Riding MENA’s MetaMarketing wave in 2023 – by RRD’s Amardeep Devadason

By Amardeep Devadason

Amardeep Devadason, senior vice president and head, global brand solutions, RRD GO CreativeTM, APAC

With one of the fastest tech adoption rates in the world, a growing middle class and with people under 30 comprising 55 per cent of the population, the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region is a happy hunting ground for marketers. The evolution of Web3 and the increasing influence of Gen Z on brand communication have upended the way companies connect with their customers, especially in the latest frontier for marketing – the metaverse.

Recent estimates suggest that the metaverse could add $360bn to MENA’s GDP over the next 10 years. This trend, combined with the emergence of MENA as the second fastest growing e-commerce market in the world, is cementing its reputation as a hotspot for marketing in the metaverse; a MetaMarketing hub. Companies are aligning their marketing and branding strategies with the region’s rising clout in this space and are planning to allocate a significant share of their budgets to the metaverse in 2023. The Macro Marketing Report 2022 by RR Donnelley & Sons Company reveals that 94 per cent of marketing decision-makers view the Metaverse as an exciting avenue to reach potential customers and 77 per cent have plans to experiment in this channel in the next few years.

Metaverse: The gateway to the future of marketing

With the number of mobile Internet users in the MENA forecast to reach nearly 357 million by 2025, market participants are expecting a surge in e-commerce activity. Brands that are bullish towards customer engagement will look to grab a share of this pie by employing a range of innovative methods to connect with the next generation of Internet users. Some of these methods will include:

  1. Experiential marketing: Among all the Web3 tools that aid marketing, the metaverse is the most disruptive and is changing the way we work, transact, design, build, shop, and sell. In 2023, we will see companies leveraging Web3 tech to make available collectables like non-fungible tokens (NFTs) and engage with existing communities to create user-generated content.
  2. Interactive marketing: One of the biggest trends in the metaverse marketing is the mushrooming of virtual storefronts. Companies are creating virtual representations of their physical stores and showrooms, allowing customers to explore and interact with products in a highly immersive and engaging manner. For example, furniture retailer, IKEA, launched a virtual storefront in the UAE, allowing customers to explore and furnish their VR homes with true-to-scale 3D models. Similarly, car manufacturers such as Audi, BMW, Mazda and Hyundai are offering virtual test drives, allowing customers to experience the thrill of driving their dream car without leaving their homes.
  3. Virtual events: With the rise of remote work and the increasing popularity of virtual events, companies are turning to metaverse marketing to reach their customers, employees, vendors, partners, suppliers, and other stakeholders. Tech giant Samsung officially joined the metaverse recently by hosting a product launch, enabling customers to experience its products in a virtual environment.
  4. Influencer marketing: Further flexing its customer experience muscle in the metaverse, Samsung tapped a CGI-generated influencer called ‘Zero from Nexus’ to unveil its latest product and promote brand engagement. Virtual influencer marketing can potentially become a dominant tool for companies looking to reach new audiences among Gen Z. In a nod to their popularity, Dubai-based beauty brand, Huda Beauty, partnered with virtual influencer, Lil Miquela, to create makeup tutorials and showcase its products. In the future, there will be a greater focus on local and micro-influencers for long-term brand partnerships and more targeted reach and impact.
  5. Personalised experiences: The convergence of AI, data analytics, and extended reality (XR) technologies has transformed marketers’ approaches to user engagement by helping them tailor experiences based on each customer’s preferences and behaviours. A case in point, Fortnite has integrated branded content into the game through in-game events, skins, and pickaxes. The game also uses targeted ads, allowing companies to place their products in the virtual environment, reach out to specific segments of players, and create interactive experiences.
MENA’s many firsts in the metaverse

  • Kuwait-based Warba Bank: First Islamic bank to enter the metaverse
  • Qatar University: First university in the metaverse
  • Dubai and Abu Dhabi: First global cities in the virtual world
  • Virgin Mobile Kuwait: First telco in the world to launch in the Sandbox

Are we ready for the shift?

The metaverse has created a white space for the brands that wish to push the envelope in customer engagement. And as more users dip their toes in Web3 waters, governments and brands in the MENA region will have to make greater efforts to build awareness of the technology, invest in the resources needed to build and maintain a presence in the metaverse and assess the willingness of customers to engage in the metaverse.

Even though significant progress has been made since the early days, companies have still only scratched the surface of what’s possible in Web3. As the experience on the Internet expands, it will be interesting to see how MetaMarketing rules get rewritten and what a mature metaverse experience looks like.