Communicate speaks with Adeola Tejumola, Managing Director, Middle East & Africa, Insights Division, Kantar about his plans to grow Kantar's presence in the MENA region.
What were your biggest takeaways from 2020 in the research business?
The world is changing fast and along with it, consumer preferences and behavior patterns keep shifting, ostensibly overnight. Marketers need to be at the top of their game to identify these details, even before they happen. So, who do they call in to help? Research firms, who can sift through mountains of divergent data feeds to arrive at conclusions that work, that's who.
Agile insights are critical for brands and marketeers to help make faster and more informed decisions, and the intersection of technology, automation and analytics is helping us change the game on how we engage with clients to address their needs. Primary data is not the only source of data anymore, marketeers have tons of data, often in multiple formats and often from different sources, and in many cases this data doesn’t talk to each other. Simplifying data, bringing data together, and decoding insights from it helps brands get more bang for their buck.
And COVID-19 created a perfect storm for a digital renaissance. We have seen huge strides in this space in 2020 in the Middle East as online became primarily the most reliable way to connect with people and gather consumer opinion - be it through our extensive consumer panels, or tech solutions like chatbots or via blogs and online communities.
We also saw e-commerce gain momentum, with brand purpose and sustainability the new north stars in boardrooms. People want proof of the small, tangible steps your brand is taking to make life a little better for a person, community or part of the world. No one is expecting world peace from their yogurt or an end to global warming from their bank, but actions speak louder than words, and this in turn creates a more credible and achievable brand purpose and results in more sustainable growth. Localism is on the rise, and innovation is now a renewed focus, for brands wanting to connect with consumers and lead the way in their category.
How do you plan to grow Kantar's presence in the MENA region?
Research is increasingly becoming a tool to understand and predict the future rather than decode the past. Marketeers are grappling with questions such as making the most of their media budgets to maximize ROI and create seamless online and offline experiences, and winning at the point of sale – be it online or offline. Our clients are asking questions around how behaviors will change and what trends will stick and shape consumers attitudes.
We are heavily investing in offers like DX Analytics which uses search and social data to segment consumers, and identify and spot trends to help brands monitor digital presence in real time. We are also revolutionizing brand guidance systems by making them more predictive and forward looking with agile solutions that answer business questions timeously. Letting the ‘cat out the bag’, I am excited to announce our upcoming Marketplace launch in the Middle East.
With content and products being developed and launched more quickly than ever before, brands need to know how people are feeling and behaving and anticipate these changes as they happen. Fast, cost effective and robust insight is vital in today's complex, connected and continually changing world, and Marketplace- our automated research platform is built for speed and agility so brands can quickly test their TV and digital to optimize ROI.
Do you plan to introduce programs like the Africa Life Initiative in the MENA region?
[ Authors note - The Africa Lifa Initiative is a unique program that was designed to help clients understand the fast-changing context of the African continent,
which had a great impact across sectors and nations.]
Kantar has similar studies in the MENA region like our syndicated report, Arab as a Consumer (ARAC) and Ramadan Connect, to help guide brands and marketers, and we will continue to bring new offers to answer our clients' business questions. And of course let’s not forget the 2020 BrandZ™ Top 30 Most Valuable Emirati and Saudi Brands report that we launched last year. The study includes opinions of over 12,000 consumers across the United Arab Emirates and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia on 343 brands in 19 categories. The ‘Oscars of marketing’, the study reveals the power of the brand in the mind of the consumer and highlights the importance of brand purpose and innovation - that can take a brand from good to great, especially in these times of business as unusual .
What challenges do you expect to face on the road ahead?
Healthy brands sustain business during challenging times. Our BrandZ™ data shows that companies that invest in strong brands during difficult times tend to return to growth faster and more successfully than those that don’t. COVID-19 has changed everything, so it is now more vital than ever to understand consumer strategies in order to look for growth. The key to success during a downturn is to remain focused. Brands should reinforce the attributes that make them appealing and differentiated in the eyes of existing customers, and focus on four things: your competition, brand, customer and communication. If you have a strong successful brand, continue doing what has worked for you so far.
If your brand is in a relatively weak position, try systematically exploiting the strengths you have while addressing your weaknesses. During recessions, consumers and marketers alike must make the best of a bad situation. While not every brand will cut marketing spend, those that do will find themselves at a disadvantage when the recession ends. Marketeers need to make the most of every dollar spent in support of their brands if they hope to maintain strong consumer relationships. Those that succeed should then be well positioned to take advantage of weaker competition when the good times return.