“Saudi Arabia has truly become a major and priority market for Ykone”

Dubai: In an interview with Arab News in French, Olivier Bellon, founder and CEO of Ykone spoke about influencer marketing and the trend of digitalization and expansion in the UAE and Saudi Arabia.

Ykone is the #1 International Influencer Marketing Agency, known for being among the leaders in the industry with its software tool Campaygn launched in 2013. This tool aims to measure the impact of the growing ecosystem of influencers in providing solutions based on data analysis to a client base miscellaneous.

“We remain leaders in our industry by anticipating market needs in terms of data-driven strategies. Ten years later, Campaygn remains one of the most reliable programs for influencer marketing with innovative features such as sentiment analysis,” says Olivier Bellon.

How can a brand survive without influencer marketing?

Any innovation faces a certain level of skepticism. Such was the case for brands in the industry to collaborate with paid influencers to gain fame. Today, brand managers use influencer marketing to diversify their communication channels.

“Being visible and active digitally is a must if you want your brand to succeed today. As consumer habits have changed over the years, buying motivators are mostly found on the internet. Influencers have become the best advocates for the brand.”

Ykone opened its first Creative Center in Dubai in 2014, a space dedicated to social media influencers to connect them with global brands. In 2021, the agency expanded an area of ​​500 square metres, divided among these regional offices, to create its first integrated studio in the heart of Dubai’s fashion district. Ykone’s CEO stresses the importance of properly informing content creators so that their editorial strategy aligns with the brand’s identity, especially if there are several levels of approval on the latter’s part.

In recent years, the demand from influencers for agency expertise in influencer marketing has increased. This phenomenon led to the acquisition of “Bold Management”, the talent management division, which is now part of the Ykone Group.

“My goal is to make Ykone a global group with integrated solutions that cover all the needs of brands looking to use influence as a communication strategy.”

Expansion in the region

The Middle East offers many opportunities. It is an area characterized by its youth, especially those under 30, and a population connected to new technologies, which offer a favorable ecosystem for content creation.

Ykone embarked on regional expansion, opening two new offices in Abu Dhabi and Riyadh. “Riyadh is the next big place,” says Ykone CEO. The latest development in Saudi Arabia has been amazing for our industry as we have been able to see a whole new scene of content creators coming out of the country. Saudi Arabia has truly become a major and priority market for Ykone.”

Ykone works exclusively with global brands in the luxury, beauty, lifestyle and fashion industries.

“We have really seen our client portfolio diversify in recent years, always with the aim of serving selective markets. We make sure not to set limits to our clients’ desires and provide a first class project management service.”

Given the strong competition that exists in these industries in the Middle East, staying relevant to the local luxury market means expanding in the region, developing work with luxury brands and big players in tourism, such as the Red Sea Project in Saudi Arabia.

digitization trend

Moving from traditional to full digital communication is a priority for any brand that wants to survive in a digital and competitive marketplace.

“Our role as an agency is to educate our clients – even the most reluctant ones – about the importance of the diverse communication and buying options that social media can provide.”

In the Middle East, many types of consumption (retail, media, etc.) are mainly carried out via the Internet, which means that the more digitized the company, the higher its profits.

The local fashion, design and lifestyle industry in the Gulf is quite diverse when it comes to the consumer approach to fashion or lifestyle brands, providing even more opportunities.

While Dubai’s population consists mainly of expats, international brands dominate the fashion scene. In other Gulf countries, such as Saudi Arabia, consumer habits tend to be more inclusive of their culture and history.

New Artistic Director: Ali Shaaban

“We discovered in Saudi Arabia that there is a wonderful community of creators and artists,” says the founder of Ykone.

The appointment of Ali Shaaban, a well-known artist in the region, was the perfect way to enhance Yakun’s position as a creative leader, and a way to put culture at the service of creativity, “especially since there is no art without culture, and therefore without history,” he adds. The Creative Director has already provided his artistic vision for some of Ykone’s projects, leading discussions on the art scene of Saudi Arabia, not to mention his expertise, which is recognized in the region.

industry development

Influencer marketing in the Middle East has evolved significantly in recent years. It is a competitive market for agencies and content creators, with brands increasingly demanding reliability and professionalism.

“We could see a shift in how creators break free from the dictates and pressures of performance, and instead let their creativity do the talking to find audiences who need unfiltered content.”

Today, the industry has not yet reached maturity. However, there is great potential for various socially and digitally active players. These are, among others, marketing agencies, influencers, content creators and public figures who have become brand ambassadors. Hence the importance of brands turning to this type of connection that allows them to reach more consumers, and get more close to the young and highly connected.

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