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

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!



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 🙂