The Gitex tradeshow in Dubai is a great place to see a lifestyle-over-cost approach to selling telecom services. The show, which I recently attended for the second time, has a Mobile World Congress feel to it with a frenzy of meetings that would normally take weeks to conduct. There are two main differences, however, between Gitex and the West’s premier mobile event. First, the attendees at Gitex come from throughout the Middle East and across Africa. Second, and more interestingly, the messages carriers deliver at Gitex focus solidly on lifestyle and carry elements of luxury in that message.
The carriers at Gitex market their networks as “improvements.” For personal use, this comes across as improving your lifestyle. It’s not about making a phone call, or making a phone call faster, or connecting all the time. It’s about, “use us, and your life will be better.” “Smart” is the word I saw a lot. So what does Smart (always with the capital “S”) mean when carriers say it in the MEA region? It means that appealing to prospects here hinges on a luxury sell. Smart reliability is a given. Customers in MEA want to hear about Smart health, Smart travel, Smart homes, Smart finance, and, of course, Smart mobile. We have this kind of messaging in the U.S., as well, but it’s usually connected to a particular service as opposed to being rolled up into a larger brand message.
In much of the world, TCO is king. Frugal prospects want to know about total cost of ownership and the economics of networks. While it’s there for sure, that approach was not as prevalent on the show floor in Dubai. Carriers were focused on the improvement story around selling technology, and their bases respond well to it. Users buy services to improve their lives; it’s a direct sell about the person rather than the process. The technology helps the user get to the next level in his life. For this reason, the messages about speed, capacity, pricing and availability don’t resonate as well as those centered on getting the latest and greatest technology.
In the States, you’re likely to see commercials about how to Smart monitor your gas meter or Smart protect your house via apps on your Smartphone. From a business perspective, the messaging is about doing things better and more efficiently. Businesses see these machine-to-machine (M2M) capabilities as tied to location services, fleet and asset tracking, and more. In general, the buzz-worthy services at Gitex come down to what other markets might see as cool factors rather than necessities. However, for carriers doing business in MEA, being Smart and cool is a necessity.