The three key trends that will drive brand experiences in the Middle East in 2023
Posted on 2022 Dec,15  | By ArabAd's staff

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With the recent UAE lifting of nearly all Covid-19 restrictions and Saudi Arabia announcing their new visa to attract more foreign visitors, 2023 is set to be a golden opportunity for brands to attract new audiences and drive more engagement through experiences. Three communications professionals from leading marketing and experience agencies-- Interbrand, Imagination, and Pumpkin PR-- look at what brand experiences in the region might look like in 2023 and where brands should be spending their budget.

With significant international events like the FIFA World Cup in Qatar and the World Expo in Dubai, 2022 has been a revolutionary year for the Middle East. It is obvious why more brands want to establish themselves in the Gulf since the region receives more foreign direct investments than any other.

The number of projects entering the region increased by 97% in 2021, and this trend is projected to continue. However, while the Middle East has emerged as a hub for economic expansion, this has also increased competition in the region. And only the businesses that are ready to take chances and innovate will stand a chance of succeeding.

In 2023, experiences will be vital for brands in that they will help them stand out from rivals, engage with local consumers, and understand how to meet their needs. These brand interactions will facilitate the connections with locals that will convert them to long-term brand ambassadors.

So what will be the key considerations for experiences in 2023, and how can brands get these right?


Nancy Villanueva, CEO Iberia & Middle East, Interbrand

As a result of businesses becoming one of the most trusted institutions, brands have established themselves as drivers of the most powerful narratives across the globe. The constructs surrounding trust now hold significant importance to businesses now that they find themselves within such a central position in society.

Brands must demonstrate their leadership through extraordinary products, unique experiences and showing responsibility, all of which needs to find a balance to meet the changing expectations of consumers. Brands that can find a perfect balance of these three aspects can experience new sources of growth while expanding into multiple directions.

Going forward into 2023, brands should focus on building consumer loyalty and advocacy as well as trust and affinity through their experiences. For example, over two decades, Nike has invested in its brand to create a deep meaning system that enabled the business to work on personalised relationships – and, as such, has increased permission to leverage its brand and extend beyond its core.

The fastest-rising brands on Interbrand's Best Global Brands 2022 report show that leadership is a key driver through setting a clear direction and ensuring that all employees within the business knows exactly where it’s going. As a result, these businesses can be fast and agile, being able to bring new products and services to the market.

The strongest brands encourage consumers to go on a journey with them to create an engaging strategy and make them part of their movement.


Junior González, Strategist, Imagination

In recent years, we’ve seen a shift in consumer attitude; younger generations favour experiences and memories over goods and services. Middle Eastern economies, broadly speaking, have been embracing this medium, moving toward becoming more experience-led. And this isn't set to slow down into 2023.

Post-Covid, people are hungry for in-person journeys - metaverse concerts and meetups won’t cut it in 2023. People want a way to authentically connect with the world around them and their communities.

And as brands have cemented themselves as an integral part of our lives and communities in almost every sense, they can seize this incentive with both hands. Particularly in the Gulf, brands have an incredible advantage in creating and delivering outer-worldly and highly innovative experiences with more freedom and less red tape, and they must take full advantage.

That said, it doesn't mean that digital elements shouldn't be integral to the experience. Immersive VR/AR, interactive screens, and hybrid connections to the right digital and social media must be in the design process's heart. Looking forward, we will see an expanded experience ecosystem that connects brands with audiences on a deeper and more emotional level. A multi-tiered approach to experiences tailored to the needs and wants of every type of customer should also be considered.

From capitalising on landmark moments, satellite pop-up shops and in-store masterclasses in the retail space to subsidiaries based in the region that are heavily investing in AI tech and metaverse platforms to improve residents' experiences, the opportunities for brands in the region are endless.

And we are yet to imagine the worlds of imagination that will be brought to life in the coming years.

Watch this space…


Sarah Owen, Founder and CEO, Pumpkin PR

To avoid falling behind, businesses in the Middle East must concentrate their budgets on experiences and events in the coming year. These experiences, however, must be based on a distinct brand narrative that embodies your company's values while also catering to the preferences and requirements of local customers. This will be absolutely vital to business growth in 2023.

Consumers are increasingly favouring brand experiences over products or services, giving brands a head start in the market. But the challenge will be to ensure a real value exchange takes place between a business and its customers, while embedding your brand narrative at the centre of every customer touch point. This will be what makes or breaks an experience.

Brands must also be hungry to deliver innovative experiences that appeal to contemporary audiences. It goes without saying that people need face-to-face interaction, but brands also need to take into account the multi-screen world we currently live in; a trend that will persist throughout 2023 and beyond. Therefore, creating great brand experiences in the Middle East the following year will depend on having a strong brand narrative, a desire for innovation and the adaptability to match the ever changing consumer demands.