In February this year Karim Aly and I met in Cafe M at the Media One hotel. We were there ostensibly to discuss the harnessing of consumer advocates and the mobilisation of word-of-mouth, but ended up talking identity for much of the tail-end of the meeting.
Identity is key for TaskSpotting, the company he co-founded and is chief executive of. How can it be classified? What does it actually do? How do consumers and brands benefit from what Aly describes as a “people-powered activation platform”?
“There isn’t a direct competitor for us as such in this market,” admits Aly. “It’s more about educating the industry as to what we bring to the table. We are not a research company, neither are we a sampling outfit nor a social media agency. We can meet the objectives around these disciplines, but at the same time we can offer so much more.”
TaskSpotting offers marketing-related missions to consumers living in the United Arab Emirates, with brands building and engaging with a crowd of advocates, driving product trials, and hopefully seeing an uplift in intention to buy and propensity to recommend.
For those who have signed up, the tasks vary. They could share their ‘swish face’ for a Listerine campaign (how they look when they gargle mouthwash) or a video of themselves sharing a box of Quaker Good Start biscuits at work. It’s about revealing the “voice of the people in action in real-time” says Aly.
“We don’t promote a brand’s content through paid channels,” he adds. “Rather it is the very fans of the brand who are already advocates that do this for them, organically. So what you get is a ripple effect – peer-to-peer sharing of a brand’s message. It is authentic, impartial and most importantly resonates, as it is coming direct from people that the wider audience trust and whose opinion they value.
“It is important to remember that word-of-mouth has proven to be the most effective tool for effecting purchase, ahead of traditional advertising or previous exposure to the product. With TaskSpotting, it can now be planned, managed and measured, at scale.”
The TaskSpotting hashtag has been appearing in social media feeds with increasing frequency as people embark on ‘tasks’ for brands in increasing numbers in return for rewards
Since the idea for the start-up first emerged in 2014 and gained the financial backing of strategic investors, the company has worked with brands such as Barilla, Unilever, PepsiCo and Johnson & Johnson.
“Digital marketing is here to stay but while our time remains constant, the volume of content out there is growing exponentially. Add to this the rise of ad-blocking and some serious issues begin to surface. One of the big challenges we’re helping brands solve is to cut through the noise by harnessing the power of brand advocacy and peer influence. In today’s digital world where everyone has a voice, consumers are no longer passive observers in the brand relationship, they are the ones calling the shots.”
How do brands benefit from someone sharing their ‘swish face’?
“They can use our platform to achieve several objectives in their marketing plans,” replies Aly. “Activating thousands of brand advocates to reach millions of people organically; generating rich user-generated content that they can repurpose; gaining access to a captive, targeted audience for insights and ideas and physical sampling without the wastage.”
There are challenges, of course, not least ensuring that clients and agencies understand the value of what the company offers. Aly insists that because clients have access to insights gained from tasks in real-time, they can understand awareness levels – whether a brand’s key messages are being effectively communicated – and the drivers and barriers to purchase intent. Results from various tasks also reveal the degrees of inclination to recommend the product to others.
For now, growth is key. The company is focussed on building the community in the UAE as well as taking the platform to other rapidly developing markets. It is also heading into a second round of funding so it can “expand the team both here in the central office and in new satellite markets, supporting client demand”.
“Through our platform you can build and engage a crowd of advocates, drive product trial, see an uplift in intention to buy and propensity to recommend a product to friends and ignite an organic social campaign that reaches millions of people, all in real-time,” adds Aly. “Plus you’ll come away with quantitative learnings and consumer content that features your brand in a natural, un-staged, positive way.
“The challenge is to make sure clients know this new marketing platform exists for them, here on their doorstep and purpose-built for the local market. With marketing dollars coming under ever-more pressure to provide the biggest bang for the buck, our method of embracing the power of consumer advocacy can cover off multiple objectives with a robust, measurable ROI. And we need to remain authentic. Clients come to us to activate consumer participation from people who genuinely like and will buy their product. And of course, tell others about why they should buy it too.”