Enough of “this service is not available in your country”


Is there really room or the need for another social network, another location-based service or another friend aggregator? I have heard that people living in Europe, the United States and Asia have started comparing the continual arrival of new services in this category to their experience walking down the cereal aisle in a supermarket—too many choices with too little differentiation. On the other hand, those living across the Arab world, are more likely to experience limited choice at best—global services that simply want to clothe themselves in the skin of Arabia or cheap knockoffs of other services at worst.

With consumers in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region adopting mobile phones at an exponential rate and Gulf region countries leading the pack for smart phones and the expansion of 3G and 4G networks, it was about time to change the local status quo. Inspired by a belief that in the digital world there is no "third world," there are no emerging markets nor developing markets and that all digital citizens are equally deserving of world-class services, there is Anayou. The name blends the Arabic and English words for me and you. Anayou is about me, about you, about us. Anayou is a place from the people of Arabia, to the people of Arabia, for the people of Arabia.

Who stands to benefit most from this? The people across the MENA region; du, the telecommunications company behind this initiative; and local and global brands; who for the first time, can reach their desired audiences in a regionally authentic environment. After just a few weeks in the market, there is too little data from which to draw conclusions. However, I declare du a winner for the vision to identify the opportunity and for its entrepreneurial spirit in stepping outside of the common big telecom mentality. Can you imagine AT&T or Verizon rallying around an idea like this and running with it?

du created The Media Lab™, a kind of a digital incubator that partnered with Siegel+Gale to develop Anayou—a new brand, new product and new set of mobile and web interfaces to fill this void across the region. A Siegel+Gale team of digital brand strategists, researchers and designers spent months in the region to observe, understand and work with people living there to develop the insights required to design a brand experience primarily consumed with mobile handsets, that is authentic to the culture, region and everyday life. Matt Huss, senior strategist, says, "From a brand development standpoint, the big opportunity was to tap into the enormous pride and sense of community shared by people across the Middle East. This is what Anayou is all about. The potential for this brand to create a powerful emotional connection with users is enormous."

Richard Pasqua, creative director, adds, "Designing for mobile and web across the Arabic region required us to adjust our design thinking. Anayou is a completely new brand and product, so the information architecture needed to scale for future growth and ongoing product development. Additionally, all interfaces need to render across three languages—Arabic, French and English and their differing character sets."

Mary Quandt, digital strategy director, points out that the team "engaged users in the design process early and often. This radically influenced our product/service development recommendations as the brand was emerging. We were inspired by potential users' strong desire to have their own information anywhere at any time, combined with advanced privacy controls allowing them to share selected information with others on the fly."

If you believe that the internet is a driving force in changing the lives of people for the better, will Anayou contribute to that across the Arab world? We'd love to hear your reactions to Anayou and the impact it will have.

Thomas Mueller is the global director, dynamic media for Siegel+Gale.


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