Millward Brown Vermeer’s Marc de Swaan Arons, CMO and executive board member, recently presented in Dubai on findings from a new report released by the company on Marketing2020 – Organizing for Growth.
In his talk, he highlighted the current marketing landscape, explaining that “speed is of the essence,” referring to the importance for marketers’ to capitalize on a current event with a real-time response. He also illustrated the significance of transparency, using the example of McDonald’s recent campaign where the company answers any questions that their consumers may have about the products. Tying it all together, he concluded that “generation Y cares; this is a generation that asks ‘what do you stand for’ when they join a company, ‘what are you doing to help the world’?”
Communicate personally spoke with him about the direction of marketing in the region and the global issues being faced by the current marketing industry.
What is unique about the MENA region’s marketing landscape, compared to the global climate?
Global marketing is all about marketing cycle phases. Currently, for example, Western Europe is all about sustainability: what’s behind the company, what’s behind the brand. In other markets, it’s much more about the functionality, the performance, the technical benefits. There is not one formula for global marketing, but the important thing for marketers to recognize is what phase they’re in.
One thing that is specific to the MENA region is that social media and digital are moving even faster here than they are elsewhere. It’s a reflection of people interacting with brands in new ways.
How can regional brands and marketers position themselves to adopt the digital platform with the same haste as consumers?
This need is not specific to this region alone, this is a challenge all global marketers are facing. Speaking of digital in general, it is being treated like a hot potato in organizations. Marketers started to realize that as they interact with consumers, they could learn from them, and they could get information, from which they can start to make the product more tailored to an individual. Consider companies like Uber, AirB&B, Skype and FaceTime; in these examples, digital is challenging business models. Now, business leaders are being asked questions on a daily basis that used to be asked once a generation, which are: what business are we in, why do we exist, and how do we organize for that?
How will the 2020 Expo help create a new marketing landscape for the MENA region?
When brands think about going global, one thing that they have to understand is that everything is based on universal truths. We share more than we differ and an Expo makes that incredibly clear. Although though every pavilion at the Expo is different, and everybody is trying to show how they’re different, you come away from an event like that with an understanding of how much is the same, and how connected we are. That’s what I wish for 2020 as well, because it will show the world how this region is much more similar rather than different. Expo 2020 and the World Cup are wonderful opportunities for the Middle East to connect with the rest of the world.
How do you compel brands to take marketing risks?
The new mindset is all about iterative improvement, interactive relationships, and interpreting results on the fly. It’s about daring to try things, and it actually isn’t that risky. Brands aren’t being asked to sign away the whole annual media budget to an experiment. It’s a a higher pace, a completely unknown speed, but it’s not more risky. Plus brands can learn every step of the way. As marketers, we are inspired by interaction; I want to understand what the consumer is about and what they need, and then finally I can come back and say “how about this?” That is possible today, and this concept is why marketers joined marketing.
What is fundamentally changing about marketing, if anything?
The fundamentals are not changing. What has changed is we’re being forced to interpret, learn, and respond on the fly. What is fundamentally different is the ability to respond, the ability to add value. And, for example, Amazon, and Facebook, and Nike are setting the standards for everyone else.
How important are millennials to the marketing industry, and how should it attract and retain them?
First of all, the companies that are attracting and retaining millennials are generating over-performance in revenue growth because of their familiarity with digital. Digital is a fast moving track and it’s a bit like running from a bear, you don’t have to be faster than the bear, you just have to be faster than others running from the bear. And currently, no one gets digital, but as long as you get it better than your competitors, you’ll be fine.
Marketing is strategy, deciding where you’re going play and how you’re going to win is fundamental to businesses. This idea is very much aligned with what motivates millennials. Young individuals are attracted by where they can enter the workforce and make the biggest impact.