Getting personal – by Red Havas’ Razan Karim

To appeal to ‘prosumers’ brands must ditch the me-first mentality, writes Red Havas senior communications director Razan Karim

Razan Karim, senior communications director, Red Havas Middle East

While the industry regains its footing following the impact of 2020 across all sectors, marketers and PR professionals are eager to execute a healthy roster of activations and experiences to engage with consumers in a post-pandemic era. As outlined in the Havas Red Sky 2022 Predictions Report, we recognise that consumers across different demographics are looking for deeper and more authentic connections with brands. Delving into a specific segment, it’s critical to understand how, as a product of the times, today’s leading young market drivers – or, as we at Havas call them, ‘prosumers’ – are navigating a challenging post-pandemic world and how businesses can adjust to that change while retaining credibility among that generation.

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With Covid-19 having robbed young people of vital opportunities to socialise, experiment and grow, there’s no doubt that the so-called ‘return to normal’ comes with an appetite for in-person experiences. While social media and the birth of new tech innovations have allowed consumers to connect with one another, and brands to innovate their consumer engagement, this doesn’t replace the more meaningful interactions that take place in real life.

In our region, specifically, the pandemic occurred on the back of a huge cultural shift, particularly evident in Saudi Arabia. Now, with most events back in full swing, 93 per cent of KSA and 87 per cent of UAE prosumers say they aim to make up for lost time post the pandemic and live their lives to the fullest.

At the same time, a desire to live a less consumerist lifestyle is on the rise, with 86 per cent of UAE and 79 per cent of KSA prosumers wanting their generation to build a world that is less consumption-obsessed.

With those insights in mind, it’s critical to consider how to connect with an audience that is questioning old ways of working, living and expressing themselves. This in turn affects how we, as marketers, are able to navigate new territories, especially when it comes to brand events.

So, what does this mean for brands that have the opportunity to fulfil an undeniable hunger for experience, and at the same time are presented with the challenge of breaking through the clutter to genuinely appeal to a significantly more mindful generation, ‘IRL’?

To overcome this shift, brands need to further distinguish themselves by providing unique in-person experiences that do not prioritise the product, and to add value by creating more meaningful relationships with audiences through storytelling. Immersive and shareable moments will ultimately lead to longer-lasting impact, beyond the parameters of the experience itself. Last Ramadan, Bottega Veneta highlighted its diversity and inclusivity pillars with a minimalist and modern take on a majlis concept that brought together young artists of various disciplines to share their personal journeys in an intimate setting. Through poetry, music and film, they made a platform for genuine conversations around diaspora, identity, grief and faith – ultimately creating an emotional connection between artists and guests. Clearly thoughtful in execution, the event was completely absent of any in-your-face branding, but rather incorporated subtle nods to the brand’s DNA throughout a three-day experience.

‘‘brands need to further distinguish themselves by providing unique in-person experiences.”

Co-collaboration is also becoming a critical factor in connecting with young prosumers, with 47 per cent of Gen Z audiences feeling they aren’t represented in most marketing and branding. Given the current social climate, this segment is less influenced today by traditional loyalty programmes and doesn’t respond to being told what to do, where to spend time or what products to purchase. Instead, they look for hands-on collaboration and involvement with brands to ensure their voices are being heard, their identities accurately represented and their values shared. With this in mind, it is important for brands to take a collaboration-first approach, with the aim of supporting this audience’s need for creativity and freedom of expression.

Adidas recently launched its new Adidas Originals flagship store at The Dubai Mall with an in-store celebration that gathered the city’s young creatives to experience its new retail concept. Breaking the mould of traditional in-store events that typically no longer appeal to media, influencers or consumers, the success of the launch laid on the collaborative concept behind the refurbished store itself. The retail concept ‘The Collection’ serves as a platform for collaboration with local artists and stylists, ultimately placing the city’s creative community at its heart. From the furniture to the imagery displayed on the walls and one-off sneaker displays, every design element is a result of co-creation with local talent, contributing depth and authenticity. The youth that came together to immerse themselves in the space were not only enticed by the brand, but also by the desire to celebrate and elevate their peers.

As we enter a new, optimistic era for consumers and brands alike, we acknowledge that this new generation is a major driving force behind economic recovery in the Middle East. These consumers are craving more meaningful connections with brands, and they expect those to understand and respond to their individual needs. Gone are the days of mass marketing strategies and cookie cutter experiences when it comes to brand events. Brands that understand “less is more” and that genuine connection is key will succeed in speaking the language of a new generation.