Faced with an unprecedented world shift in the age of instant gratification and always-on-media, the marketing world has had to pivot 360 degrees to remain ahead
By Ejaz Mirza, AVP- Client development, MEA, Borderless Access
COVID-19 has changed the face of the world as we know it - not least in the marketing and communication space. Faced with an unprecedented world shift in the age of instant gratification and always-on-media, the marketing world has had to pivot 360 degrees to remain ahead of the curve in giving consumers what they want to see, hear, and ultimately, buy.
Marketers are spending less - and focusing their attention differently
43% of marketers globally have temporarily reduced their spending during the pandemic, intending to go ‘full force’ once the dust has settled. Another 18% are focusing on more unconventional marketing methodologies for now, with this number being higher than the global average, in the Middle East.
Marketers, like consumers, are focused on the digital space
People are more aware of digital channels than before, post lockdown. Saudis and Emiratis, in particular, are spending a lot of time on social media and are influenced by it as a persuasive selling tool.
Not surprisingly, marketers have also focused their budget on digital communication methods since the pandemic altered media consumption trends. Social media, followed by websites and digital publications, are the three most popular channels worldwide: marketers worldwide confirm that this is where they are focusing their spending – and receiving the highest returns. In the UAE and Saudi, marketers are heavily reliant on communicating via social media and websites.
Do not underestimate the heritage of TV
Middle Eastern marketers are more focused on communicating via mobile apps than the global average. As we have seen across the world, all marketers are spending less on physical magazine ads than before.
Broadcast media (TV and radio) remains present but is certainly not in the same leagues as digital means, in terms of its spend focus. However, it is noteworthy that, as we have seen in previous studies, TV is still the most trusted media channel for news and information during this unknown time, indicating that marketers should forsake this channel entirely.
The Middle East embraces digital more than its global counterparts
Marketers globally do have some wariness over embracing digital media solely. There is a perception that these channels are still only embraced by a younger generation and that focusing on them would miss out on communicating with older consumers. To this end, global marketers feel that traditional media still has a relevant place in the industry.
However, this sentiment is less strongly felt in the Middle East than in other countries. Instead, Saudi marketers in particular have a strong sense that digital is the only channel to focus their attention and spend. In Saudi too, marketers feel that digital is too often confused with social media only, with a quarter of people feeling that social media is often misused and misunderstood.
It goes without saying that consumers and marketers alike are well aware of the prevalence of digital media since the lockdown. Emiratis in particular drive the sentiment that lockdown has increased reliance on this form of communication. Only 8% of marketers globally feel that traditional media will come back post lockdown.
Social media is perceived as the future of digital marketing
It is globally agreed that a social media presence is the most important element of digital marketing today. This followed by email marketing and content marketing. Still relatively unknown, augmented reality and automation are seen to be the least critical elements of the digital field at this point.
As we have seen from both a consumer and business perspective, social media holds current sway in influencing buying behavior in the Middle East. It is also seen as the strongest media channel for the future of marketing. Other digital methodologies such as email marketing and content marketing also hold a lot of clout and are perceived to continue to do so.
Marketers need to be where the people are, but act with caution
The face of marketing has changed dramatically through this pandemic and looks set to continue this trajectory. Progressive marketers are talking to people through digital means, communicating with them via social (and other digital) media, and understanding the relevance of peer influence and community engagement.
However, marketers need to take into account the two cautions around this embrace: First, traditional media still holds a place in the eyes of both the marketing industry and consumers. Second, social media can and has been misused and misunderstood by professionals and laymen alike.
This extremely powerful tool should, therefore, be harnessed for the right reasons and in a considered manner, in order to be optimized as a communication method by the marketing industry.