Once upon a year in the late 1990s, the Alexandrians woke
up to a new presence that changed the face of the market—forever.
What? When? Why? How? The answers write the chapters of our story that is about to unfold before your eyes.
1999, the world was anticipating the turn
of the century, a new millennium with all its excitement, promises,
opportunities, and definitely challenges. People were on the
edge of their seats, and so were our protagonists—a group of
Alexandrians who united to break a spell.
Meet the Protagonists
A small yet vibrant group we were, with one super power that could do magic. Was it telepathy? Reading minds? Close to that, but even better. It was more of understanding and decoding than reading, and it was not just minds, but markets and consumer behavior.
What were we up to? Reader, we undertook the challenging mission of launching brands into the Alexandrian market. And no, neither is this a simple mission nor is it an ordinary one. Say that marketing agencies are abundant; think that marketing is everyone’s cup of tea; but when Alexandria is mentioned, the whole equation changes. You will have to think it over again.
A Market Like No Other
Whereas businesses and brand names do flourish in Cairo, multiply their branches, franchise their names, and come off with flying colors, they fall flat in Alexandria. The Alexandrian market is a mystery: it is impregnable, defiant, and relentless; in one word, it is daunting. And it is against this background that we created Benefit, the marketing agency under whose umbrella we deciphered the mystery and revealed the secret door that opens to the lush lawns of the Alexandrian markets.
The dawn of the new millennium was a time of change; it was upon this time that Benefit emerged to bring about a far-reaching change that altered the meaning of marketing, for agencies and brands alike. It was one fine morning that bore glad tidings to businesses that aspired to extend their presence to Alex. At the onset of a historic year, Benefit started writing a new chapter in the history of marketing.
Reader, the British have said it ages ago:
The proof of the pudding is in the eating.
In a world where people have seen enough deception and
lost too much of their ability to trust, it would not be wise
at all to establish your presence through words. Rhetoric could
be a powerful ally for those who master it, but a solid reputation
that endures relies on actions. With this understanding, we
set out on a road less travelled: branding that begins at home.
I Carry You in My Pocket: Wherever UGO, I Go.
A little less than two decades ago, we delivered something outstanding to the market: not a product, not just any brand, but a novel concept that created a unique advertisement trend. 17 years ago we built the UGO: your pocket-sized companion to social life that
1. Guides you to leading services and entertainment hubs, like restaurants, cafes, malls, and cinemas;
2. Exposes you to a wide range of the best and most famous products, be that attire and fashion, healthcare and beauty lines, sweets and savories in particular or foods and beverages in general;
3. Strengthens your personality with tips and how-tos that cover whatever aspect of your personal and professional life or relationships that you could need to enrich.
The Grand Prize
Have you considered the price to pay for such a friendly publication that speaks to you, addresses your insecurities, takes you to exciting places, and makes you laugh? You don’t have to. Why? Because, dear Reader, the UGO is not for sale: we have been distributing 20,000 copies of this amusing, engaging, and essential shopping and lifestyle guide gratuitously at selected outlets in Alexandria, Cairo, Port Said, and North Coast—one city at first, then another; we expanded year after year, and you know what? We won! We won the grand prize: the trust, loyalty, and love of readers—who took to collecting each single issue of the UGO—and businesses that found in us their long-sought-after marketing agency that digs up unconventional techniques to bring unprecedented success.
BMW, Cilantro, St. Stefano Mall, Unilever, Geox of Puma, Roastery Café, Cook Door, Metro Market, La Poire, Swiza Chocolate, Hayat Water, Amr Helmy Designs, Magrabi Optic, Renaissance Cinemas, Mazzika Tv, Melody TV, Link Dot Net—this list can go on for pages. Broadly speaking, this convenient publication that we issue each two months is your pocket companion to the best and hottest in:
• Clothing shops
• Medical centers
• Educational centers
• Cafés & public hangouts
• Internet & Computer centers
• Beauty centers
We built a strong brand that built us an impressive client portfolio. The UGO marked our first milestone and wrote our first success story.
What an elating experience of tremendous
success it has been, the UGO; we basked in glory. The name of
Benefit resounded all around Egypt; we earned a reputation as
the gate to the Alexandrian market; top brands, franchisees,
and aspiring businesses flocked to us to launch their businesses
or fortify their presence into Alexandria. We assumed the roles
of escorts, patrons, and sages….
Oh, Dear Reader, forgive us for not having explained the challenging nature of the Alexandrian market. Allow us to digress here and zoom in on that peculiarly impenetrable market.
The Case of the Alexandrian Market
As we have said it earlier, businesses bloomed in Cairo and shined all around Egypt only to crash in Alexandria; it was unexplainable—but not to us. Being an integral part of the Alexandrian community, we have been acutely aware of the whys behind these apparent twists of fate. The secret lies in the roots of Alexandrian consumers: attachment, familiarity, and peer pressure—three concepts that boil down to one “culture” are the keys to decoding consumer behavior in Alexandria.
• Familiarity and Attachment: These two concepts overlap: familiarity ends into attachment. Alexandrians have been weaned on their own local shops: think of Fathallah Hypermarket, Zahran stores, Muhammad Ahmad…etc. The Alexandrians have developed a brand loyalty attachment to these names that even top-tier and international brands cannot sway.
• Peer pressure: The Alexandrian community is closely knit. The citizens are well-acquainted with each other that they can easily influence each other’s purchase decisions.
The Alexandrians’ culture has taught us two simple yet central rules that can alter a business’ prospects: first, you cannot compete with the locals or beat them unless you find yourself a unique spot in the community: Offer something that is fresh and compelling; be extraordinary. Second, if you succeed in attracting and convincing a small group of the citizens, that is a promising start: let the word of mouth do its magic in a community of people who have their eyes set on one another.
We have digested these rules, played by them, and launched countless emerging and well-established businesses in the Alexandrian markets. And where are we now? We have achieved a breakthrough and built a rich, huge, and diversified client portfolio. Benefit now serves over 5000 happy, loyal, and most importantly, flourishing businesses.
The Local Marketers
And we have one golden rule to preach: in doubt, in difficulty, in a new market? Always seek out the local marketers. They can show you around the shortcuts, the secret passages, the bridges, and even the dead-end streets. Instead of drifting into uncharted waters, let the experienced sailors steer your ship to the shores of safety.
The UGO continued to grow; we built on our
success in Alexandria and expanded to new horizons in Cairo,
Port Said, and the North Coast. Our client portfolio, too, continued
to grow. We have earned an enviable reputation and we stood
the test of time. Competitors followed our UGO trend and the
market witnessed more pocket-sized entertainment and shopping
guides; yet we did not falter in the face of the fierce competition.
We knew well how to distinguish our product from all the others;
the UGO maintained its distinct position, for 17 years it has,
and it still does.
Opportunities to Grasp
The threshold of our second decade was even more historic than the turn of the new millennium: the Arab Spring had taken the world by surprise. It was a time of turbulence and uncertainty, on the one hand, energy, hope, passion and zeal on the other; and it was a time of golden opportunity. At Benefit, we believed we still had much more to offer; we had unrealized potentials; we saw businesses that are underserved; we observed the untapped resources. We marveled at how internet penetration and social media consumption skyrocketed. It was the perfect moment to launch our clients online; the online social networks held an untrammeled power, and we decided to seize it. We opted for immigration; we built E-3lanet .
Riding the Waves
We have been talking about our impressive portfolio of 5000 SMEs; E-3lanet is the vehicle that carried our clients to the online world. Why did Benefit choose to merge the brick-and-mortar with the virtual? Because, literally, everybody was on the internet. After the revolution, people’s fingers were glued to Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, Tumblr . . . you name it! People were present, interactive, and expressive; they sought to be heard, seen, and understood; they knew they counted. They shared all a business needs to know about themselves and their interests. Customer segmentation and targeting has never been easier: everyone is a click away. On top of all this, an online presence guaranteed businesses unlimited visibility; and it was an either…or situation: ride the waves of change or sink into oblivion.
In the face of this new reality, we opened an online social media page—an online store—for each client; we took these stores seriously; we took the people seriously; and we trusted their power, and our insight: we believed social media in Egypt would act more like a sales hub, not a marketing avenue. We capitalized on this insight: we treated our clients’ audience as prospective buyers; we designed strong sales campaigns; we managed an effective online presence (profile, interaction, complaints, inquiries, etc.). Our clients’ sales soared: emerging names turned into popular brands; startups earned recognition.
Sink? Our clients and we surfed better than the pros.