Social media brand hijacking – Emirates and Etihad fakes and lessons for a corporate online presence

A story broke at the beginning of the month about a couple of campaigns out there in the social media universe. Both piggybacked on two of the UAE’s most established brands. Essentially, the two campaigns offered those who followed the chance to win free flights with Emirates Airline and Etihad Airways.

According to the UAE’s English-language newspaper The National which broke the story here in the UAE, the promotion launched on the picture-sharing site Instagram and stated that the first 20,000 people who would follow each account and would share the respective campaigns with a specific hashtag would receive free tickets for themselves plus one to Dubai or Abu Dhabi. The Emirates Instagram account was named EMIRATESPROMOTION while the Etihad campaign ran under the hashtag #EtihadPromotion.

The branding is there, the name may be dodgy, but there's no official Emirates account. So why not believe it?

The branding is there, the name may be dodgy, but there’s no official Emirates account. So why not believe it?

Too good to be true you may think, and the campaigns were fake. That didn’t stop 10,000 people following the fake Emirates account which featured the company’s logo and photos skinned from the company’s website. I don’t know how long the fake competitions were up and running for, but both Emirates and Etihad put out statements warning people not to fall for the fake campaigns. The Emirates statement is below.

To all our fans, Emirates has three official social media channels which are:

When we launch competitions or new social media channels, you will be the first to know via our Facebook, G+ or YouTube channels and on

Thank you for your continued support

Emirates also sent a statement to the Australian website The Vine stating that “Emirates Airline does not have an official Instagram account. Any Emirates-related accounts or promotions on Instagram do not belong to us.”

Similarly, Etihad wrote on its Twitter account that “Etihad Airways has no association with any accounts or promotions (such as #EtihadPromotion) competition currently running on Instagram as we don’t have an official Instagram account yet. Thanks for checking.”

How does this concept sound to you? There’s lots of random people out there on social media, and scams and the internet aren’t mutually exclusive. So why do brands focus on some social media channels and not others? For example, both Emirates and Etihad don’t have Instagram accounts. Emirates doesn’t even have a Twitter account. Wouldn’t it be best for a brand simply to park their presence on the major social media channels (no one can do everything on social media, there’s simply too many channels and sites out there).

And this point may be even more relevant albeit off on a tangent for Emirates, which spends several hundred million dollars on sports marketing (the most recent announcement being the tie-up with Formula One). Isn’t the airline missing out through not focusing on social media? Imagine how much Emirates could achieve in brand positioning and amplifying that sports marketing spend by promoting itself through social media. As I’ve said before, technology is a wonderful leveler. It’d seem a waste not to wring every single penny in return on investment from those mega-bucks sports sponsorships.

So next time you see a promotion which is too good to be true just send a Facebook message to the airlines and ask them if they’ve gotten round in Instagram (or Twitter in Emirates’ case). And, as they say in France bon chance!

This gentleman clearly feels Emirates would benefit from more social media presence. Do you?

This gentleman clearly feels Emirates would benefit from more social media presence. Do you?

Dubizzle and shifting buying habits online for the UAE’s automotive sector

When it comes to online shopping, you should pity us poor souls in the Gulf and the wider Middle East. There’s no Amazon and no eBay. We’ve only had our own iTunes store for a couple of months (Apple officially launched its UAE iTunes store in December of 2012). When we refer to online and shopping in the Gulf, what we really mean is messaging our friends on BBM or Whatsapp while roaming the nearest/biggest mall in town.

There are some brave souls who are trying to make a difference and fight the good fight. One of my favorite sites is Dubizzle, which specializes in online classified advertising across 13 countries in the Middle East and North Africa region. Basically put, whatever you need, you’ll find it being sold on Dubizzle.

And now comes the fun part. I wouldn’t have thought that people in this region would take to the internet to buy cars, but after receiving a number of stats from Dubizzle’s very friendly marketing manager I’ve been proved completely wrong. Have a look at the below Infographic and then tell me why we don’t have more e-commerce companies operating in this region.

You think people don't buy cars online? Have a look at this, and think again.

You think people don’t buy cars online? Have a look at this, and think again.

Finance and entrepreneurship goes digital with

I love entrepreneurs, I really do. At their best they’re gutsy, bold, decisive, innovative, and they’re not afraid of risk. Frankly, we need more entrepreneurs in the Middle East.

I had the pleasure and the opportunity to meet the person behind the idea of last week. After stints with GE, Mastercard and the consultancy firm Bain Ambareen Musa took the jump into the entrepreneurial space to found is the first website I’ve come across in the region which provides a comprehensive view of a variety of financial products, including credit cards, personal finance, home and vehicle finance, insurance and personal banking accounts. In other words the portal is an Gulf-based version of (the site presently caters to Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE) and is both incredibly easy to use as well as very handy when comparing different products in the market.

Souqalmal isn’t just about providing the basic data however. The site lets subscribers rate products, just as you would do on a Tripadvisor for a hotel or for a book. As a consumer you get to rate that service and provide your input to hundreds and thousands of others who will be using the site. That consumer feedback element should raise the bar for the financial services industry in the region by highlighting what is both good and bad about the product and it services.

What I love most about what Ambareen is doing is that she’s established a business that is providing a much-needed public service. She’s dived in, she’s pushing ahead, and I do believe that she and will improve what and how the financial sector offers and deals with the region’s consumers. I for one wish her all the success in the world, and can’t wait to start putting down my thoughts on souqalmal’s review sections!

Will and one person’s entrepreneurial spirit change the face of consumer banking in the Gulf? Let’s hope so!