Have you lately asked yourself whether advertisers are taking you for a fool?
Are you deadened to plays on words, juicy burger images shamelessly begging for your mighty Dirhams, and same old empty promises that certain brands make through famous endorsers?
If you are, you’re not alone.
Join the “too numb to stay dumb’ brand user (aka consumer) when it comes to advertising, and say hello to influencer marketing.
It’s new, it’s hip, and it’s as genuine as it can be.
“The UAE government has come to realize that this is a big industry and is only getting bigger. By way of regulations, they introduced licensing and measures to professionalize the sector,” Anas Bukhash, the founder and Managing Director of Bukhash Brothers, a leading Emirati entrepreneur counting more than 12 years of experience in senior leadership roles, told AMEinfo.
In an exclusive interview, Anas details the rationale behind the shift from traditional, systematic marketing to digital, influencer-based branding allowing people to make better purchasing choices based on real achievers who try, believe, and live the brand story.
Who is Bukhash Brothers?
Bukhash Brothers has today earned a reputation for effectively matching the best talent with top regional and international brands to create impactful marketing campaigns and activations that generate excellent results.
But in 2014, Bukhash Brothers became the first specialized influencer management company in the UAE, before there was ever such a trade license in the country.
“So we had to create a section in the trade manual and explain its workings,” says Anas.
“We now have all types of clients stretching from FMCG clients to government entities, private clients in luxury, lifestyle, and sports, just to name a few.”
But it wasn’t always like that.
“I remember we started from my living room. We had a trade license to work from home. We were two people, myself and my brother, and that’s why we are called Bukhash Brothers,” recalls Anas.
“Then we hired 2 more, and later became 5, all working from my living room. Today we are 13 full-timers and we have part-timers. It took me 4 years to build a very good team. That was the hardest part.”
Today, Bukhash Brothers is a boutique company, with a select, loyal clientele, delivering quality bespoke projects and building the business thanks in part to talent management of unique personalities using a global network from Hollywood, to Bollywood, sports, influencers, and bloggers.
“We can technically get you, anybody,” states Anas.
“We surprisingly noticed that some industries, like luxury and fashion, are late coming into influencer marketing,” says Anas, adding, “These sectors were hard to convince they had to pay people to be the faces of their campaigns. It took a while to do that.”
Many brands were reluctant to pay a content creator or influencer a big amount of money because they questioned why they should pay for something to be put on a social media platform.
“But when you explain that this content creator is scripting, performing the shoot, laying the pictures, positioning the camera, renting the place, getting actors, shooting the video, doing the long process of editing, then posting the content, in a professional one-stop-shop, they then become more comfortable with this than the alternative of hiring a production company and a creative agency to do the job and for a lot more money,” explains Anas.
But it’s still important to distinguish between mega endorsers and micro influencers when it comes to choosing your new brand rep.
When ‘mini’ trumps ‘mega’ influencers
Influencer marketing is an evolving industry and clients are getting better educated on the usefulness of not just getting those big influencers, those personalities with mega-million followers.
According to Anas, working with a micro influencer with just 10,000 followers, but perfectly represents the brand image, can guarantee a higher return on investment (ROI), compared to going for someone with more followers but does not represent the brand at all.
“In a panel, I once heard someone describe the relationship between a person and a celebrity as fantasy, not achievable, too out of reach,” recounts Anas.
“But the relationship between a micro influencer and a consumer is way more connected. You feel you already know them because you track their daily or weekly lives, and it is a closer, more relatable relationship.”
Anas gives the example of a chef who might announce that company ‘X’ asked him to explore their menu. Already, the belief is stronger because it’s a chef discussing a menu, not an athlete promoting a car.
“You like this chef and believe him/her. People would believe them way more than a celebrity saying ‘Bite into this burger’ just because they are famous,” says Anas.
“As such, we play the role of a consultancy matching brands/clients to influencers who really fit the brand values, so that the campaign doesn’t feel forced.”
How Bukhash Brothers approached the business
Bukhash Brothers calls themselves a boutique celebrity, influencer, marketing consultant, but not an agency. Bukhash Brothers can also play the role of an advisory on how to work on social media and how to build campaigns, or a strategy, “and I like this part of the business.”
The first thing Bukhash Brothers does is create content that it believes is cool, more genuine to the brand and the celebrity selected as an influencer.
“We really like to create these cool campaigns that are not silly or cheesy,” says Anas.
“Today the consumer is not as naive as 20-30 years ago. When I was younger, if you saw a full-page burger ad in a magazine, newspaper or billboard, you would say ‘Yes I want to go to that fast food chain’. Today, you are numb to this. You expect more as a consumer.”
Anas explains that what affects consumers today are what people say on WhatsApp groups, word of mouth, or what the influencer or friend that you respect says.
If, for example, you hear someone on Facebook saying “I went to see Bohemian Rhapsody and it’s pretty cool”, and later you see a Snapchat pic of the movie, followed by another tweet “Did you go?”, then you start to become really curious.
“You would prefer to hear the opinion of somebody you actually trust or respect their opinion in that field. That’s what will affect you, not a poster or billboard anymore,” stresses Anas, who describes traditional campaigns as “force-fed”.
“If you are a fitness guy that I think is very healthy, exercises and knows how or what to eat, then that lifestyle could appeal to me, and if that person is suddenly supporting a type of water, I will be inclined to drink it as well, because it’s way more accepted than an ad.”
Bukhash Brothers manages up to 10-11 exclusive talent, purposely limiting the numbers because managing them requires quite the dedication and effort.
“We like to do a lot for them. We do their traditional PR, their digital PR, their social media strategy, their branding, their websites, and we work on their businesses. So we look at them as a talent. Not just an influencer but as a person. They are very diverse, and we don’t have too many from the same category,” says Anas.
“We know a lot of them personally, which gives us an edge in the market. They are either a WhatsApp message away or easily reachable and then we would get them on a campaign, on a project-to-project basis.”
In 2018, Bukhash Brothers made content creation an in-house operation.
“We have a department of videographers and photographers that will produce the content for the campaign that we design, whereas before we would come up with a very cool campaign, and find the best celebrity or influencer, but the pictures looked an absolute disaster or the video was bad or didn’t hit the key messages. Clients prefer this one-stop and now we have full control over quality,” says Anas.
There are risks
Anas says the real risk is with traditional advertising like when someone spends AED 500,000 on a billboard campaign and the ROI is not guaranteed and the client doesn’t know how many people are looking at it, or taking action because of it.
“With influencers, it could be a risk as well. Our company plays a role in mitigating these risks associated with influencers who might be really unprofessional, hard to work with, or unpredictable with what they might publically say that could be sensitive to many audiences, such as with topics political or sexual in nature,’’ for example.
Also, many fake influencers are trying to literally buy their way into the industry.
“On my Instagram, I always bring up social topics and one of the really popular videos I posted was titled: ‘Fake influencers’, and it was picked up by several media,” starts Anas.
“Many are buying likes, comments, and followers, and for me, it’s a pleasure to block them.”
The worst that can happen to a campaign here in the Middle East with a business saving AED50,000 as a budget for influencer marketing is to end up with an influencer that has a fake account and followers he bought from Mexico & Vietnam.
“We know how to find them by probing their engagements, types of comments or lack of them, and the ratio of followers to comments, the number of likes they get in a short span of time where they beat even the most famous of celebrities, but these are just the ones that are not good at lying,” says Anas.
“Some people are smarter, but we have specialists who use 2-3 software to get where the followers are from, like finding a Dubai guy who has followers from Mexico. Red flags. We advise the brand on this with proper due diligence on our part.”
Piece of advice to clients
Anas advises clients or brands that go to a content creator or influencer who earned respect for the way they produce content to not interfere too much with how these influencers are used to producing.
“If this happens, you will suddenly see that these content creators’ engagement drops, nobody likes it, and people start to comment negatively.”
Anas says that content creators have a winning technique that made them famous, and while they should follow guidelines and apply key brand messages, clients should not cramp their style.
“If he is a comedian, then let them do your piece in a comedic way.”
What’s the cost to clients?
Anas says that Bukhash Brothers don’t use rate cards.
“We purposely don’t have that because we are not a supermarket. You don’t buy off the shelf,” Anas says.
“In this business, there are no standard figures that you can give.”
It’s all about what the client wants to achieve that determines the price.
“Is it brand exposure, ROI, global outreach, or local outreach? Is it an A-list celebrity, or a local one? These are the kind of choices that influencer marketing allows you to make,” ends Anas.