The Sandstorm Story – Shaping Digital in the Middle East – ACT I

Narrating the Sandstorm Story

If you know me, you’ll know how passionate I am about brand storytelling.   You’ll also know that I’m a champion of the idea that to be truly successful,  a brand must effectively communicate why it does what it does rather than harp on about what it does and how it does it.

It’s time I started sharing with you what the Sandstorm Digital brand stands for, why we do what we do, and to begin telling you our brand story.

We’re not just another agency

I just came back from a trip to Riyadh where I was asked to speak at the ArabNet digital conference.  I was on the e-marketing panel.

During my time there, I heard an interesting statistic that stuck with me.

Only 3% of ad spend in Saudi goes towards digital and 50% of that goes towards Google PPC.

Now, I’m not sure how close to the truth this is -I will verify it- but that’s not my point.

The point I’m trying to make here is that this spend is not in line with the new age consumer‘s media consumption habits.

I’m fairly sure that new age consumers in Saudi do not spend 97% of their time consuming traditional media such as TV, radio, and press.

This reaffirmed my conviction that Sandstorm will not be just another agency trying to flog digital services in the Middle East.

In order for Sandstorm to succeed, it must first educate and help shape the future of brand communication in a new age.

It must help educate businesses about how to use digital to build their brands in this new “glocal” age.

Sandstorm Digital as an educational hub

The initial reason I joined Sandstorm (will expand on my personal story in future posts) was to be a part of the growing world-wide seismic shift in brand communication, advertising and marketing in a new age.

Being an Arab, I wanted to help shape the future of brand communications in a region that I call home.

My recent trip to Saudi (the biggest consumer market in the region) re-affirmed to me that this task is enormous and that it requires the entire ecosystem of marketers, advertisers, brands, digital start-ups and technologists to collaborate to make sure it evolves in the right way.

Egos must be set aside. Even competitors must work together to achieve this goal.

Nurture an Ecosystem not an “Egosystem” as one of the brilliant speakers (and a client) at the conference put it.

We’re walking the talk

To put our money where our mouth is, Sandstorm has already begun taking the following actions:

1) Lending our time, resources and experience to mentor entrepreneurs via our CSR partner (and client) in the UAE.

2) Providing high-level digital marketing support to selected up ‘n coming start-ups (3 so far) in the Middle East.

Why start-ups?

    • They lack the much needed funds for a proper marketing campaign.
    • They fully understand what it takes to grow a new brand in this day and age.
    • We’re passionate about supporting young Arab entrepreneurs and especially in the disruptive space.

3) Developing content such as the mobile advertising series to educate the market about digital and what it means to advertise and market your brand in this new age.

4) Speaking at local events to spread our message.  This includes the recent ArabNet conference and  the MadWorld conference in Dubai.

5) Creating numerous best practices posts on our blog about brand communication and digital marketing.

6) Ongoing efforts to “Arabize” digital best practices and education resources.

7) Creating Dubai Digital, the first of a network of pan-regional hubs for digital marketing & advertising professionals and DIY marketers.

I’ll stop for now, but do stay tuned for more ramblings from me about the Sandstorm Digital story and why we do what we do.

Over to you…

In the spirit of new age brand building, we welcome your views on what else we should be doing to help shape the future of digital (brand communication and otherwise) in the region.

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Omar is MD & Chief Strategy Officer at Sandstorm Digital. His experience includes 10 years in traditional marketing and advertising in the Middle East and a further 10 years at two of the largest media agencies in the UK. Follow Omar on Twitter for updates on the latest in digital, branding, advertising and marketing.

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