WARC releases insights from the WARC Prize for MENA Strategy 2021

Emotional intelligence is the driving force for effective marketing in MENA.

WARC has released the 2021 MENA Strategy Report, outlining insights and successful marketing trends following an analysis of the results of this year’s WARC Prize for MENA Strategy, an annual award for the region’s smartest strategic thinking.

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Chiara Manco, Commissioning Editor, Case Studies, WARC, says: “While analysing the winning entries for this Report, it became apparent that – across objectives, strategies and executions – this year’s winners shared the same overarching theme: empathy – aptly described by some judges as “emotional intelligence”.

“This ability to deeply connect with consumers allowed brands to create digital experiences targeted to the needs of their audiences. It made for participatory strategies that empowered consumers and timely executions that showed an understanding of local cultures and sensibilities.”

The four key takeaways highlighted in WARC’s 2021 MENA Strategy Report are:

1. Targeted experiences cut through in the pivot to digital

Amongst this year’s winners were brands that proved the pay-off of targeted digital activations. KFC, Bose and Burger King all created experiences that supported specific audiences or communities. Personalisation, which this year increased in popularity as a creative strategy, was a key element of such activations.

Jury member Roxane Magbanua, Business Unit Director, PHD, UAE, advises: “Delivering targeted and empathetic experiences through digital touchpoints can have a long-term impact on brand equity. Targeted approaches are a ‘must-have’: implement them intentionally and at scale.”

2. Empowering communications heighten engagement

Many brands, including Almosafer, Diari and Knorr, made consumers the protagonists of their communications, as evidenced by participation rising to be the top creative strategy this year. By empowering their audiences – whether by providing tools for life improvement or giving them a voice – these brands showed the engagement potential of empathetic participatory strategies.

Judge Laura Chaibi, Senior Consultant, Global Media, Nielsen Media Middle East, noted: “The big winners were those which empathised with consumers by acting as a channel for them to express themselves.” 

3. Switched-on brands leave a mark on local culture

By having their finger on the pulse of local issues and events, winners Emirates Nation Brand, An-Nahar and LADA showed that reacting to cultural happenings can build strong connections with audiences.

Rohit Arora, General Manager, Liwa Content Driven, UAE, and member of the judging panel, says: “It’s evident from this year’s winners that, by being plugged into local pop culture and current affairs, brands can tackle relevant moments with confidence, even when it comes to controversial topics.”

4. Real-life stories lend humanity to brands

Featuring real people instead of actors, as well as creating relatable characters, has paid off for winners like Emirates NBD, Burger King and Home Centre. These winners showed how infusing communications with humanity can aid brand perception.

Judge Tahaab Rais, President – SLC and Regional Head of Strategy & Truth Central at FP7 McCann MENAT, commented: “It’s imperative for brands to recognise they cannot succeed without people. There’s a return and reward in conscious empathy.”

The report is available to WARC subscribers and includes a chapter analysis of the four themes with views and opinions from the judges, what these mean for brands, media owners and agencies, as well as winning case studies and data analysis.

The WARC Prize for MENA Strategy, now in its fifth year, is a free-to-enter annual case study competition in search of the best strategic thinking from MENA’s marketing industry.