Gert Zenelaj Article, Vatra Agency / Founder & CEO Gerton Bejo

What is happening with marketing and business communication in Albania and what are the challenges of Albanian companies today?

Experts from some of the largest marketing agencies in the country share tips, strategies and ways they are helping their clients create effective marketing strategies and campaigns.

5th interview of this series about marketing and communications with Gert Zenelaj, Head of Digital Marketing at Vatra Agency, by Renato Civili for Business Magazine.

Hello Gert! What are the brands that inspire you in your work?

The strength of the brand is not in the beauty of the symbol, font, logo or the eventual pay-off. The strength of a brand is communication. I often see brands that have a social approach as inspiration. Brands who are “sacrificed” by promoting social themes that serve the community of the masses, or even small communities positively. It’s these brands that inspire my work.

I can mention a few examples, starting with Nike’s latest campaign with Colin Kaepernick. Even though I’m not a big fan of this brand, I can say with confidence that the campaign gripped me and gave me a different point of view. The same thing happened to me with “Bud” beer two years ago, when it took an important position against the US government’s anti-immigrant policies.

I am also intrigued by the messages created by Oliviero Toscani for United Colors of Benetton, which always become part of global political discourse through their social approach. But not only the politico-social positioning but also the form of visual and conceptual communication served to the audience and the creativity that intertwines with the way messages are presented, are some of the elements that can make a brand or a communication inspire me.

These elements show me conceptual philosophies that I have not revised before and inspire me to reach or even exceed their level of communication.

If you need to create a strong brand from scratch, how would you do that?

There is no formula. There are a few elements that need to be created, such as naming, logo, communication messages, visual elements and market approach. In my work, my main approach is to create a “brand equity” that increases the value of the brand every time an element is added. This element is not in material form but is a vision. When building a logo, we do not think that what we are putting out in the market is the very best. What we do and offer to the customer is a brand that through some brand value enhancement practices will make it, month after month and year after year, even stronger in the marketplace.

Think of Coca Cola. I don’t know if any designers say the logo is beautiful. But the investment made in that logo and in communicating the values of that brand, building a story that has made this brand one of the most famous in the world that make it beautiful. The form of communication that the brand has been distributing over the years has made us recognise it simply by looking at the last tail of the logo. So a brand starts with a certain strategy, walks by following the same strategy and does not end there. This is the best way to avoid going into the “life cycle of a brand”.

What can you tell us about a brand strategy you developed?

We have created Albanian small brands, brands that are at the pinnacle of national success, but we have also created international brands. The ones I am most attached to are the strong international brands in Albania. I am amazed at the launch strategy of Kentucky Fried Chicken – KFC Albania. With the research and creative staff, we have done a fantastic job of creating, in record time, a strategy that also received the applause of KFC headquarters in London. The business of the company doubling in the last year bringing them to open a third store. No to forget that this brand currently operates only in Tirana.

What is the most effective way to raise brand awareness?

It all depends on the type of business and the audience the product or service will target. I currently see an approach from the marketing offices of the companies and their owners to completely digital communication and highly focused on social networks, especially Instagram and Facebook. Although I manage a digital department, I think this is the wrong approach.

The use of traditional tools and communication for a market like Albania is very important. I also look at banks, insurance companies, large corporations that only communicate through social networks and do so with very poor quality. Cost-Effective brand awareness in Albania is a well-studied mix of integrated marketing practices. Integrating all communication tools into one single goal to achieve brand objectives, is the most efficient way.

What research do you do before developing a marketing strategy?

Research is always different. There are those good clients who come up with a precise and well-structured brief, where research guides come straight from it and the job gets easier. But in most cases, the summary comes with two lines in one email and you have to do all the research yourself. No great science is done in preliminary research.

The audience, competition and internal market are analysed. Demographic movements, psychographic and socio-political changes as well. We identify a customer profile and start applying it to customer demand. Everything depends on demand. If a specified thing is required, a search is made for it.

Can you tell about a marketing plan you have developed? What are the key steps you’ve taken?

I would like to talk more about a communication plan. Marketing plans generally come from internal marketing bureaus or marketing consulting companies. It defines the entire strategy of the brand, product or company. Together with our researchers, we collect all the data for creating a communication strategy.

A client summary is consulted and information for the creative department is created in advance. The bulk of ideas from the creative department is intertwined with the media plan and budget to spend. There are times when creativity is determined by the budget and the media plan and in these cases, we try to be as creative as possible.

Why do so many Albanian companies do social media marketing the wrong way?

In addition to the fact that a company must always rely on a marketing agency to do marketing, there is also the error of tightening budgets. The idea in the marketplace is that digital marketing is free and “hurry people!” all over Facebook and Instagram.

Some clients think that it’s simply the presence on social networks that provides the company with marketing and communication, neglecting the quality of content creation. But all this communication, if done properly, doesn’t come at a low cost.

Social networks and the digital world generally provide a wealth of services to achieve any goal you may have, but nothing is done for free. The opportunities created to promote services, products or brands through social media have revolutionized the advertising market. This keeps the market constantly changing day by day. New trends, new tools, new audiences and new social networks change every day. To be up to date you have to do only focus on this job and not have it as one of the many tasks of an unrelated job.

For this reason, marketing agencies have up-to-date people with all these digital marketing innovations to give customers the right solution at the right time.

When is social media marketing effective?

When done well, by good professionals and in the right channels giving it priority.

How will marketing be in 5-10 years?

I do not consider myself a Marketing Guru 🙂  to make such a prediction. But I would very much like to come out of this transition period that we are in, within the next 5 years, and possibly sooner. In America, the marketing transition has already passed. The same is the case in Europe. Forms of communication have begun to standardize in the last few years, and the combination of traditional and digital marketing has begun to complement rather than fight each other. I hope that in Albania too, soon, marketing managers will standardize demand versus agencies and agencies on the other hand propose and apply more creative and efficient solutions.

Let’s not forget that agencies and clients are members of the same team who want to win the same challenge!

Thank you!

/ The article was previously published on page 48 of issue 19 of Business Magazine Albania.
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