Key highlights from OMD Predicts 2017

While last year’s Predicts examined how to trigger desire and build demand, 2017’s edition of OMD MENA’s annual thought-leadership conference studied the next stage of this evolution; the future of personalized communications at scale.

Taking place at The Westin Dubai, we welcomed a roster of world-class speakers, featuring child- prodigy and one of the world’s most respected branding gurus, Martin Lindstrom as keynote, with Brain Solis, a digital analyst and futurist, Google’s head of creative agencies in MENA, Alex Brunori and OMD EMEA’s Blake Cuthbert, completing the panel.

Fireside chat exploring these issues further included insight from INFINITI’s Francesca Ciaudano, Walid Fakih, General Manager at McDonald’s UAE, Snapchat’s Jacob Thomas and Michel Malkoun, COO at DMS.

Here we take a closer look at the key takeaways and insights gleaned from EVOLVE…

 Innovating in the face of uncertainty

OMD’s CEO, Nadim Samara set the tone for this year’s Predicts acknowledging the challenging times we as an industry are facing and how brands can transact in the face of this uncertainty.

As consumers move at a faster pace, demanding more from every experience and a program of personalized communication, data becomes a key driver in allowing us to adapt quickly and pivot effectively.

Future-proofing strategies and looking ahead, not down, is the key to staying one step ahead.


The consumer is king

Martin Lindstrom opened the conference with a theme which resonated throughout every speaker’s narrative: everything we do should boil down to one simple thing- the consumer.

Amid our reliance and infatuation with technology, we have lost sight of this. While humans have shaped 90% of all the information ever created, what does this actually tell us as marketers?

It is the clue-gathering, or ‘small data’ referred to by Lindstrom that is key to understanding and connecting with the consumer on an emotional level. Given that 85% of what we do as humans is considered irrational, small data affords us the opportunity to identify individual traits in which to create personalized communications.

Yet, we need to look at both big and small data to find the sweet spot to target. As we become ever-less present in the real world and our need for instant gratification increases tenfold, our sense of boredom is lost. We’re hyper-aware of this and actually crave less choice, simplicity is the ultimate goal.

In tandem with this we should be leveraging somatic markers (used to denote an ‘unforgettable experience’) as a concept to leave a lasting impression on consumers. Making this emotive link is crucial- don’t just analyze numbers, spend time with people you are trying to target. Empathy is a vital, if often overlooked part of the process and it should be deployed to change both our brains and strategies for the better.


The dawn of digital Darwinism

“We are living in an age where brands are defined by those who experience it”, according to Brian Solis. When considering our approach, the consumer experience should drive everything and yet we have allowed ourselves to be steered by performance metrics instead of what the consumers want.

It comes down to the fact that iteration over innovation has become the norm, so ingrained is it in us to keep building on what we know, rather than inventing or trying something new. The result has caused a fracture, with society and technology evolving at such a rate that organizations have struggled to adapt quick enough. It is this phenomenon that Solis refers to as ‘digital Darwinism’.

However, marketing is bigger than any one moment and our work must influence every consumer touch point to connect. Only 54% of companies have completely mapped out the consumer journey, and it’s even worse on mobile- optimization isn’t a priority, despite mobile changing the dynamic of consumer experience. We are 100 times more impatient online than in physical reality.

Nevertheless, despite the opportunities that technology offers us, in a world of machines, humanity is still the killer app when it comes to not only targeting consumers, but understanding them too.

Consider the rise of ‘Generation C’. They are hyper-connected, check their phones 1500 times a day, are demanding, informed and elusive to target effectively. By understanding the notion of what appeals to them, we can adopt a ‘consumer first, technology later’ approach to defining what an experience is in the eyes of today’s user.


The future will be defined by the interface

Data has many functionalities in the world of marketing. It can make us see, help us learn, transform stories into history and most importantly, help us predict.

Google’s Alex Brunori examined the use of data in brand strategizing, noting that as we move into the age of assistance, we want to have a digitally-enabled, but not necessarily digital-led life. Thus, while the culture of this century may be defined by the interface, the best experience is the one that doesn’t need one.

This is further evident when you look at how consumers’ liquid expectations are redefining how we plan our campaigns. Technology has allowed us to turn childhood dreams into reality, however we now need to combine all this this tech to craft hyper-personalized experiences and connect on a human, rather than data-driven level.

It’s clear that personalization is no longer a luxury, but an essential to connect with today’s consumer. We can’t just identify and decode the big and small data to power our decisions, it now needs to mean something as well.

In line with this, we are seeing AI becoming commoditized. Whereas once it was considered conceptually something special, it is now about how we can use it to make the interface unique. This goes some way to explaining why AR (augmented reality) is considered to have more longevity than VR (virtual reality), it is simply more relatable.


 Reinventing the story

Concluding the conference, OMD EMEA’s Blake Cuthbert showed how we need to go back to basics and begin with a simple story. What do we want to say and how do we want to say it?

By going right back to the beginning, it will allow us to minimize disruption, focus consumers’ attention and drive profitable growth.

As we move into the third wave of disruption, AI and IoT will take centre stage, fundamentally changing the way in which we talk to each other. Creating a seamless experience across every platform will therefore be more important than ever to ensure transparency on a reciprocal level.

Storytelling in the traditional sense is being reinvented and we must find ways of crafting content to maximise appeal, not limit targeting and in the same vein, ensure we are not becoming intrusive.

While technology has enabled us to meet new consumer expectations (Amazon’s patented predicted shipping for example) we must pair this with human instinct too. As Cuthbert sums up, we need to have our “head down in data, but eyes up in the real world” to achieve the best possible outcome.


Predicts by numbers

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The OMD team works on delivering insights that unlock demand potential, ideas that ignite consumer desire and results that accelerate business growth for our clients.

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