotion, esteem needs are triggered. Thinking about volunteering, or turning your passion into a business? That’s the self-actualization talking!

Brands often tap into these human drivers. For example, Coca-Cola’s long-standing “Open Happiness” campaign specifically targets love and belongingness needs. When it comes to cities or countries, I believe they too, like humans, go through these stages as they evolve, and position themselves in one or more categories. Dubai is currently at the esteem stage, and on the precipice of entering the self-actualization space.

Let’s go back to 1990: Dubai was an up-and-coming city, with sectors such as banking, telecom, aviation and healthcare beginning to grow and flourish. This could be seen as the “safety” phase, where the city was established as a safe, secure environment to live & work. By this time, most regional banks had established a presence, government hospitals were thriving, and the telecom networks were in place.

Over the next decade, the “social/belongingness” phase began, with the establishment of major family-owned retail outlets, restaurants, community clubs, schools, parks and more. From retailers such as LuLu Group & Spinneys to community malls such as Burjuman and Al Ghurair Centre, from the proliferation of SMEs to the increase in schools & cultural associations for locals and expatriates; this phase strengthened the presence of various communities within the city.

The year, 2000 marked the beginning of Dubai’s ascent into the “esteem” phase, with business hubs such as Dubai Internet City and Dubai Media City being established. This decade also marked the development of major commercial, tourism and residential areas including DIFC, The Dubai Mall, Jumeirah Beach Residences, Palm Jumeirah and Downtown Dubai, to name a few. This phase continues even today, with new developments taking place all around us.

With a range of unique experiences being made possible in the city, Dubai will enter the self-actualization phase very soon. The first indoor air-conditioned city was recently announced, along with the Dubai Design District and the first mall by the beach. I’m sure many more experiences will encapsulate this phase going forward. Of course, it is important to note these phases can co-exist; think of your neighborhood grocery store, or a traditional souk, or even your favorite shawarma joint – the belongingness aspect definitely remains an integral part of the city.

As a proud resident of this wonderful city for the past 20 years, I look forward to seeing what comes next as Dubai enters into the stage that fulfills the highest level of needs for itself and its residents.

This article was also published in Communicate 

Coke’s new advertisement – An unusual approach to address obesity


Coke’s new advertisement attempts to transform guilt into reward – by making people feel like they “earned” their Coke through a 23 minute bike ride, the can of Coke becomes a deserved reward rather than a guilty pleasure. This brilliant move also brings the calorie conversation out in the open, tackling issues of obesity and sedentary lifestyles head-on. Rather than shying away from the brand’s impact on consumer health, this ad manages to communicate these issues in a fairly honest way, stressing the importance of moderation and physical exercise. On the flip side, the noticeable absence of any overweight or obese participants in the ad does bring some ethical issues to mind.

This article has also been published in Arabian Gazette

WhatsApp versus BBM: The Diffusion of Innovation

With Facebook’s recent acquisition of WhatsApp for USD 19 billion, it is only fitting to examine the reasons behind the extensive reach & popularity of this messaging application. With just over 450 million users worldwide, WhatsApp clearly surpasses the 85 million user base of BlackBerry Messenger (BBM).

If we go back to 2009, however, things were slightly different; BBM was at its peak, and many of us can recall purchasing BlackBerry devices solely to stay connected on BBM.  The initial version of WhatsApp was released that same year, and the user base shifted drastically over the past 5 years.

What could have caused this rapid consumer shift to WhatsApp?

I believe Everett Rogers’ Diffusion of Innovation theory could serve as an explanatory tool. According to this theory, new ideas & innovations spread within a society through five distinct groups: innovators, early adopters, early majority, late majority and laggards.

Innovators are the first individuals to adopt a new innovation; they are typically from a higher social class with greater financial liquidity, and have significant access to technology and innovation centers. Early adopters are the next group of socially connected, tech-savvy influencers that spread the word to the early majority, after which the innovation scales organically through the late majority and laggards.


There are five factors that determine why, how, and at what rate a new idea or technology will move through this curve: relative advantage, compatibility, complexity, trialability & observability.

A quick comparison of WhatsApp versus BBM on each of these attributes can serve to make the consumer shift a bit clearer.

 Relative Advantage: the degree to which a new idea is perceived as superior to the idea that it replaces

The launch of BBM introduced consumers to a revolutionary new way of communicating with friends & family across the globe, instantly making basic SMS technology seem redundant. BBM was a cost-effective, simple way to stay connected with other BlackBerry users.

The launch of WhatsApp brought a new level of convenience to mobile messaging technology by being compatible across multiple platforms, and having an automatic way to add contacts without a PIN system. Timing also played a key role – with the release of the first iPhone in 2007, and the first Android phone in 2008, the compatibility across all devices proved to be an invaluable relative advantage for WhatsApp over BBM.

While BBM has recently introduced cross-platform applications, it has proven to be a bit too late – one can only imagine what could have happened if this was done a few years ago!

Compatibility: the degree to which a new idea is perceived as consistent with the existing values, experiences, and needs of potential adopters

BBM paved the way in this aspect, creating an ideal target base of smartphone customers familiar with mobile messaging applications. The advent of iPhones & Android devices led to a consumer base looking for similar alternatives, wherein WhatsApp was the clear winner. The only compatibility issue WhatsApp could have is privacy concerns, since contacts are automatically added without prior permission.

Complexity: the degree to which an innovation is perceived as difficult to understand

Both applications are quite simple to access, use, and communicate with; hence both fare equally on this factor.

Trialability: the degree to which an innovation may be experimented with on a limited basis

WhatsApp has a $0.99 yearly charge, however, this seems insignificant in comparison to actually having to purchase a BlackBerry device to access BBM (up until recently, of course). In addition, WhatsApp offers a 1-year free trial, allowing consumers to easily try the product.

Observability: the degree to which the results of an innovation are visible to others.

 Word-of-mouth is an extremely strong component that can drive or deter innovations, whether this takes place through face-to-face interactions, news commentary or social media. The advent of WhatsApp, along with the evolution of the smartphone industry led innovators & early adopters within our social circles to endorse WhatsApp, thereby creating a social pressure to switch to WhatsApp – think of that person in your social group that convinced you to switch!

Overall, WhatsApp proved superior across all 5 factors, leading to its advent over BBM. The next challenge for the application would be to stay relevant against the “next generation” of apps – Viber, Snapchat, WeChat and the like. However, the battle against BBM has been won.

This article has also been published in Arabian Gazette

The 6 types of social media sharers

When it comes to social media, what you share, how frequently you share, and the networks you use to share can indicate more about your personality than you might think.  According to a recent study by Statpro, there are six types of social media sharers: altruists, hipsters, careerists, boomerangs, selectives and connectors.

In a nutshell, altruists are reliable, helpful individuals who share minimally via email, hipsters are creative, young influencers that use the latest social media tools, while careerists are tech-savvy business networkers that primarily use LinkedIn. Boomerangs are frequent sharers that derive self-expression and fulfillment through social media, connectors use social media as an organizing tool to manage their offline lives, and selectives share informational content through various platforms.

Each category has a familiar prototype – ever noticed that person on your feed who seems to have an update (or more) every hour? That’s probably a boomerang! Or the intellectually inclined individual who uses social media to debate major world issues? He/she would be categorized as a selective sharer.

The top reasons for sharing include value & entertainment, promoting causes, building relationships, self-fulfillment and identity expression.


Do you think social media behavior is based on personality traits? What category would you fall under? I’d love to hear 🙂

This article has also been published in Arabian Gazette

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 🙂