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By Ganesh Iyer, Managing Partner of FLC Group.

For Gulf Marketing Review. 

Yes, you read it right. The CMO position is dying, welcome the new CXO. Marketing is no more only about the 5Ps we learnt in business schools. Consumers have evolved and so has the sales and marketing process.

When The Coca-Cola Company initiated its Global Innovation Group in 1995, their focus was to find ways to grow within the existing non-alcoholic beverage category. A major part of the R&D commercialisation was done internally and with established strategic suppliers. This was typical of how innovation was done at Fortune 1,000 companies back in the day.

The pattern of marketing has changed too over the years. It has moved from a hard selling concept which involved selling goods to consumer benefits approach, to a more ‘Consumer Experience’ driven approach. Today, it is not just about pull or push, but more about building a relationship and delivering on that. The role of the CMO is not confined to creating communication to attract customers, it is now about creating stories to stay relevant to customers and deliver a brand experience.

This ‘experiential’ consumption is driven by the millennial generation. They tend to define themselves by what they experience rather than by what they own. This has created opportunities for the brand to be ‘customer-centric’. This is where the newly defined role of the CMO comes in.

The role needs to be redefined as ‘Chief Consumer Experience Officer – the CXO’, because their major goal would be to analyse the consumer journey and deliver a ‘wow’ worthy experience. Memorable storytelling, excellent knowledge of the brand and communicating the same to the consumer in-store, enhancing the experience through digital and employing omni-channel strategies are new ways to reach today’s customers.

PWC’s latest report released this year states that 82 per cent of the top-performing companies pay attention to the human experience surrounding digital tech. Also, 42 per cent of executives see IoT as disruptive to their business model. In today’s multi-touchpoint, multichannel, always-on, hyper-connected consumer markets, there has been an explosion of potential customer interaction points – across new channels, devices, applications, making the consistency of service and experience across channels impossible.

This is where digital enhances these interaction points. Modern technology offers many opportunities to enrich the experience even further, especially since it is developing at breakneck speed.

Customer experience is said to overtake price and product as a key brand differentiator by 2020 and 89 per cent of companies will compete on customer experience. According to research by Accenture, 87 per cent of the consumer surveyed stated that brands need to create a more consistent ‘omnichannel’ experience across all touch points.


Voice-enabled assistance

There’s already a trend of using ‘voice enabled’ assistance – digital assistants are on the rise and grew in 2016, with Siri, Alexa and Google Assistant. Even though these assistants will evolve in the future, the human touch will be omnipotent to offer more advanced forms of services while robots take care of basic customer care. Google CEO Sundar Pichai announced during his Google I/O 2016 keynote that 20 per cent of mobile queries are voice searches and the ratio of voice search is growing faster than type search.

Seamless digital strategy

Digital will no more be a division under marketing; it will run across the organisation. All consumer touchpoints will need to deliver the same brand experience; it is no more only marketing’s role.

Social media marketing

Connecting with the consumers over social media has become a basic necessity for brands and businesses. Millennials are changing the digital advertising world; with incredible purchasing power and specific interests, this generation is much more likely to communicate their ideas and feelings over social media platforms.

Research shows that the impact of traditional advertising had dropped. When trying to figure out whether something is worth buying, millennials will go to their friends and social networks to see what people think. This can be used as an opportunity for your next targeted campaign for them.

Video Content

Using storytelling is key for enhanced customer experience. Most marketers understand that online videos have the full potential to help improve their reach and engagement with customers. And as a result, increasing their investment in the digital video space.

According to Cisco, video will account for 69 per cent of all consumer traffic. Video, as many believe, is the future of content marketing. This is the quickest way of satisfying one’s information/entertainment needs. Youtube receives 1 billion unique visitors every month, this is more than any other channel besides Facebook. One can now upload videos longer that 15 minutes on Youtube.

With the introduction of Facebook Live and Instagram videos, live video marketing is fast becoming popular among brands too. This gives customers and fans/followers real-time access to brands and companies, creating more transparency and authentic engagement.


E-commerce will help gather more information about the consumer. The National Retail Federation predicts that online retail will grow from eight to 12 per cent, compared to brick-and-mortar retail, which is expected to grow at just 2.8 per cent. Stores and brands will increasingly collect customer data in 2020. Detailed profiles based on purchases in the past important lessons about consumer behaviour from IoT will help equip brands better.

Augmented reality and virtual reality

AR and VR are enhancing and transforming the shopping experience as we know it. A recent demonstration of AR technology by startup Magic Leap showed how a user could superimpose virtual models of lamps and other room décor atop a real-world dresser, with the digital objects shown to scale, to help the user determine how those items might look within the space. They can explore the brick-and-mortar store from the comfort of their couches. It’s not far from when AR and VR will reach your living room and be on your handheld devices.

Drone delivery

Drones will make delivery easier and even returning packages will be much easier in the future than it is now.

Artificial intelligence

IBM’s Watson is already analysing ‘unstructured’ data, including social media posts, videos and images, which are among the largest and fastest-growing forms of consumer communication. This offers marketers a closer look at the consumer mindset, including how and when consumers want to engage with brands. Accenture research on the impact of AI in 12 developed economies reveals that AI could double annual economic growth rates in 2035 by increasing labour productivity by up to 40 per cent and enable people to make more efficient use of their time.

Data-driven marketing:

Big Data is said to dominate marketing in a few years and we have access to tools that are helping us to move beyond big data, to aggregate and process data at a faster pace, in real time, across a broader set of touchpoints.

Data harmonisation:

In order to understand the customer journey – which is inherently seamless – you need to be able to see trends and the cause and effect across data sets. This means you need to bring all your data together in one platform, and link up fields where they are similar – such as ‘campaign name’ or ‘country’. For a true view of your customers, budgets and campaigns, you need to harmonise your data.

Thus, the fact is the CMO role is no more about marketing. It’s more about delivering the brand experience to consumers. Long live the consumer. Welcome the new CXO.

The views expressed by the author are his own and do not necessarily represent those of Gulf Marketing Review. The article appeared in the Sep 2017 issue of GMR. 



Why marketers are focusing on Experiential Marketing

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Traditional marketing practices such as television, radio and print advertising are known to be a form of communication that deliver the brand’s message either verbally or visually. Experiential marketing on the other hand helps the brand engage with the consumer by interacting with them through as many senses possible. Instead of merely receiving information on the brand and its products, experiential marketing aims to create a series of events where consumers are provided with the opportunity, to taste, touch, learn and experience the product prior to making the purchasing decision.

More often than not, experiential marketing was known to be used by brands to supplement traditional marketing campaigns. However, over time brands have started to understand how independent experiential marketing programs can also strongly influence their consumers.

The primary reasons for this can be identified as the following:

  • Statistics from Blackjack Promotions state that 89% of consumers want to try a product before they buy it.
  • Brands are starting to sense how difficult it is to connect with consumers through traditional marketing methods, as they grow more and more likely to block and ignore ads.

As stated by the CMO of Mastercard, Raja Rajamannar, with the amount of clutter the consumers have to cut through on a daily basis, their attention span has reduced to 6 seconds. In order to inspire the consumer in that amount of time, it is imperative for a brand to develop customer relationships by allowing them to co-create the brand’s marketing program. This in-turn will imbed a memorable and emotional link in the consumer’s mind about the brand.

An article on AdWeek identifies how several brands such as, Jaguar, Absolut, Mastercard and more have started investing in experiential marketing to work on creating a substantial relationship with the consumer in order to induce customer loyalty. This is primarily because through experiential marketing brands can have a conversation with the consumers where there is dialogue going back & forth hence allowing them to listen and understand their needs, wants or concerns.

Having said all of the above, in today’s day & age the importance of social media has slightly altered the KPIs for experiential marketing. Brands have noted that if the experience isn’t being documented and amplified on social platforms the exercise becomes worthless.


Transformed Trailer Sneaker Stores



In order to spread the story of Run Signature, a campaign that celebrates individual athletic needs, Brooks Running created a mobile store that allows consumers from all over to get a look at its various sneaker styles, and even take part in physical tests to determine which is best for them.

The pop-up was able to be easily transported throughout the United States as it was built within a trailer, which was covered in Brooks Running’s branding, as well as a series of vivid colors to attract attention to it. As Run Signature’s intention is to match consumers with their perfect Brooks Running shoes, all of the models were clearly marked within the pop-up to designate the type of support they would offer.

In addition to the useful tests and the expansive range of shoes to choose from, the pop-up featured interactive games and giveaways to increase consumer engagement.


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Furnished City Campaigns

  • IKEA launched an initiative that involved dressing up the streets with its vibrant decor. IKEA set up 11 activations across the city, which included making public benches more comfortable with the addition of pillows and using a FIKA cart to share complimentary hot drinks and freshly baked cinnamon buns. As part of the campaign, IKEA also had an artist construct an entire installation from Allen keys and gave some local forms of transportation more comfortable makeovers.



Fast Beauty Maker Labs

The Essence Maker Shop was a consumer engagement-focused pop-up recently hosted by the fast beauty brand in its home country of Germany. Launched in the country’s capital, Berlin, the charming experience allowed brand fans to co-create and customize a variety of products. Inspired by the DIY movement and the spirit of the youthful brand, the pop-up experience featured lab coats for the attendees to wear as they traveled between stations.

The experience allowed individuals to explore flavors, colors and textures, creating a product of their liking. Given the experimental nature of the beauty world in the age of tutorial videos, the Essence Maker Shop is the perfect campaign to connect with customers in the spirit of exploration and experimentation that drives the online beauty community forward.





Increase consumer acquisition!

Brand activations represent perfect opportunities to increase consumer acquisition, and start ongoing conversations that most brands are already creating.

Here are just a few examples of brand activations that have been happening around the world this week.


Dr. Marten’s new flagship store is being called an “experimental store,” as it features limited-edition designs that are exclusive to this new location, special artwork, a GIF photo booth and even a customization station where customers may personalize their old or new Dr. Martens shoes. The space also includes VR experiences from Oculus that let fans take a virtual tour of the brand’s factory in the UK. Read to find out more-


To celebrate the launch of its new Get the Gang Back Together campaign, Diet Coke staged a girl’s night in event at London’s Athenaeum Hotel.

The Diet Coke Penthouse welcomed some of the biggest fashion and media influencers in the UK and treated them to a Diet Coke bar, a fashion illustration station, the Diet Coke Glam Room for manicures and makeovers and giant balloon decorations that spelled out “FRIENDS.”

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Personal care brand, Burt’s Bees, Inc. set up an interactive ‘Wall of Kisses’ in the UK.

The Wall of Kisses boasts three different components: a touchscreen “magic mirror” that features lip-tracking software to digitally add color to one’s lips, a photo montage and individual consultation areas where consumers may try real versions of the product and get expert advice from on-site makeup artists.


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We’ve got more activations coming up next week. Stay tuned!

Marketing Promotion Approvals!

In my last article we discussed about planning a sweepstakes campaign, a lot of people in the last couple of days have come back requesting for details on what are the regulations and how should one go about taking necessary approvals for the same. In today’s article we try to share details about ‘how to go about taking necessary approvals to run any marketing promotion campaign.

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We all understand that while the planning of a promotion is important to drive sales objectives, it’s equally important to have the necessary approvals in place. The region we are in has a lot of regulations in terms of sweepstakes campaigns – be it simple price offer, scratch-n-win or a raffle draw. The authority in UAE for all marketing promotion approvals is the Department of Economic Development and similarly in GCC region we have the Municipality (Baladiya). In UAE it’s imperative to take approvals from all different Emirates if you are planning to run the campaign across UAE.

The process starts from having the right documents in place and then submitting the same to Department of Economic Development (DED), stating details of the mechanics, the prizes, value of the same etc. And ultimately to close the promotion – 60 days from last day of the activation, submission of acknowledgement receipts and Valid ID copy of winners

Following are the documents one needs for DED approvals, and all documents need to be in Arabic;

  1. Application form or undertaking form, needs to be on company letter-head
  2. Request Letter on Brand/ Company letter-head
  3. Period of campaign
  4. Mechanics
  5. Location and date of draw (in case of raffle draw)
  6. Number of prizes/ winners and allocation by Emirates in cases campaign is in multiple Emirates
  7. Value of Prizes along with a proof of value (could be a quotation from the supplier)
  8. Copy of the coupon, marketing collaterals with details of terms & conditions along with ‘Consumer rights logo of all the Emirates included in the campaign (Should be in Arabic)
  9. NOC from the locations where the activity is happening- could be from the head office of each chain of retail outlets, in case of activity being in a mall – NOC from the Mall management. NOC to be on venue letter head, stamped and signed.
  10. Valid trade license copy – Abu Dhabi issued TL for Abu Dhabi/Al Ain and Western region and Dubai TL can be used for all other Emirates

If the promotion involves food/ sampling, then necessary approval needs to be taken from the Food Control Department too and following is the procedure;

  1. Application form
  2. Request Letter from Client in company letter head including:
  3. Mechanics (duration and locations)
  4. HACCAP certificate for the product (if the product is produced locally)/ Normal Release Document (NRD) if the product is from outside
  5. Samples to be submitted at Food Control Department – quantity differs from Emirate to Emirate. The production and expiry date of the samples should be of the same consignment as of the NRD
  6. Valid trade license copy – Abu Dhabi issued TL for Abu Dhabi/Al Ain and Western region and Dubai TL can be used for all other Emirates

The above list is not exhaustive, so always keep ample buffer time to take necessary approvals.

In different emirates the cost of approval differs depending on the period of the campaign. Like in Dubai we currently have a DFRE calendar (Dubai Festivals & Retail Establishment) which covers the key promotion period from DSF, DSS, Ramdan, Eid in Dubai to all major festivals/ sale periods. Similarly in Abu Dhabi, Sharjah and other emirates they have their calendar. These are easily available in the respective DED offices.

To understand the regulations better, do also get hold of a copy of the Marketing Promotion Regulations from each Emirate/ Municipality to understand what’s allowed and what’s not.

It might seem tedious and complicated, but if the process is followed and if all documents are prepared well in advance the process is smooth.


Author: Ganesh Iyer


Engaging consumers has always been a herculean task for brands and marketers. Today it has become increasingly difficult to impact their choices and decisions, as the modern consumer is both savvy and skeptical when it comes to purchase and brand loyalty.
This paradigm shift in consumer behavior, in the digital era, has given rise to influencer marketing – the fastest way to grow a brand’s consumer base.

But, before partnering with an influencer, it is imperative to understand the Dos and Don’ts when working with them.

While it can be a cost-effective form of marketing and one of the best ways to build brand awareness, Influencer Marketing when done right, produces great impact & greater results!


Problems arise when marketers and brands have no clear objective and strategy. Studies have found that highly targeted and strategic word-of-mouth marketing generates better sales than advertising.

With an increasing number of brands looking at collaborating with influencers or implementing blogger programs, it is always good to know what to look for when selecting the right influencer for your brand / product.


Relevant Profile:

Choosing an influencer whose profile matches your brand/product is the first step in the right direction.

While researching a prospective influencer’s background, bear in mind the following:

– What is his/her online reputation? What are the past successes?

– What type of content is being shared?

– Is he/she engaging with other brands? If so, which ones?

– Do the existing followers resemble your brand’s profile, or do they look like consumers who might use your product/services or tell others about it?

Understanding an influencer’s personal brand will help us decide whether they will fit into your brand culture. It will also help us approach them with a more personal touch—a win-win effort.

Engagement Level:

Selecting someone based only on the number of their online friends or followers can misfire. These days it is easy to increase number of followers and/or likes by just buying them off the shelf.

Thus it is also important to check the influencer’s engagement levels, and percentage of active followers before deciding to collaborate.

Quality of Content:

Brands and marketers should look for quality content written by the influencer, with great engaging photographs or video content they have made on their own.

This content needs to fit in with their profile & theme, and be relevant for followers. In order for a collaboration to be successful, it is important to co-create content that is authentic to your brand, as you do not want content to look promoted and fake and thereby, adding no value to followers.



Treat Influencers unlike real people:

Influencer marketing is all about building relationships with real people. Influencers are living, breathing human beings and not some faceless brand or company. They have feelings too and deserve to be treated like real people.

Their their ideas and insights need to be taken into consideration when creating content, as they know their followers well.

Strike a rapport with them. Treat them like you would treat a friend. Find out what makes them tick, their likes and dislikes.

The most important thing is to involve them in the strategic thinking process – share your objectives and business goals, and give them the creative freedom to come up with an authentic messaging for your brand/campaign.

Influencers who are treated with respect become genuine advocates for the brands they write about.

Have ambiguity when communicating your brief:

Brand and marketers tend to get vague and ambiguous when developing and executing an influencer campaign.

Getting the best results from your influencer depends on simple, clear and concise communication objectives, achievable goals and impact measurement guidelines.

Your briefing document must contain clearly outlined timelines, deliverables, and every information the influencer will need to understand what is required of them.

A good briefing document should also mention the content theme, style and mood boards with set guidelines, so that the influencer can co-create content that aligns with your brand values.

Influencer marketing has massive potential to give your brand the boost it needs, however, a well-planned strategy & well-defined goals teamed with the right influencer will not only increase consumer acquisition, but also raise the credibility and profile of your brand with all key stakeholders.

Influencer marketing makes it possible for brands to connect with consumers, and grow their online presence organically.



Author: Ganesh Iyer

Have you ever considered doing Sweepstakes Marketing?

From Retail Stores to Beauty Brands to FMCG Brands, there are many small and big brands that have used and continue to use Sweepstakes as a part of their marketing mix, successfully. Sweepstakes are a type of contest where one grand prize or multiple smaller spot prizes are given away, to people as part of a marketing campaign. Call it scratch-n-win or raffle draw or the new age ‘digital draws’

  1. It is a great tool to engage with the audience: In addition to increasing the sheer number of people who interact with the brand, a contest provides the means to deepen the connection as well. It gives the brand the needed ‘buzz’ factor
  2. Sweepstakes may be a great way for sponsors to collect fan information during activation or an event leading to data capture that they will be beneficial for future campaigns. It provides valuable Market Research and strengthens the relationship between brand and consumer
  3. With the lure of a prize, many people are prepared to share information as part of the entry process. Remember that what you ask should be commensurate with what you offer in return. In addition to collecting data as part of the entry process, you can also learn a great deal from the interaction and conversation that takes place around your contest, so be sure to listen in
  4. Contests and sweepstakes are lucrative in every market situation, but these have to be planned in advance to be executed successfully
  5. Creating a set of predetermined goals will allow you to determine whether your campaign was successful once it done

Tracking your goals can be in the form of a simple spreadsheet, tracking your progress so far.

Use eye catching imagery to spread awareness and promote the campaign along with call to action.

Depending upon the value of the prize, you may want to consider drawing more than one Winner. Having more than one winner motivates people to enter as it increases the chances of winning.  Even instant winners is a big draw

When choosing the Duration of your sweepstakes, keep a few things in mind –  If you run it for a short period of time, less people will have a chance to enter. If you run it for too long, people will may lose interest or forget about the contest. It’s worth testing different time periods for your contest to identify what works best for your audience.

To take it one step further brands are now jumping on the ‘video content’ bandwagon as video contests are predicted to lead the sweepstake trend this year.

One of our brands recently executed a contest that asked fans to create 30 seconds videos explaining how they will help create a better world as part of the campaign. Now that’s a contest to engage customers.

Given the continual rise of social media and Google’s ever-changing algorithm, quality content play an integral role in these activities especially for companies looking to leverage the interweb as an effective marketing and communications channel.

Fortunately, contests that rely on user-generated content can help companies rapidly scale and promote original content in a fun ways that benefits both you and your audience.

Besides great content this can result in long-term relationships with your audience and customers as well.

Here is an example of a Sweepstakes contest done right.

Dove’s ‘Real Beauty Should Be Shared” contest on Facebook hit the branding bull’s-eye. They ran a fill-in-the-blank contest with photos. They asked their Fans to tell them why they think their friend “represents Real Beauty,” by filling in their friend’s name and two things that make them beautiful.

Prize – In keeping with their brand, they did not offer an iPad, or extravagant prizes. The winners got to become the next faces of Dove.

This is a brilliantly-branded campaign. Not only does Dove get a real, genuine face for further in-store marketing campaigns, but their brand is further associated with real people sharing – making their slogan more than just words.

If you do it right with a creative angle, Sweepstakes can be a tactic that can be effective and can give the results that you are looking for with a small price tag.

And lastly, don’t forget to take necessary approvals to run the activity.


Author: Ganesh Iyer

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