We need (much) more inspiration in our marketing this year

Marketing has to be more interesting, more engaging and more memorable in 2021, especially across MENA, if it’s going to stick with target audiences.

Last year, everything changed. And that’s just as true for marketing. Everyone immediately put almost everything they had into digital. We were bombarded by webinars, emailers, and online advertising. It’s understandable why; businesses needed find new opportunities. Marketing was very much functional. But it wasn’t emotional. There was no inspiration.

This approach has to change in 2021, and I’m hoping we’ll see marketing that’ll be memorable. The best marketers realize that a shift needs to take place, because we have changed. Given the lockdowns and move to remote working, most of us are craving person-to-person interaction. The reactions I’ve seen from people attending events such as Gitex underline how much we need to and want to be around people again.

This realization will be acted upon by forward-thinking B2B and B2C brands, and we’re going to see more in-person activations to engage directly with customers and consumers. The best events are going to promote participation, to involve customers and make them part of a bigger story.

The second shift we’re going to see is around brand building itself, with a focus on purpose. The most memorable activities from this year have been brand campaigns about helping others. Take the example of Burger King, which has used its social media channels to promote the restaurant industry, in particular independent outlets.

These ideas have won praise globally, even from people who have probably never even stepped into a quick service restaurant. And it’s easy to see why. We want to feel hopeful, and we want to extend a hand to help one another. And we feel elated when we see brands reacting to sentiment and doing the same, especially when a global name is acting to help smaller companies.

The most purposeful brands have done more than advertise; they’ve acted based on their values. They’ve provided services for free, donated products, and helped local communities get through 2020. Take the example of Unilever, which has donated over one hundred million Euros worth of health and hygiene products. And their seminal campaign to make us see beauty differently through Dove’s tribute to healthcare professionals throughout the world.

Purpose can and should also lead to partnership. The world’s biggest issues aren’t going to be solved by individual brands alone. Just look at how the most inclusive firms have rallied to support UN Women’s global campaign about the pandemic’s impact on gender equality. Or how brands have come together to take aim at the negative effect that social media is having on societies.

Looking ahead, we’re going to see more marketing innovation around these new four Ps – participation, purpose, partnerships and people. What I sincerely hope to see is brands from the Middle East applying global learnings to come up with ideas and campaigns that make us cry, laugh and become emotional. After the year we’ve had, we all need to be inspired, and the Middle East’s bravest marketers will lead the way. Those that do take a chance will be rewarded with better brand awareness, perception and purchase intent. Let’s hope for marketing that’ll inspire people in 2021.

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