Bookshop boosts sales by visualising time wasted on social media 

UAE bookstore Kinokuniya creates ads that convert scroll time into books read, increases sales by 28%

In May 2022, book retailer Kinokuniya in the UAE, launched a campaign to showcase exactly how much more time people would have to read if they cracked open a book rather than browsing social media.

Working with Saatchi & Saatchi ME, Dubai, the bookshop surveyed customers about the amount of time each week they spend scrolling through social media. The data revealed how many books the average person could read in one year in the time they spend on social media (which averaged to eight hours a week). The results showed Facebook: 35 books; Instagram: 43 books; Twitter: 22 books; TikTok: 42 books; YouTube: 42 books.

To bring the data to life, Kinokuniya created installations in its stores and around Dubai that were made up of real books from a variety of genres that people could browse. 

To promote the initiative online, people were targeted with ads telling them how many books they could read a year in the time they spent on that particular platform. They also received discounts on books based on their interests. Meanwhile, to drive footfall to the bookstores, customers could also receive discounts in-store by visiting during the peak social media consumption hours of 6-10pm. 

To reinforce the message that busy leaders like Mark Zuckerberg, Oprah Winfrey and Bill Gates are also voracious readers, the brand created print and outdoor ads depicting these people with their face in a book, while everyone else in engrossed by their digital device. The ads detailed how many books those famous individuals read regularly and featured a QR code directing people to book titles the celebrities have recommended.

Alok Mohan, ​​​​​​​creative director at Saatchi & Saatchi ME, told Contagious, ‘Kinokuniya believes that “the world needs more readers”. This campaign dispelled the popular myth that “no one has time to read” and got people talking and thinking about how they should spend their time wisely.’

Results / The campaign won Grands Prix in Creative Strategy and Media at the Dubai Lynx Awards 2023. According to the campaign case study, the bookstore saw a 16% increase in footfall, achieving four times the projected footfall target of 4%. The campaign also managed to pull people into the store during the months after Ramadan, which usually have low footfall rates. The campaign generated a 28% increase in sales volume versus the previous year, surpassing the sales volume target of 12%. The campaign also delivered a 50% increase in reach and engagement and an increase in keyword search volume and brand awareness for ‘Kinokuniya’ and ‘Arabic books’.

Contagious Insight 

Emotional data / Kinokuniya needed to give people a reason to read and buy physical books from its stores as, according to the agency, the brand and sector was suffering with declining sales, year after year. As the country’s largest book retailer, if Kinokuniya could get Emiratis reading as a whole, its business would be sure to benefit. 

The BookTok hashtag on TikTok has been helping somewhat to revive the UAE’s love for reading, as news platform The National reported. And yet, according to Saatchi & Saatchi, ‘Only 22% of people in the UAE consider themselves to be regular readers of books.’ The Time to Read campaign is a smart example of Kinokuniya inspiring people to want to read more by using data visualisation to evoke a sense of positive guilt. Of the survey’s respondents, 84% named ‘lack of time’ as the number one reason that prevented them from reading, even though they spend an average of eight hours on social media every day. Eduardo Cesar, senior art director at Saatchi & Saatchi ME, told Contagious, ‘This campaign broke that myth and got people back into the store and on Kinokuniya’s website. Even if they don’t give up on social media entirely, we believe the campaign has been eye-opening and even possibly instilled a little bit of guilt and got them thinking - “I could have read so many books this year!”’

A similar strategy of visualising time to change behaviour was used in Ruavieja’s We Have to See More of Each Other campaign, where people were told how much time they will spend together before (statistically) one of them will die. In both campaigns, data is used to guilt people into doing things differently. 

Stars aligned / Using famous intelligent people to persuade people to read more was a sound tactic here. The message is that these smart people read books, so you should too. This strategy plays on what psychologist Robert Cialdini calls the authority principle of persuasion, which explains how people follow the lead of credible, knowledgeable experts. By revealing that well-regarded, smart people read a lot of books, Kinokuniya adds an element of credibility to its message.

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