Each enterprise knows the importance of quality communication and the connection it must create between its own product and the client. This communication is becoming more challenging with the mass development of social media and above all with the latest developments with the pandemic and the changes that have taken place in consumer behavior. Communication agencies have an important role in this direction, and one of them is McCann Tirana. Challenges and ambitions relate to new consumer trends and the objectives of the leaders of these agencies to best meet the new customer needs. We have interviewed the administrator of McCann Tirana, Suela Shtylla, regarding her challenges and ambitions in running a communication agency, as well as the main developments of companies in the field of communication.
The article appears as published in Business Magazin.
You have been in charge of an important, international agency for years. What is your journey in your professional career?
Initially, it was courage, a desire for challenges, and an endless ambition to unfold oneself.
The first impact with a giant global brand like McCann was exciting. We are talking about the beginnings of the agency in 2009, which I have directed since its creation, after several years of experience in the Coca-Cola Bottling Albania company. Being part of an international network, McCann brought to Albania the standards of a heritage forged over decades all over the world, the expertise of bright minds in every field of communication. I have aimed to bring together the best talents of the local market, who can respond to this high standard, and I can proudly say that McCann Tirana, for almost 15 years, has constantly had a team that aims for excellence. For me, it has been a process of development, but also reinventing myself year after year, navigating between new trends, global and local clients, and facing the challenges of the Albanian and world markets.
What are the biggest challenges in the field of communication, in the strategy of brand recognition and products in a small market like Albania?
The biggest challenge is calibrating attention-grabbing communication and creativity with conveying the right message and creating a long-term strategic brand positioning.
It is like having a perfect rifle, a high caliber cartridge, and not having the right scope mounted on it, just for one example. As a marketing agency, you can make a brand known by creating a certain positioning in communication, but the real experience of the product or service lies far from the created positioning. Very often, Albanian companies fail to identify the true strengths of their products (unique selling proposition) and focus on campaigns that simply attract attention for the moment.
Even when there are successful marketing campaigns, in the long run, they do not create consistency in communication, as they are always searching and experimenting, forgetting the brand’s identity and values along the way. Our challenge as communication experts is precisely to stimulate this analysis, which marketing managers must do to identify the strengths of their product.
Do you continue to see differences between the brands of international companies operating here and local companies?
The differences are actually evident. International brands work with communication platforms for several years. These platforms have standards. As I said above, the messages are professional, clear, well-targeted, or calibrated. Meanwhile, Albanian companies tend towards momentary campaigns. They generally do not have annual or multi-year business and marketing plans and are activated with sporadic campaigns when they launch a new product or see a drop in sales. Standards take generations to create, so we are aware that Albanian business is still young in many aspects. It is also important to recognize the key role of cooperation with marketing professionals, such as advertising agencies, and the evaluation of their recommendations. It often happens in Albanian companies that marketing is carried out based only on the ideas and personal preferences of top management or company owners, which often turns out to be ineffective.
How much has the pandemic affected companies’ PR? Did they cut the budgets for this part?
The pandemic, unlike disasters or major forces of nature, which bring people together, had the opposite effect, shrinking human interaction in every aspect, and changing social and even personal dynamics. The result was that there was a shrinking of people’s desire to enjoy the good things that small and large markets have to offer, significantly reducing the purchasing index. People’s priorities were narrowed down to the framework of ‘survival’ although a large part of this was only psychological. Many businesses were hit directly by the reduction in consumption, and no one was prepared for such a blow. There was a great economic reset, where not all “processors” were rebooted. Many companies cut budgets out of necessity to cope with this forced reset and Marketing & PR budgets were definitely affected by these measures. During 2020 and 2021 I would say the pandemic had an impact on considerable investment in marketing, even reaching the temporary suspension of all communication by some companies. However, many other companies did not choose this path but chose to adapt their communication to the situation, without creating a break. I would say that after 3 years things are balancing, but there is still a hesitation to increase investment in marketing by trying to maintain the same budgets from year to year.
What are the trends in terms of brand, product, or company communication? Are there changes in the approach to the customer by the companies?
In the last decade for the Albanian market, there is an increase in the communication of the image of local companies, compared to tactical communication, which aims simply to sell or communicate an offer. Even the latter is becoming somewhat more sophisticated, investing more in advertising productions, especially television ones. I am sure that our agency market has an important role to play in this change. In addition, the primary trend remains that of social networks, which have turned into business platforms but also two-way communication with the consumer. Social networks impose a change in the approach to the customer since it is not only brand that gives its sales messages. The customer has a space to express himself and respond, to give a reaction or evaluation. Also, since the consumer visits social networks, he is often “bombarded” with information, entertainment, and news. Brands are forced to establish their presence there, generating a significant amount of engaging content to “get noticed” on social networks. All this has changed the communication needs of these companies, which cannot choose to be active with sporadic campaigns. They need to ensure their online presence on an ongoing basis.
Given the fact that there are many small businesses in our market, what would you suggest to them regarding their communication with the customer? How can they be closer to the customer/audience?
For small companies, I would suggest first operating with clear business plans and securing the right capital to navigate the wild sea of competition: it is recommended that 10-15% of the capital be invested in marketing and communication. Recruit professionals and pay them well, as people remain among the main assets. In the context of communication, I would recommend they define well the DNA of the product/service, the anatomy of the market demand, and the profile of their potential customer.
If these analyzes are done correctly, they can generate many creative ways to communicate them to the audience. The modern customer no longer has time to stop him and give him a brochure or talk to him at length about your product. He is frustrated and looking for solutions to his needs. At the same time, it is bombarded with messages from many companies at the same time, so the task of every business is to distinguish and attract attention, to then transmit its message. Make him laugh, be surprised, and the customer will listen to you.
If you offer blazing-fast internet speeds, stop someone on the street and ask them for help reading something, because you do not have glasses and cannot read. Ask him “Can you read me what this number is here?” The customer is surprised when he reads 200 mega downloads on your tablet and asks you which company this is.
This is a momentary idea, enough to get out of the interview routine, but the goal remains to show how a message can be delivered more creatively, that attracts the customer’s attention and makes him involved to get more information.
What are the mistakes that we should not make as entrepreneurs when it comes to communicating with the audience?
To build the communication of the brand without consulting the relevant professionals, such as about identity, campaigns, or the purchase of media spaces. Creating sporadic communication, without a long-term plan, losing the consistency of messages over the years. To build communication-based on the budget and not the budget based on the communication we want to achieve.
I think entrepreneurs need to be more educated about the importance of marketing professionally.