By: Bassem Abdul Ghani, Senior Marketing Director, Middle East North Africa & Pakistan, Mondelez

What is happening around us?

Change is a predictable constant…. Yes, we went through a shift as the world witnessed the COVID pandemic.  We have experienced swift changes in consumer habits as they adopted more technology in how they navigate their daily lives…. They have become more caring to Mother Earth and instilling more entrepreneurial ideas spreading across borders… We see a new generation immersed into a world that is fast, dynamic, evolving and tech at the heart of it all… We hear about NFTs, Bitcoin rise and crash, AR, Big Data, programmatic, blockchain, mobile first solutions, wearable tech integration, chatbots, Zero/First party data with intent and the endless possibilities of how generative AI can drive efficiencies to our lives …

Is this the challenge… of course NOT… that’s the opportunity, the future, the excitement

Indeed, I am a marketer like any other, who wants to create legacy brand narratives that travel across international borders, win hearts, awards and grow business metrics…  However, in this era of digital distractions, a catchy name or a nice logo or a creative campaign are no longer enough to hook the interest of modern consumers…

2022 has brought to us a post COVID snowball after effect, presenting us with a disruptive version of life… Interest rates are staggering like never before, raw and pack material are hard to source, prices are skyrocketing, brands are cost cutting, and enterprises becoming more and more conscious of the financial algorithms to maintain a sustainable business outlook for their shareholders. Supply chain is not an easy ride, becoming pressured to deliver products and services at timely manner to stakeholders.  And to those who think it will get easier, well I am sorry to convey the bad news… It’s NOT!

A recession is coming next year -whether you like it or not- and regardless of when or where it hits, if we want to succeed, we need to stay agile, innovative and data driven while applying strategies and executing our brand plans.

We keep hearing across many forums and connects from the most seasoned and agile marketers: “How do we stay relevant in this unprecedented global restage?”  

If any person assumes they have the answer… pls do excuse yourself from them, as no one has the answer. But what we can do is observe and capture trends and shifts for marketers and brands to accommodate, reiterating their brand’s existence and strategies … 

Shifts to expect

I tried to draft some notes around expected trends that we need to keep gravitated to, as we plan for our brand strategies and plans… but first let’s begin with 2 main fundamentals for your brand’s foundation as you enter 2023

(A) Let’s start by asking ourselves “why does your brand exist in the first place”

Modern consumers are in search for deep substance, aspiring for a higher purpose.  They no longer see brands as mere commodities—each has a story to tell, a statement on its own. This is why purpose-driven brands have more appeal. In fact, 71% of consumers purchase from companies and brands that share their cause (Consumer Culture Report, 2020). To quote an earlier study by Cone Communications, “companies must now share not only what they stand for, but what they stand up for.”

As such, a marketer’s challenge is how will they bring the brand values to life as well as choosing the advocacies that the brand will stand up for. How can we elevate the brand relevance (beyond just crafting a purpose) to create consumer experiences that truly impact people and communities. Are we just sharing our purpose through a piece of digital content or are we standing side by side to a social event, a global challenge and taking a stand.  The era of brand safety is long dead … consumers want to see and hear authenticity; they want to see and embrace imperfections.  They want to experience brands exposing social tensions.

The bottom line is, it’s difficult for consumers to trust brands. They feel that brands are simply out there to get their money, and isn’t this true… we track market share, distribution, drop sizes of purchases, etc. Rarely do we see brands talk about their Purpose Scores or Quality of stands taken in line with their purpose…  If marketers want consumers to do business, they must humanize their brands. Attaching a personality to your brand is one of the most tried and tested brand marketing trends of all time. 

(B) Know who you are really talking to, the real makers of the future 

We have all dealt with, planned for and heard well GenZ, that generation that grew with a tech interface to the world.  They are a demographic cohort that grew up in a world dominated by digital media and technology.  The way they view and navigate through their days are significantly different form their millennial counterparts. 

Based on the 2022 consumer trend report, some Gen Z data says that:

  • 50% say companies should take a stance on social issues (climate change, racial justice, etc).
  • 51% said they are more likely to purchase from a company that treats its employees well.
  • 55% say influencers’ recommendations are one of the most critical factors in their purchase decision.
  • 51% rated sustainability as somewhat important when purchasing.

To market to GenZ you need to not just understand how they shop and consume media; you must understand their values, behaviors, and attitudes. Brands that want to connect with GenZ can leverage influencers, incorporate social causes into their marketing strategies, and focus on sustainability initiatives. By adapting to the needs and preferences of this tech-savvy generation, brands can stay relevant to ongoing futuristic changes.

Having understood what your brand is, what it stands for and having a clear understanding of who you need to influence… it’s time to choose the battles that are most concerning and relevant to GenZ, here are 8 things to deal with as we embark 2023

1. Technology based engagement

There is an important rule here, adopt technologies that fit your brand strategy and create value; don’t get overexcited with tech solutions for the sake of the technology, think consumer challenge first!

According to Bynder (2020), marketers and brand managers have been utilizing technology for various aspects of branding for years. They invest in branding automation technologies to create content more efficiently (32%), enable data-driven decision-making (27%), and improve personalization (22%).

Using technology will allow you to make data-driven campaigns… Think of how Cadbury used AI in their Cannes awarded Shah Rukh Khan My Ad , or the Metaverse based Australian Open Artball or the integration of Argentinian Itaú Bank and WhatsApp in their “A chat away from everything” or the Instagram’s AI based – Unfiltered history tour (, all adopted the technologies to deliver against their objectives.

Data is King!

Take this piece of news, Google Chrome’s third-party cookies support will stop by the end of 2024. So now companies heavily dependent on third-party cookies need to develop new strategies and shift their focus to first-party data.

First-party data involves information collected directly from consumers through surveys, customer insights, and analytics tools.  In 2022, 47% of marketers have been focusing on improving internal first-party data-collecting processes, which is expected to increase over the next few years. Marketers need to think how to capture data in a meaningful and engaging manner through consumer experiences while instilling a data analytics system to process the data for retargeting and increasing ROI.  Imagine reaching out to interested consumers who have had positive experience with your brand…. Imagine the level of engagement and cost efficiencies you have achieved in reaching those ‘loyally interested’ consumers?

But for the sake of everyone, don’t be the first in the metaverse just for the glamor of early tech adoption.  Think how such technology can thrive a consumer experience like never before.  Imagine your consumer clicks on a promotional banner that transfers them to a shop metaverse promotion hunt, or a 3D product examination… think of the possibilities of the experience and engagement…

The future of consumer interaction (specifically by 2025) will be via artificial intelligence (AI).  Let’s take an example, chatbots are gaining popularity & driving 10x ROI as consumers search for conversational opportunities with the brands.

2. Content creation & consumption

In 2023, content will continue to be the most important vehicle to make connections with consumers and build communities. According to Bynder State of branding report, Marketers main challenges will be (1) creating personalized messages for their consumers (2) Identifying the right technology to support personalized experiences (3) Balancing brand personalization and brand voice; you see content curation will be key for staying relevant to your audience.  Consumers are increasingly consuming video and livestreaming content.  Brands will continue to invest heavily on higher ROI platforms such as YouTube, TikTok and Instagram to best engage and gain trust with their consumers. 

But there is a catch here: Short-form Video Will See the Most Growth 

Virality is key to success, that’s why short-form video is the ultimate way to engage and entertain audiences, tap into trending topics, and go viral with relatively little effort and cost.

Marketers should focus on incorporating short-form videos into their brand activation strategy. Short Video can come in different forms; creating unique branded content, adopting user-generated content (UGC), or partnering with influencers to promote your brand.

3. The hunger to End to End experiences

According to, 17% of consumers would stop doing business with a brand if another brand would provide a better consumer experience. 45% of consumers are likely to end their brand relation if they don’t personalize their consumer experience. You see all brands are competing for mind share through the classic P’s but now more than ever the consumer experience is what puts your brand on the top of the equity list.

Marketers need to plan for delivering high quality experiences both on off/online touchpoints.  This is where Omnichannel plays an important role, how to mix the ingredients of physical touchpoints, customer behavior, digital touchpoints, customer experience and data technology to deliver a seamless interlinked communication exchange. I have always admired IKEA, the Swedish furniture retailer and how they have established an Omnichannel that creates an end to end experience both on off/online centered around creating a better life to many people … this video best summarized how they brought their E2E experience strategy to life. 

It is critical to personalize your communication, using data & analytics to target customers with the right consistent message at the right time, across all channels. Omnichannel is not a marketer’s responsibility, brands need to integrate cross functions to ensure that the consumer journey is seamless, so to all the sales, customer marketers and logistics team, buckle up!

4. Influencer Power to the power of two

According to a TEDx Talk by Rachel David, influencers play a big part in modern brand marketing strategies. If you can get the right influencer, you no longer need to worry about reaching audiences that are interested in your brand. These people have successfully established themselves as an authority in their field and have loyal followers and engaged audiences.  Partnering with the right influencer compliments the tonality and character your brand seeks to build.  Influencer based content utilizing short vie platforms can only enhance your ROI and brand engagement, there is no way back on this ..

Let’s take the gaming industry for an example, thanks to its large market share in the video streaming space, MENA-3 (KSA/Egypt & UAE) is estimated at $1.7 billion to reach $3 billion in 2025.  That’s not the catch, we have around 65 million gamers in the MENA-3 region! According to Forbes top Arab influencers of 2021  4 are gamers… A typical brand integration with a gamer’s audience includes activities such as contests, giveaways, social media takeovers, affiliate programs, posting sponsored content, unboxing and reviews, brand ambassador programs, etc.  Look at how the sportswear iconic Adidas partnered with Ninja the professional gamer, streamer, and YouTuber, with over 23 million followers. 



5. Sustainability

Consumers, especially GenZ, are in search for brands they can connect to and fit their values.  They prefer brands with social responsibility because it allows them to relate with higher purpose.  Sustainable branding is associated with societal change and has a real impact on your brand’s reputation.  Marketers need to think from product ideation through manufacturing and creative communication; how can we be better at sustaining earth and the future.  GenZ are willing to pay more for sustainably sourced products and services… 

6. Inclusivity

Finally, in a world where being authentic and real are highly valued virtues, well appreciated and nurtured, brands that adopt an inclusive approach win hearts… A survey by Accenture showed that 70% of millennials will choose inclusive and diverse brands over those that are not (Accenture, 2018).  Inclusive marketing strategies help brands better connect with audiences across different cultures, languages, and backgrounds. You succeed in making your brand more welcoming and relatable.  Marketers need to scan under-represented audiences that are most relevant to their cultures and societies. For example, Milka chocolate inspired many people through their “Fist Egg Hunt” campaign that brought joy to those who miss out on Easter. 


To Conclude

Consumers have gotten fatigued from everything happening around since 2019, the pandemic, to global political turmoil, economic uncertainty and the overall state of societal unrest, there has never been a more critical time for brands to be considerate and lead with increased emotional connections wherever possible.

The upcoming recession will have a massive emotional roller-coaster effect on people and brands must be armed and ready with empathy. Marketers must also quickly understand that loyalty to your brands is all about driving emotional & meaningful value and experiences.  Brands that do not possess strong emotional connections and fall short in inviting end to end experiences, will be forgotten.