Client Story

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UM Labs

I’ve been a fan of yours since 2007 and we now use your Premium foresight in many key areas: matching brand objectives with consumer trends, validation that we use to encourage clients to be brave and green light create media strategies, promoting an internal culture of innovation through workshops and commissioning you to create trend-led content for our thought leadership report series.
Rasha Rteil Head of Innovation MENA

Encouraging clients to use creative media strategies based on trend foresight

Launched in 2015, UM Labs is the Dubai-based technology and innovation focused division of UM MENA, the global creative media agency with 14 offices across 13 countries – it’s a pilot project, the first of its kind in any MENA media agency. With a clientbase including major consumer-focused brands like Coca-Cola, L’Oréal, Hershey, Johnson & Johnson and Reckitt Benckiser, UM Labs encourage them to use new and engaging media platforms and channels to connect with their customers in exciting and resonating ways. The division is led by Rasha Rteil, Head of Innovation & Labs, who’s led a distinguished career in advertising & media industry across the Middle East.

“Coca Cola for example, use a 70-20-10 model. Their focus is on 70% of what already works, 20% of what’s new now and 10% of what the future holds – that 10% is what drives us at UM Labs, catching, incubating and activating ideas that have never been done before.” says Rasha. “We answer brand objectives using innovation, creating campaigns based on growing initiatives like proximity marketing, mobile streaming and wearables, communicating innovative content that’s driven by technology”.

“I’ve been a fan of TrendWatching since 2007 and we now use your foresight in many key areas”.

“In general, you cannot innovate unless you can match your brand with specific consumer trends. Our clients are super smart and if you want to educate and convince them to go with one of your big ideas, you also need to be able to rationalise your approach, explaining where consumer behaviour is happening at the global level (for example in self-improvement or hygiene), who are the brands that have already taken a big leap in a new direction and how they did that, before then drilling back down to the local level. Many of your trends from FUZZYNOMICS (blurring of the line between produces and consumers) to INFOLUST (that ever-growing thirst for relevant and actionable innovation) give us independent evidence to back up what we say and drive our clients to act accordingly, especially those who are a little reticent to take risks – this is why we love working with you!”

“Secondly, it’s in our DNA to enthuse and educate colleagues, promoting a culture of innovation in all our offices across the MENA region, through trend champions or ‘lab engineers’ placed in different brand teams. Also to go beyond that, we use case innovation studies from different industries and markets, drawn from the Premium Service, in our ‘Inspire’ workshop series. You guys are empowering us with a lot of knowledge on trends. We tailor-make client workshops to innovate around how they think about, create and execute marketing strategies for their brands. For example we ran one for L’Oréal themed around luxury within the context of FMCGs, inspiring them with innovations outside of cosmetics (from hotels, cars and more) to push them outside of their comfort zone, while for Johnson & Johnson, we presented your INTERNET OF BETTER THINGS trend to convince them how IoT could feed into a small-scale campaign or activation, creating content and media distribution methods to showcase them as the innovative brand that they are. The workshops resulted in 4 briefs and 2 commissioned projects, one based around a 360° animation video and the other around augmented reality.”

“We also commissioned you to create trend-led content for our thought leadership report series, diving into how innovation is empowering wearables and technology is driving the future of dynamic content. We sent 3000 copies to our clients, partners (like Google & Facebook) and media vendors, and published it on our website. This meant we could bring our approach and ideas to a wide audience, and then use it as validation for specific client approaches (such as for our India-based client, Britannia Biscuits), as ammunition that we know technology-driven opportunities intimately and have then partnered with TrendWatching as our foresight expert to make sense of where consumerism is heading. The reports brought immensely positive feedback. The copy was great and you just want to read more and more – it’s cheeky and not just based on puffery but real case studies.”

And what about the future?

“We want to become less product- and more intelligence-focused, always pushing the boundaries to develop innovation strategies and then briefing our tech partners who can make it happen. The TrendWatching relationship is critical to that. Our vision is to have at least three clients who think of innovation in 2017 as something they can achieve without a ‘media’ budget – for them to set aside a separate budget purely for innovation and developing their internal innovation culture.”

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