The year ahead for... Experiential [Campaign Middle East]
(Campaign Middle East Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) There is a growing aware- ness that the brand ex- periences that matter aren't about one-off events or isolated campaigns, but every single touch point a consumer has with a brand. From sales experiences at re- tail and online, to post-sales customer service experiences - and indeed to proprietary events and sponsorship acti- vations - everything counts in building a relationship with the brand.
And as much as our lives are increasingly transforming into a 'scrambled egg' con- sistency whereby work and home-life intermingle, so too are the ways we look on how we interact with brands. We do not use single channels of media ourselves and we don't view campaigns in isolation. Neither are we hung up on which technology we use or how we use it. I loved Ramsey Naja of JWT's comment in this very publication: "Mean- while, in the real world, digital is not so much a new territory as it is a reality that people live with, interact with and, frank- ly, take as much personal in- terest in as they do with the quality of their laundry."
So, as marketers, we should not be silo-ing our efforts by channel and every experience consumers have with the brand must live up to their expectations. How a brand behaves is just as important as what it says.
With this phenomenal task for marketers in mind, and ahead of a year where the blurring of boundaries will only increase, what are the keytrendsthatwillmatterfor brand experience?
User experience thinking is a key trend that can directly benefit our quest for a holistic brand experience. It's a term which originated on the web, but, as with all things digital, it has permeated our lives and is increasingly applied to our broader world. Brands are increasingly applying a user experience approach on a grander scale. This is evident in their rising interest in enlisting experience leaders, such as CXOs.
In Harley Manning and Kerry Bodine's book on cus- tomer experience, they assert that in the near future "liter- ally every company will com- pete on the basis of customer experience. In fact, they al- ready do - most just don't re- alise what that really means, what's at stake, or how to do it well". Better experience has been correlated to higher purchase intent, decreased customer churn and greater word-of-mouth awareness. In 2014, we can expect user experience to continue on its upward trajectory and it can only bring brands and con- sumers closer.
So what will influence the business context for creating a user-centred brand experi- ences in 2014?
Relevant Retail: With retail in the Middle East evolving and consequently a strong area for growth in many countries, the opportunities for growing brand-consumer relationships in this sector are great. Dubai, for exam- ple, has been ranked (ac- cording to property con- sultancy CBRE) only second to London as the most important
retail destination globally, with most global brands es- tablished in the city.
With so much compe- tition, the key opportunity is in provid- ing relevant rtail - that is, giving custom- ers what they want and can only get in a physical store setting. Expert staff, inspiring interactive technology and the chance to touch and feel products before making a purchase - it can only be done in person. It is not without its competition however. Ecommerce is also on the up in the Middle East.
The Twitter Takeover: Whilst Twitter's popularity is grow- ing in most of the world, it has been reported that Western Asia is one of the network's fastest growing regions. And active Twitter user penetra- tion, according to data pub- lished by GlobalWebIndex, is particularly high in the Mid- dle East. It reported 51 per
cent of internet users in Saudi Arabia were active Twitter users (making them the most engaged Twitter users in the world), and 34 per cent in the UAE. This means Twitter's moves to become more adver- tising-friendly, such as buying Vine and reportedly rolling out new mobile ad products, have the potential to make a big impact in the Middle East, particularly if they enable more interactive, rather than passive ad products.
Twitteralsohasalargerole to play in real-time marketing - a trend that pitches 'market- ers as journalists'. The prin- ciple that brands should adopt a newsroom like ap- proach so that they can re- spond in real time to events as they happen. The real opportunity here is less about the timely com- ment that strikes a cultural chord (since these oppor- tunities are as rare as hen's teeth), and more about how the brand can make genuine and rele- vant comments on thethingsitscon- sumer community caresabout.
Big Data Gets Small: Brands have for some time grap- pled with big data to unearth trends and identify opportuni- ties that will help grow the business.
This is great for brands but tends to fill consum- ers with a creeping feel- ing of privacy invasion. However, with the advent of wearable tech, such as Google Glass, brands will have theopportunitytouse big data to actually improve the experience of individual consumers. For example, re- tailers and service-driven brands like hotels, airlines and banks could use Google Glass to offer enhanced guidance to consumers. Brands will need to approach this with caution, however, and ensure they re- spect the consumer's privacy in their use of data whilst still improving the service.
The Collaborative Economy:
Whilst the most publicised success stories of collabora- tive enterprises are US-based, such as Zipcar and Airbnb, the concept is on the agenda in the Middle East. Amid these discussions, some commenta- tors feel the region, with its particular tradition of shar- ing, has a cultural suitability to the business model. And it is true that the Middle East is extremely collaborative by nature and the strongest mo- tive for the advancement of this concept in much of our region stems from the need to share thoughts, expres- sions and ideas.
There is much for us all to gain from such a wayofworking.
Storytelling: With our blurred boundaries in both life and marketing channels, storytelling is the one quality that unites all these areas and it's the one we will need in 2014 if we are to successfully cross marketing boundaries. As Steven Althaus of BMW said at Cannes: "I beg us as an industry to stop talking about traditional and non-tradi- tional. Everything is just a way of telling a story.We're all sto- rytellers here."
Manisha Bhatia is creative strategist, Middle East, at Jack Morton Worldwide
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