In 2013,  we saw the development of cloud-sourced data into digital campaigns, the integration of Facebook into interconnected #realtime status messages, and most importantly the introduction of the mini video.

2014 should not only see further evolutions on these trends, but more consumer-shaped campaigns, guilt free spending, and more data-oriented creativity on the part of digital and integrated marketers.

Agencies will continue to push for more Integrated Communications and Branded Content; but this time around, will aim for a higher ratio of integrated campaigns led primarily by social media, supported merely by offline and traditional media.  They will continue to equip and beef up their internal Branded Content teams to deliver ambitious projects – all in view of a single pursuit: to position the Middle East as a viable hub and resource for digitally-led, international awards-worthy marketing programs.

Trend 1: The Dawn of the Crowd-Sourced Brand

Consumers no longer want to be spoken to about the latest trend, they want to be the latest the trend! They no longer want witty social banter or even their needs to be approached through original messaging, they want to be the original message.

This is a trend that has lightly taken on speed within North America and European markets, and is now becoming an accepted movement in the Middle East. If brands don’t help social consumers build their dream, they face the risk of losing out audiences to more open and embracing competition. This means the relevancy of the blogger may go down and the average consumer up. Consumers will no longer wait for trendsetters to show them the way, they will willingly take a step further and search out brands that will allow them a platform to create and showcase individual experiences.

Two factors contribute largely to the growing importance of crowd sourcing the region. The higher than world-average internet penetration rate promising more technology connectivity among the region’s population, and predominantly young population called the Arab Digital Generation.
1.    Internet Penetration
•    Although the Middle East and North Africa account for only 3.9% if global internet users, its penetration rate sits at 40.2%, higher than the world average of 34.3% and the rest of the world at 34.1%.
•    This only means more people are connected through technology and hence work, operate, and enjoy life in models which are more technologically connected, leading to more telecommuting
2.    Predominantly young population
•    “The region has many favourable attributes on which to build on, including a young and dynamic population called the Millenials or the Arab Digital Generation, where more than 50% of the population is below the age of 25. The Millenials are now driving digital consumption and engagement via multiple digital tools including social networking platforms, mobile applications, online videos, etc.) 2013 Arab Media Outlook

Trend 2: LinkedIn, A Silent Power No More

Khaleej Times said it best: “LinkedIn, the world’s largest professional online networking site, has been a silent achiever with a steady rise in numbers over the years. It now has 200 million members, of which 5 million are from the MENA region and one million from the UAE. With the UAE being home to professionals from across the world, a platform like LinkedIn provides them with access to new connections, business opportunities, and potential to build their professional brand in a fast growing market.”
But LinkedIn, though growing exponentially in the Middle East, is no longer limited to the career-oriented individuals. Brands in the region these days stand to benefit from this rising performer, thanks to new equities like Company Pages and Sponsored Updates, to professional groups hungry and craving for industry-led content and engagement. Clearly, LinkedIn is emerging to become a potent tool for brands looking to expand, if not streamline, their social presence from merely entertaining a growing number of (maybe not so loyal Facebook) fans, (after all) to engaging and truly activating an actual following of potential leads.

•    Of the 40,234,014 Internet Users in the MENA region, around 4,716,515 are registered LinkedIn Users as of May 2013. This accounts for around 11.7% of total Internet Users in MENA, and has proven to be a dramatic increase from a mere 4,294,484 users in June of 2012.

Trend 3: “D” is for Data

Brands are becoming less heavily reliant on social data to reach consumers more effectively.  They are becoming more comfortable with going into the field and relying on in person insight. For the Middle East this is a trend to watch.
Brands and their agency partners are still becoming comfortable with the idea of social consumer data. With more social users hiding who they are  online, in hopes of having more privacy, a marketer’s instinct will trump data.
In fact, brand’s such as Nestle have set up innovation outposts to help deepen relationships with consumers online and in social media. Instead of just relying on consumer data, the brand is setting up strategic partnerships with social platforms and relevant tech companies. This will gain more in the now experience about consumers and not just data oriented findings.
It’s important that brands find the balance of data and recommendations that are personalized in order to gain trust and provide a great experience – regardless.