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Revolutionary $elling

Written and Edited by Daniel Kilkelly

Recently, companies in Egypt have been making some changes, and I’m sure that as soon as you read the words, ‘Egypt’ and ‘changes’ you were able to figure out why changes have been occurring. The revolutions in Egypt, and those throughout Northern Africa, have resulted in massive waves of reform, mainly politically but companies have made adjustments for these shifts as well. One of the adjustments that I would like to focus on is the transformation in advertising.

Coca Cola, one of the world’s foremost experts in advertising and most recognized and valued brand in the world has proven itself as the owner of that title1,6. After setbacks in Egypt during the revolution, in which the company felt the need to close plants in Cairo2, Coca Cola surmounted a new campaign to try and capitalize on the current environment in Egypt. With the message, “Make Tomorrow Better,3” Coca Cola has created a series of commercials for billboards and television that depict young individuals peeling back dark clouds and old metal to bring forth a fresh and shining image of Cairo. Not willing to be outdone, Coca Cola’s largest competitor, Pepsi, composed a similar advertising campaign that shows colors flowing and spreading from individuals consuming Pepsi. Pepsi’s message is a simple one, “Express Yourself.4
 Before going further, it is important to explain a couple of things. First and foremost, that in advertising, you cannot expect a message and presentation that works in one country, to be as effective or positively received in another country/region6. This may seem like a very basic statement, but often times a campaign can fall flat on its face because a marketer hasn’t studied the market properly.
Another statement: although the above is true, there may be other markets that are drawn to or otherwise affected by an advertisement. Although I was not in any way a part of the target market, the Coca Cola commercial drew me in, but why? Generally speaking, music and emotion can be felt and comprehended across cultures. If you see a person smiling, you understand that they are happy, if you hear a certain beat you will tap your foot. Therefore, what makes Coca Cola’s commercials so effective is that in many cases they can be understood cross culturally, even though they were made for a different audience. Granted there are instances where you could see that certain messages would have a bigger impact on one person than another. In this case, I can understand the importance of the idea, “Make Tomorrow Better,” but what that means to me and what that means to a male college student in Egypt is vastly different. I myself saw the commercial, but due to limited repetition of the commercial and disconnect in cultures and experiences, I don’t feel like drinking a Coke right now nor do I imagine myself buying one in the near future. Although it wouldn’t be valid to say that every person who had been exposed to the commercial suddenly felt the need to drink a Coke, Coca Cola’s sales have seen a large increase over the past couple of months. Some of the marketers appeared surprised at the general increase of sales in “fast moving consumer goods,” in correlation with many politically themed advertisements. These products are much more accessible to consumers than larger investments, which actually experienced a decrease in sales over the past few months.

I find that there is absolutely nothing strange about this increase in sales for fast-paced consumer goods. Of all the products you could sell, larger investments, such as a refrigerator or a house, are symbols of security and wealth. As Egypt continues to experience a negative economy, it hardly seems appropriate for such purchases to be made. As for smaller purchases viewed as commodities and treats, it’s much easier to make allowances for, and flashy, positively charged advertisements drive impulse purchases such as those for Coca Cola. The bottle itself is an advertisement. The use of white letters on red should be a very familiar combination to you as a consumer. For example, have you ever seen a ‘SALE’ sign? Egyptian consumers find it easy, therefore, to purchase these products, and with a message that says, “Make Tomorrow Better,” emphasis is placed on reminding consumers of the revolution. This can place the idea in the mind of the consumer that, “I deserve this,” or, “This is what I stand for.” Plus, many of the commercials for these goods depict younger individuals. This is ideal since this is truly the intended market and given that younger individuals played such a primary role in the revolution, there is strong connection between the images in the commercial and the reality the consumer has been through.

A historical example where a similar mentality was used by Coca Cola could be seen in post-war Germany during the Cold War era. Many Germans were undergoing serious depressive notions, and the burden of reconstruction was felt by all. In response, Coca Cola promoted a series of advertisements with the phrase, “Mach mal Pause – Trink Coca Cola.5” This translates into, “Take a break – Drink Coca Cola.” What was important about this idea was that during the time period that this advertisement ran, many Germans were working round the clock to help rebuild their livelihoods and their country; many people simply needed to be reminded that it was okay to take a break, and certainly after a long, hard day’s work, one deserves a break.

A further similarity can be drawn to anti-American sentimentalities. Both in post-war Germany and present-day Egypt, these feelings are perpetuated by the two cultures, yet amazingly, Coca Cola products have still been very successful. This is made possible by empathetic advertising. If you can design a commercial that says,” I am German,” or, “ I am an Egyptian,” then you have made yourself a part of another culture, and you are no longer viewed exclusively as a foreign company belonging to a country with which the consumers’ country has had negative relations with.

Thus, these revolutionary-themed commercials should be expected to do well in Egypt. With the provision that a commercial has done well in empathizing with its audience, pitches a simple appealing message, and instills positive emotions in its potential consumers; fast-paced consumer goods should see continued high sales performance, although a different strategy will have to be applied in order for larger investments to become more viable options for consumers.

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**Due to technical difficulties we recently had to switch domains and transfer all of our website content.  Please keep in mind that while we have been publishing articles for two years, the published dates shown may not reflect the initial publish date.

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Thoughts posed by the author:

What are the ethical considerations of using the revolution for advertising purposes?
Can using the revolution improperly lead to serious negative marketing consequences disrupting sales for a company, and if so, how?

Further Information/Reading:

 

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