“Fix Your Plumbing, Tech To The Rescue, User First, Be Always On”; Google Egypt’s Country Director’s Recipe For Marketing in The Age of Assistance

Google Talk Story

With Google re-staffing its Cairo office, the AUC School of Business took the opportunity to host Hisham El-Nazer, Google Egypt’s Country Director, on February 24, to bring Google’s journey into light while discussing how the way marketing as we know it is transforming.


El-Nazer, who brings over 20 years of cross-functional experience in the consumer goods and technology industries across the MENA region to the table, and with a current responsibility of unlocking the full potential of the internet from a user standpoint, gave an overview of how the marketing scene is looking in Egypt today and the way marketers can adapt to it.


In essence, assistance is defined as helping people to get things done. However, in marketing, assistance refers to driving growth by anticipating and satisfying intent throughout the customer journey. In other words, it means being relevant to the needs of consumers before they even recognize them.


For example, while we believe that we live in the era of smartphones, in reality, we don’t. There are now devices including wearables, home automation, VR, and more, that are occupying the scene and replacing smartphones, despite that they haven’t had time to become irrelevant. They have only been in the scene for around 10 years. That’s an indication of how fast the disruption around us is happening, and we’re only scratching the surface.


The Egyptian Digital Scene

Presently, 51 million Egyptians are online, with an internet penetration rate of approximately 53.5%. In terms of growth, the penetration rate is growing at a 7% rate year on year, which is one of the fastest in the region and the world. This, in particular, is why Google came back to Egypt, trusting that there has never been a better time for this move.


On average, Egyptians spend 29 weeks online per year. 2 in 5 Egyptians use Google Search, 1 in 3 Egyptians use Google Maps, and 2 in 5 Egyptians use Youtube, with the number of Youtube channels doubling this year to 190 channels with 1 million+ subscribers and expected to double again next year.


Apart from the numbers, the characteristics of users have changed. Egyptians are demanding information with minimal effort. Local searches related to proximity have increased dramatically by +2300%. Furthermore, they want to save time. Searching for “Uber” has increased by 550%, “Otlob” by 211%, “Online Banking” by 221%, and “Booking.com” by 170%.


What’s very visible is that Egyptians are becoming curious. They’re curious about how to do things, where to go, what to buy, what to listen to, and more. They want to stay up to date.


Today, Egyptian users expect a digital, seamless experience, with the keyword being seamless. The word consists of three features: helpful, personal, and frictionless.


To achieve that, companies need to be obsessive about how to use digital technology to deliver a better experience to the consumers, allowing them to control their lives from the palm of their hands and reaching them in the moments that matter i.e. the micro-moments. What’s most important, however, is that companies need to be the ones raising the bar, and just bumping into it to remain the first choice for uses.


In a market like Egypt, digital still remains underdeveloped. While 53% of advertising was digital in 2019 and expected to grow to 70% in 2025, digital advertising in Egypt remains between 20-25%.


For that reason, we still find Google using outdoor advertising and on TV, with the aim of reaching the users that are not online yet and to accelerate the growth of their transition from offline to online.


The Google Model

In simple words, Google operates on the basis of providing products that everyone will use in their everyday lives. In return, the users will be satisfied and consume the products.


What’s in it for Google? When users make use of the different Google offerings, they provide data to Google in the form of signals, which is then sold to advertisers to better help their targeting efforts from a media standpoint in order to achieve their marketing targets.


Therefore, the model is as follows: great productsà satisfied usersà valuable dataà successful advertisers


Reinventing Marketing in the Digital Era

As of now, companies’ digital strategies will become their ultimate strategies. On that, El-Nazer communicated two key touchstones that companies should consider while setting their strategies: “fix your plumbing” and “tech to the rescue”.


When referring to plumbing, El-Nazer was pointing to the fact that website speeds need to be managed before starting on media, stating that 53% of users would abandon a mobile website if it takes 3+ seconds to load. Patience levels and attention spans of consumers have significantly decreased, which is why the functioning of assets and technological infrastructure needs to be set in place to ensure the consumers stay to listen and consume the produced content.


“Tech to the rescue” entails three sub-elements which automation has to be present across targeting, attribution, and being creative.


Targeting, as we know it, refers to breaking a large market into smaller segments to concentrate on a specific group of customers within that audience. A typical brief to an agency would go like this: ‘I want to reach women in Egypt, aged 24-45 years old’. Today, however, the more details you provide, the better, because the ROI will be higher. It’s about acquiring the best customers. The brief would now be ‘I want to reach women in Egypt, interested in home décor, who recently got married’.


It is further important to differentiate between interest versus intent. Interest is when someone is generally interested in the product, while the intent is when someone has the actual intent to buy. Google has the ability to differentiate between the two through signals sent by every single user through it’s billion+ properties, and that’s the power of targeting.


Secondly, attribution is the process of measuring the effectiveness of the advertising method invested in, to analyze which step is the most important to optimize growth. El-Nazer portrayed this through a “Journey of Getting Married” example, split into five stages: your friends set you up on a date, go on a date, travel together, propose already, done!, mentioning that if you were to ask each involved party, whether the friends or the man, each will give credit to themselves. Google, however, can attribute the exact importance of each of the advertising stages leading to the final conversion.


Lastly, being creative is key. Personalization is essential as the one size fits all model no longer works. Through Youtube Director Mix, Google allows companies to create creative ads through setting swappable elements such as text, images, sound, videos, that allow the company to assemble the perfect ad for each viewer, all with one creative.


Marketing Then Versus Marketing Today

In his final remarks, El-Nazer advised companies to change their approach from brand to user focus, since it’s no longer a brand-first world. It is a user-first world, and there are 7.7 billion of them. Focus on the user, and everything else will follow.


Furthermore, he advised companies to ensure that there's always a dialogue between the consumer and the advertiser, and that the company is not doing all the talking, which El-Nazer communicated through a humorous video.


In addition, he pinpointed that consumers don’t have companies’ marketing calendars. While marketers are inwards, thinking in calendars and events, they overlook the fact that consumers don’t have that calendar, so companies should ensure that they have tactical campaigns to be “always on”.


Traditional marketing may have taught us about marketing funnels, but today, the standard funnel doesn’t exist. The customer journey no longer follows a linear path; no two journeys are exactly alike, and in fact, most journeys don’t resemble a funnel at all.


To conclude, El-Nazer sent a general message: “Prepare for today. Disruption is not happening in the future. It’s happening now. Also, take the social imperative ‘I Want What I Want When I Want It’ as an appendix to the four 4 p’s of marketing. They still hold, but you need to add this layer to them.”