Future of Digital Marketing in Egypt

The Future of Digital Marketing in Egypt – a 2020 Perspective 📈

As we were kicking off our agency’s series in digital marketing infotainment videos, it got us thinking why did we do this? Who are we talking to and why?

In a nutshell, whether you’re a small business owner, startup founder, kicking off your career in digital marketing, have been working in traditional BTL or ATL, or brand marketing, wrapping your head, around certain concepts and practices in digital marketing can be overwhelming. Ok but this is our target audience, the ‘why’ is still not clear, or at least it wasn’t till I started writing this blog post.

The Future of Digital Marketing

So allow me to take a crack at the state of digital marketing in Egypt in 2020 (highly encourage the reader to take a look at our hyperlinks and resources used to write this article).

As the Egyptian and MENA region economy grows more complex with a burgeoning startup and eCommerce scene, the demand for technical marketers is growing day by day. For years, the dominance of advertising, PR and social media content production firms and agencies has overshadowed the need for education and training in measurement based marketing. Most Marcom graduates have flocked to agencies (of all sizes) or marketing positions in multinationals that haven’t given them the advantage of learning the forefront of digital from theory to practice- quantitative reasoning even less. On the academic side, curriculums in universities are far behind and it’s really no surprise, take a look at an IMC curriculum and the usual suspects are there. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, how to conduct qualitative and quantitative research (which gets forgotten if you don’t go on to work in a multinational or large company that demands rigor between sales and marketing) and if we’re lucky some mention of digital media and the nature of shifting consumer behavior. This needs to change and academia has to be at the forefront of this change but that’s not the issue right now.

Marketing may once have been regarded as more an art than a science. Executives may once have cheerfully admitted that they knew they wasted half the money they spent on advertising, but they didn’t know which half. Those days, however, are gone.

Moreover, only a fringe few in Egypt have been operating under the umbrella of ‘data above opinions’, from training institutes, agencies, lone growth marketers and media buyers. The latter are basically industry “mole people” that are brought in when no one knows what the hell is going on and no one knows why the Facebook or the Google ads aren’t delivering results.

After 6 years of experience from both the academic and experiential side of dealing with digital marketing in the Egyptian context, We humbly believe that the root cause of the problem is an industry that has been incentivized to prefer spending thousands and millions on influencers, TV ads and content, and online display ads neglecting the bottom technical and strategic acquisition functions that complement awareness building. Please don’t get me wrong, they are all important. Brand building and customer acquisition is a holistic affair; but today, and especially with the Corona crisis, this ‘upskilling’ and ‘whole-skilling’ (get it?) our industry is crucial. Relying on advertising, branding and influencers to market things is not sustainable, you need a well rounded view of consumer journey, customer experience and marketing technology to come to terms with digital transformation for your organization’s growth. In order for that to happen you have to shift your entire focus as an organization (big or small) to full funnel performance marketing, to measurement and accountability, again to “data above opinions” (Google’s organizational dictum).

For years, the dominance of advertising, PR and social media content production firms and agencies has overshadowed the need for education and training in measurement based marketing.

Advertisers need to justify spending millions on TV ads, ATL and BTL marketers need to understand what consumer journey means in an age of touchpoints that go well beyond their respective fields, brand marketers have to have a full view of Key Performance Indicators beyond brand awareness, across all channels and client assets.

State of Digital Marketing in Egypt

As for the discipline of marketing, the T Shaped marketer is an important concept for any organization looking to upskill its marketing workforce or hire people who can initiate that change. You’ll find this role and mentality in organizations where marketing is truly omnichannel, data driven and objectively creative all around the world, however as a concept it’s still in the mental shower stage as far as Egyptian marketing is concerned. Furthermore, we humbly think that being a specialist and only a specialist is a long gone view of education and upskilling in an age of Automation, Big Data, and Artificial Intelligence . Today you learn, unlearn and learn again, if you don’t warm up to this statement, you’ll be replaced, even if you’re creative (just write “will AI replace creative jobs” on Google and see how in discussion that topic is). It’s not enough to be creative, we can’t stress this enough, creativity for the sake of creativity is dead. Too much focus on creativity is bad and of course too much focus on objectivity and numbers is bad as well.

To put a pin in the above small but necessary digression, the future of professions is understanding that people who can work with machines and not against them are those who will thrive tomorrow. The West and their economies may be a lot more advanced today in Information Technology Systems and digital infrastructure but here in Egypt and in developing countries we have a lot to learn, our economies are still in prepubescent stages of digital transformation and that is a major advantage. Therefore, learning your field’s marriage nexus with technology is how you’ll always be in demand as a professional as Gary Gasparov will tell you (hint Gary got beaten in Chess by AI, he’s got a ton to say on that subject).

Coming back full circle to the beginning of this blog post. A country’s marketing functions mirror its economic complexity, the more sophisticated an economy the more sophisticated its marketing functions. Consequently, since Egypt is not truly data driven, nor does it have the data infrastructures that characterize a developed economy, the proper gospel of digital marketing, a discipline that currently affects everything from advertising to PR and branding, will remain an effort driven by private interests. Furthermore, it can’t be driven by one or two actors, it relies on everyone in the industry.

This is why we’ve launched our infotainment series and Youtube channel, to unwrap concepts as simply as possible to every profession that is and will keep on being affected by this tidal change; this is a small step, a sum of many moving parts towards ‘data above opinions’. At ripplemark we believe we can all benefit from becoming generalists and jacks of many trades because that is the future of all professions.

Omar El Sabh

Managing Director and Founder of ripplemark Egypt