Six foot something tall and with an even larger smile to match, Badr came striding towards me. His handshake firm and assured to match his demeanour. We met on Oxford Street, one of the most congested areas in the world and yet Badr carried a tangibly calm aura, as though the surrounding rush hour mayhem was nothing but a backdrop. “I know a good place he said, leading the way as I hurried to match his stride.” He was diverting us off Oxford street, towards Mayfair, but not before he had stopped to greet some people that he knew. It’s a familiar fact that our Gulf friends flock to our island during these summer months and it came as no surprise that he bumped into familiar faces. Finally, we reached our destination, an organic cafe that served a fresh food menu in aptly rustic settings. The waitress made her recommendations and Badr concurred on both our behalves.
A leader in every way, it is little wonder how Badr has wielded influence on the way social media personalities themselves became influencers. What started as well-thought advice for family and friends, evolved into a pioneering marketing business. Changing the way we as consumers are introduced to products, Badr was able to guide clients and consumers towards a new buying and selling experience. One that capitalises on the significant impact that social media has in our everyday lives and the more personal relationship that social figures have curated with their followers.
He explained: “Long gone are the days where brands rely on wealthy actresses and musicians solely to sell their products. Consumers are now more responsive to what their e-friends are buying.”
Despite the obvious detachment of a virtual connection, being invited to enter a person’s life, albeit through a screen has a way of confirming a bond of some sort between a person and their followers. Online figures share varying degrees of their daily happenings, and many share intimate moments such as marriages and pregnancies, deaths and breakups, diets and friend drama, relocation, promotions and good news. All of this “giving” of oneself instills in their audience a subconscious sense that they KNOW this person. That they are more of a friend than a well-known and well paid social figure. This is a person who shares their hopes, fears and dreams with you, and one can’t help but feel some sort of attachment. We follow like minded individuals or those who we aspire to be like. This coupled with the subconscious trust that we have affixed to a social figure, are the main ingredients that have created the zeitgeist of social media influencers that we now see. Brands quickly noticed this social media climate and began sending their products to the popular boys and girls of the internet. Being whisked off to exotic locations for photo shoots and private viewings in a bid to tap into the selling potential of these individuals. Who is buying into this I hear you ask… Well, everyone. Ok maybe not everyone everyone but if the number of followers are anything to go by then it’s safe to say, millions!
We discussed more in our interview with Badr:
BADR: Firstly, I want to say thank you for approaching me and insisting to do the interview; it shows determination, it shows someone who knows what they want, it shows that you are go-getters!
TDM: That means a lot coming from you, thank you! So can we ask, what is your star sign?
BADR: Star-signs are the biggest scam on earth!
TDM: *sharp intake of breath*
BADR: Ok do you believe that humans are creative?
BADR: How about the God that created them, is He more or less creative?
TDM: More of course.
BADR: Nzein, so do you believe a creative God would create 12 personalities and repeat that?!
TDM: It goes much deeper than that though, you have your moon sign, your earth sign, your venus sign…
BADR: Look, let me tell you this. If God created each one of us with a different finger-print then definitely our personalities are more unique. Some people say, but it’s so accurate, it fits me! Habibi, if I keep telling you from the age of five that you are kind, you are kind, you are kind, you are kind, but you get angry quickly, guess what; that is exactly the kind of behaviour that you are going to display!
So those people that believe in star signs I tell them to free themselves from this outside control. You can be whatever you want to be.
TDM: I like the term ‘creative god’. Speaking of creativity, you ooze bundles of it! How did you come up with the Richter concept?
BADR: 7 years ago I started working in a dental clinic which wasn’t heard of at that time. Most US-educated graduates were working in banks and investment companies since that was seen as a path that would yield the best future for someone of that ilk. It was seen as a little bit weird quite frankly.
The company was my brother’s ‘Asnan towers’, and I stayed because I believed in him. I handled the marketing and PR for five years and together we grew Asnan from a small clinic to the biggest dental centre in the Middle East. Of course there many other contributing factors, but alhamdlillah we did manage to do a great job on the marketing and PR front. At the end of the fifth year I started getting calls from different people, friends, family members, acquaintances. They would say to me, Badr, look, I have a product what should I do, how should I put this out there? I started giving advice over the phone for free, And then it occurred to me; if there is that much demand, why not start a company.
So we did! And Richter was born.
On meeting the first client, we discovered that traditional marketing is not the solution for success. It is simply one facet of success, and there are many other angles that need to be considered for a product to be a hit. The biggest contributing factor of the success is the quality of the service or product. If we order avocado on toast with a salad, and the food is amazing. What do you think would happen after our experience?
TDM : Obviously we would spread the word, tell people how great it was.
BADR: And we would definitely come back again right.
BADR: If we had a terrible experience then what would we do?
TDM: Warn people away.
BADR: Exactly. I would likely get my snapchat out and say guys don’t come here this place is awful!
So in today’s world, no matter how great your marketing is, you can’t account for the personal accounts of people. Now, with social media, everyone has a huge amount of influence over their followers. Whether you only have 50, or 100 followers, these people grow to trust you because they see you every day. They see you living your daily life, and you don’t have any reason to advertise. So they are highly likely to take your advice seriously.
So taking this idea, the aim is to create positive feedback using social media around a product or service.The first step would be to make sure your product or service is excellent. THEN you start marketing.
With this in mind, we set out managing this ‘marketing’ approach for our clients. We wanted to orchestrate the experience that people had with a product or service. Make it interesting for people to snap. We create what we call ‘triggers’. So for instance, the place we are in now. It’s organic right. How would I market it?
I would set up a corner with a lot of seeds, and then maybe a guy would perform a short demonstration with those seeds. And then maybe a guy would bring them to your table and let you taste them. So you would get your phone out and record your experience.
Or “I would bring a goat in the corner and have it cordoned off safely.
The marketing ploy would be something along the lines of ‘come see our amazing place, great food, and organic milkshakes made with goats milk from our onsite goats! This would get people talking, and you can imagine the rhetoric; ‘ooh there’s a restaurant in London that has living goats!’
TDM: So that would be the trigger…
BADR: Yes and people would come to take pictures of this unique feature but they would return for the quality of the food. If you went to a farm, with one thousand cows, but there was one purple cow, what would grab your attention?
TDM: The purple one no doubt.
BADR: Would you go to it, try to taste it’s milk rather than the milk of the other cows.
TDM: Yes, potentially. Perhaps we’d be a little nervous!
BADR: Yes, it’s worth talking about. You need to be the business worth talking about, you need to be that purple cow. We discovered that technique and we sell that to our clients.
TDM: Your strategy seems heavily dependent on social media, and it’s clear that it works. We noticed that Kuwaitis seem to dominate this field compared to other Gulf countries. In your opinion, what is it about the social structure in Kuwait that has allowed so many individuals to rise to international fame via social media?
BADR: Kuwaitis, from centuries ago are highly sociable as a people and we are always out and about, being proactive, setting trends. We talk to each other and it is a social stamina that started with MSN, then MySpace and has continued up until the Instagram/Twitter/Snapchat era. There is a climate of social competition and we love to show others our latest achievements. Also, the community is very small so it’s easy for us to compare with others and aim to go that one step extra. Our people have content. We are travellers, actors, designers, artists etc so we are actively contributing to society in a way that interests people. We are the London of the Gulf!
TDM: The cool guys..
BADR: Well each country has its cool side but we are the most metropolitan in terms of an authentic population as well as modernity.
TDM: And what do you think of the development of the social media society?
BADR: Put simply, this is only the beginning.
TDM: With something so relevant to everyday life on such a grand scale, there are bound to be negative impacts. What social changes do you think social media has brought?
BADR: It has made us more introverted. We are less willing to indulge in human interaction because there is so much emphasis on digital engagement.
TDM: Speaking of the downfalls of the digital, could you tell us a little bit about the health retreat that you just attended.
BADR: Like a muscle the mind needs to be trained, it needs to think, it needs to analyse, to remember, to reflect, to fantasise, imagine. But firstly, to be able to do all of that, you need to be able to control your thoughts. If I had no control over my legs and they were able to just lead me anywhere without my say so, it would be chaotic. I would end up in places and situations that I have no control over which could be potentially life threatening. Yet we neglect our minds and allow it to have complete control over us instead of the other way around. We fail to realise that our mind having control over us is effectively the same as being at the mercy of a puppet master.
In order to structure and lead a meaningful life, we need to control our mind and the thoughts that populate it so that we can control where we are heading in life.
Only once you are aware of it can you then start to change your perspective. For example, how many times do you find yourself in a place, but your mind is totally elsewhere. Essentially, you are not in that place but you are wherever your mind is. Start of by practicing mindfulness, and being present in the moment. It will train your mind. Controlling your thoughts and being able to focus on the here and now are the keys to being able to achieving serenity and happiness. When you train your mind to focus on one thing and one moment you are strengthening that muscle, so later on when you need that muscle to create something brilliant, your mind will be able to perform brilliantly and come up with the ideas and details that you didn’t even conceive in the beginning. You will have a greater depth of understanding of your project or task that you wouldn’t have otherwise foreseen. If you are not focused however, and your thought process is weak, you will start a task without being able to see what is even needed for the initial steps.
That’s what the retreat was all about, learning how to train the muscle of the mind.
TDM: Amazing. We started learning about the power of the mind a year ago and it has been incredible to see the benefits of such teachings in our daily life. How long have you been exposed to this ideology?
BADR: Well, luckily I was born into a family where us brothers competed on being more knowledgeable and we pushed each other and shared with each other different ideas that would help us succeed.
Yusuf my younger brother discovered a website that talks about these teachings and he got me into it. Honestly, I’m new to this whole thing but I have been practicing meditation for a month now and this was my first retreat.
TDM: Ok, and has the idea of training your mind been beneficial to you in your business?
BADR: To be honest, I have always lived in the moment so it was something that I was already practicing unknowingly anyway. Lately however, with the business requiring me to do so much and be here there and everywhere, I lost focus slightly and I felt like I needed to realign myself – this retreat was my realignment.
TDM: Glad to hear it! We enjoy your TED talks commentary that you conduct via snapchat – which one has been your favourite one so far?
BADR: ‘Schools kill creativity’
TDM: This is an increasingly popular theme at the moment. Tell us more.
BADR: Ok, so you bring an elephant, a giraffe, and a monkey into the room where they each have a tree. You tell them, it’s a race so the first one to reach the top is the best. That’s basically what school is.
I’m not saying scrap all schools, I’m saying let’s find a new system. A system where the elephant will be pushing something, the giraffe would be picking something from a height and the monkey would be climbing the tree. So we wouldn’t just have blanket tests where only some students wold naturally excel.
TDM: It’s true. I feel our current schools system is based heavily on the ability to memorise rather than apply knowledge. The UK is currently undergoing some changes within the education system.
BADR: You know what the problem is… We all complain. Americans complain they aren’t happy with the tram. France complains that they aren’t happy with the taxes and their crazy president.
If we want to advance as a race we need to be part of the solution rather than complaining that there is a problem.
TDM: What advice would you give to young people who see their environment as not the best and they want to do something positive with their life but they feel hindered.
BADR: There is no optimum environment. If a place is worthy of being in then it is worthy of you making a positive change in it. Instead of complaining about the dark, be happy about the candle, or the lamp. Make the most of it or move to a place where you feel your energy is best directed. Wherever you go you are obliged to make that place better by your presence so it’s simply a matter of choice. If you have no choice about leaving that environment then you MUST be a part of the solution not an added voice of complaint.
To stay in a place that you hate without doing anything means you are either too scared to do anything, which is a problem. Or you are simply a talker which is an even bigger problem.
TDM: Don’t just talk the talk, walk the walk!
I feel like we’ve touched on some really meaningful topics here, so finally, a nice cliche’d question to round this interview off.. where do you see yourself in five years?
BADR: I see that we succeeded to make Kuwait a more interesting place. I see that Richter has helped more than 100 clients to become user friendly.
My team will be made up of 50-70 bright, creative individuals under one roof. All from different backgrounds and religions.
I can see myself constructing my own entertainment city. I want to compete with Disney.
I see my country developing and I see my people happier, and I see tourists coming to Kuwait, and it being a hub.
TDM: When you say that you are really lighting up.
BADR: Laughs heartily. Because I believe in my country, I believe in Kuwaitis. We have done so much already and we can do so much more!
We just need oil not to finish in the next 10-15 years and we need peace, and for Iraq not to invade us!
Connect with Badr on his Instagram and Snapchat ‘Bonabeel’
DISCLAIMER: This interview was conducted exactly one year and one month ago. To read why it was postponed for so long check out our previous post: The Creative’s Curse