Sunday, March 7, 2010

The top 5 marketing mistakes of Dubai #3: No one at Dubai Inc. knew what was going on

The left hand didn't know what the right hand was doing.

Too many times in companies, the lack of communication between marketing and sales teams and even the management has led to disastrous results in terms of consumer satisfaction.

Marketing copy saying something entirely different to what sales is offering; or the corporate public image is in stark contrast to internal customer services.

This is the issue that has been the ultimate downfall of Dubai: its PR spin could only last so long.

While claiming to offer the best, the brightest, the most luxurious and the biggest, Dubai long kept hidden from prying journos its dark underbelly of human rights violations, deplorable living conditions and utter lack of employee rights.

In a market built, developed and sustained by a workforce never really advertised to the world, soon the bubble of containment had to burst and the spin doctors could do little to control the news in an era of social media, youtube, twitter and WOM.

Financial Times, The Times of London, BBC, CNN, Bloomberg all featured at some point or the other over '08 and'09 varying footage and news reports of the issues mentioned above, from video evidence of living conditions of the construction labourers who build the glittering skyline of Dubai, to expatriates living in their cars due to being evicted from their apartments by fraudulent or greedy landlords who use the loopholes in a property law already having as many holes as a sponge.

In the end, people - both within and without - began to mock what they called the facade of Dubai, and now despite its many efforts to regain its lost glory, it will take more than a few 'oil discovered' news stories to allow people to trust it again.

Lesson: Don't promise something in your marketing unless your entire organisation has been thoroughly informed and trained about the follow-up process once the promise is finally made. A happy customer tells friends how good you are. An upset customer tells everyone he meets. With the social media world we live in, multiply 'everyone he meets' by a few million.

Solution for Dubai: start telling the truth, albeit smartly. The best brands out there don't sugar coat any ugly truth about their brands, in fact they use that to their advantage with smart marketing. You may not win back all the fans, but you'll start getting new, long term ones.


  1. I liken it to companies that get overexcited and claim to be a 'green company'.... when all the resources that went into marketing this, probably cost a quarter of the rainforests! No promises till you've thought this through to the very last detail...

  2. Good point Aggie. I have to say I was guilty of that too. I once marketed an event on sustainability by using heavy, expensive 4 colour printed paper! :)