Digital Essays 2022: Consumers want meaningful conversations with brands – by Digitas’ Tony Wazen

Brands need to meet the growing expectation of consumers and keep them engaged, writes Digitas’ Tony Wazen


By Tony Wazen, CEO, Digitas Middle East, a Publicis Groupe company

Meaning over distraction; that’s what consumers are demanding from brands today. At present, most brands fall short on the promise of creating meaningful connections with their audiences. This can be possible only through a complete marketing transformation.

We live in an age of connectivity. Yet, people feel more isolated and disconnected from each other than ever before. With the pandemic, loneliness has become a global health concern that can diminish our wellness and longevity. Digital devices play a significant role here. While it does help to kill boredom, the constant buzz of information has created a collective anxiety. We are beginning to see that screen time does not free our minds; it locks down our opportunities to connect creatively. To factor this in, the entire marketing ecosystem is evolving. 

Loyalty in the digital age

Earning consumer loyalty is the ultimate goal for brands. The majority of consumers are multichannel users but it can be a challenging experience for them to switch between channels – only half of them transition smoothly. There is a major disconnect between owned and paid touch points. Due to lack of efficiency in the process, most consumers feel no loyalty to brands. This issue can be addressed by adding depth to the relationship with consumers and by demonstrating that brands know their consumers. Since brands often place the majority of their data in the hands of mega platforms, they can find it tricky to access insightful and connected marketing data. Either they do not have data, or it is siloed, and often both. 

Brand marketers are currently managing an average of 23 channels. They resort to reach and retargeting by using distracting advertising. Often, their actions do not match their professed values. Hence, marketing is not trusted anymore and the world is ad-blocked, overloaded and too distracted to bother.

Empowering the consumer

The consumer channel ecosystem has evolved considerably over the years. From accessing a few channels with limited choices, consumers have moved on to consuming content on multiple channels that provide plenty of options. Presently, they hold more power and decide which brands they want to interact with. Factors such as volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity continue to shape clients’ business today. 

Most consumers are underwhelmed with their brand interactions. For example, they expect contextualised engagements based on previous interactions and believe that brands should recognise them across various touchpoints. The pressure is mounting for brands. They will soon have no option but to transform their overall approach to marketing and focus on strengthening relationships with consumers. 

The new marketing landscape

Modern marketing challenges can be summed up as a perfect storm. We are witnessing changes in consumer behaviour, the channel relevance is shifting, and disruptive technologies are changing the marketing landscape. On the other hand, there are commercial demands, financial pressure, legislative changes, additional traceability and increased measurement. 

The marketing approach has altered accordingly. These marketing challenges have pushed marketers to create experiences that help brands create a meaningful and sustainable connection with their audiences. Meaningful communication is created over connected campaigns when the media and creative come together holistically. Brands are creating memorable interactions with holistic brand experiences, producing resonant conversations with social marketing, and covering paid, owned and earned media. By identifying pivotal moments in people’s lives and envisioning ways to create connections, they can improve marketing effectiveness and create longer brand advocacy. 

Being data-driven and digital sits at any brand’s core. It is the foundation to provide a personalised and connected customer experience. As communication specialists, our approach should centre around connecting data from first-, second- and third-party observations and this is powered by technology, creativity, data sciences and customer strategy. After all, factors like website and app design, UX and UI, tech stacking and tagging are essentials for a seamless customer experience.

Personalisation-at-scale is a game changer in the modern digital world. When it comes to consumers’ growth and retention, the integration of marketing technologies and advertising technologies will help to provide better end-to-end customer experiences. One of the key factors is to ensure you use the right technology infrastructure to drive better efficiencies from multiple marketing operations.