In December I was in Istanbul after a four-year absence – I last visited in 2006 to speak to a group of senior staff from the advertising and media industries. It barely took me a heartbeat to remember what an incredible place it is. Istanbul is electric, energizing and intoxicating. Turkey has one of the fastest growing economies in the OECD and Istanbul is a hot hub where east meets west, ancient meets modern, and commerce and cultures converge. The strong and diverse influences that meet here have threatened to pull other places apart, but here they work together like the rich and welcoming tapestry of a Turkish carpet – such is the success of Turkey it has been held up as a model for other Middle Eastern states, most recently including Egypt, as the New York Times reports.
The city is a Lovemark of mine. As a place with a rich history it’s steeped in mystery: the Church of Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque share the skyline with skyscrapers, and sacred and secular influences are interwoven everywhere. It’s hard to think of anything more sensual than the sights, sounds, tastes and textures of the Grand Bazaar (if you want a shopping experience that involves you this is the place!), and while it’s home to 12 million people, Istanbul is intimate. The average age is less than 30, and it’s known for the friendliness and hospitality of its residents.
A local sums up Istanbul best: “You should feel it to understand what kind of city it is!” Sinan writes on Lovemarks.com. And yet, as Turkey inexorably modernizes, the mainstay of advertising remains trapped in the old, reason-driven world, dominated by the “-ers” – bigger, faster, cheaper and so on.
I don’t expect that to last. Turkish shoppers are savvy. They drive a hard bargain and demand quality. Price and performance are table-stakes. This is a place with an undertow of feeling and passion as strong and rich as its history, waiting for new brands to make the leap to Lovemark through emotional connections. We recently blew on the embers of that fire by releasing The Lovemarks Effect: Winning in the Consumer Revolution in Turkish, following on from earlier launches of Lovemarks: The Future Beyond Brands and Sisomo: The Future on Screen. It’s just a matter of time before the tinder takes. The gateway to this emerging market is the heart.