We chat with Caroline Dickin, CEO at Red Blue Blur Ideas (RBBi), who talks about her current role and offers her thoughts on the digital marketing industry in the Middle East…
Name: Caroline Dickin
Current job title: CEO, Red Blue Blur Ideas (RBBi)
When did you first arrive in Dubai?
In 2014, exactly four years ago
Where did you work prior?
I previously worked with LBi in the UK, where I held the role of Senior Digital Search Manager and later PPC Strategy Leader. I later moved to the UAE and joined RBBi as Director of Media and most recently held the role of Managing Director – Performance Marketing & Analytics.
What were your first impressions of the digital marketing industry in the Middle East?
In a lot of ways, there are a lot of elements that are very different from Europe. In particular, I found a greater spectrum of the level of knowledge – there are some really smart people here, but also I found that I was working with a lot of businesses whose understanding of digital was minimum. The proportion of the budget spent on digital was also lower vs offline.
Has your opinion changed much?
It has changed – but mainly because I’ve seen a lot of change in these four short years. Digital budgets are growing, and more and more companies we deal with have a proper digital strategy in place, which is great.
Tell us about your current role…
As the CEO of a Digital agency spanning UX, research, SEO, media and analytics every day is different – one moment I might be meeting a client to discuss their digital challenges, to scouting out the next rbbian to join the team, to even reviewing the balance sheet and developing our own marketing strategy.
What challenges do you face?
Working with businesses who don’t fully understand or appreciate the digital landscape means we spend a lot of time on education. Also, the market and therefore the talent pool is smaller – finding the right people can be a real challenge.
What’s the most rewarding part of your job?
Knowing that we are making a difference. We strive to partner with our clients to really understand their business challenges and objectives. In turn when we help them take steps to achieve their goals you really feel like their success is also our success.
How has consumer behaviour in today’s digital community influenced the marketing industry?
To be successful in this day and age you need to have a user-focused approach throughout the business. Marketing is now more about conversations not pushing out messages. Attention spans have also reduced – if you aren’t engaging with your audience in the right way, or have less than optimal online experience, you are going to lose them.
Has user-generated content taken over brand promotion and marketing campaigns in the Middle East?
It’s growing, but I wouldn’t say it’s taken over. Many businesses are cautious about negative sentiments, which often causes a roadblock.
Has the role of marketing professionals changed in today’s digital community?
Absolutely and it’s continually evolving. Gone are the Mad Men days of working on a single ad campaign for days at a time. Deadlines are tighter and with the plethora of data available, results are more readily available and therefore, expectations more demanding. It’s no longer just about having a great creative campaign, it’s more about understanding the technology, knowing how to turn data into action and having a strong strategy to personalise your message across your audience.
What role does social media play in building a brand’s reputation today?
These days, most people use social media to some extent – so it’s become a critical element for most businesses. It’s also blurred the lines between marketing and customer service in a lot of ways – meaning that businesses cannot afford to not monitor what conversations are taking place on social channels.
What are the most common digital marketing mistakes companies make?
Trying to do what their competitors are doing rather than what is going to drive their business. I’ve heard too many requests such as ‘We need 50,000 YouTube views because our competitor does, or 100,000 website visitors. These are often not the KPIs that will drive your bottom line. And they can cause more damage than good – if you end up with thousands of followers, for example, without the strategy in place to be able to generate engaging content – you could end up with a less than favourable experience of the brand.
How would you describe yourself at work?
RBBi is more than just a job for me – it’s an integral part of my life and I’m acutely aware of the importance of trying to do the right things to help us realise our goals. Therefore, I try to stay disciplined. I’m also constantly looking for ways we can do things better – I’m always open to chatting with anyone in the business who has an idea or suggestion.
Who inspires you?
So many people – I tend to be more inspired by people I know than celebrities. My family and friends have been a huge inspiration to me and I’d have to also say that I’m inspired every day by everyone here at RBBi. It’s such an awesome group of people from so many different nationalities who, when they all come together, are able to do really fantastic work.
What’s your most overused saying?
“It will be fine”
Five things you can’t live without?
My mobile phone, my laptop, my pet bird, my bed and my friends
What’s the most exciting thing that has happened to you in your career?
I think moving to Dubai and RBBi has been the most exciting thing. Experiencing a new city while joining a younger agency (RBBi was just 2 at the time), which I could really help grow was an immense challenge but also insanely rewarding.
If you weren’t in your current role, what would you be doing?
I’d love to say something really interesting like travelling the world, but I don’t think I’m the kind of person who could be content without a project or challenge. I’d see myself in another small to medium business where I could really make an impact.
What’s your favourite form of media (i.e; TV, radio, print)?
Depends on what time of the day it is – in the morning I’m most likely to be listening to things, on my commute to work reading and TV in the evenings.
How do you see the digital marketing industry changing in the Middle East in the coming years?
As budget weight continues to move towards favouring digital I think there will be increased focus on data – understanding results, customer segments and moving towards more data-driven marketing strategies. Most brands and organisations want to ensure that they are squeezing the most bang for their buck from their marketing activity and becoming more data-led is the way to really achieve this.