As part of the WARC x Braze “The invisible enabler” report, Ibrahim El Tawil, Global Brands & Content – IMEA – Lead at Mars, explained how technology has revolutionised customer experiences over the past decade and how gaming can build relevant and immersive experiences in the future.
How is your role affected by the intersection of tech and creativity?
We underwent a marketing organisation transformation a few years ago at Mars. It was designed to evolve the way our brand communicates with our audiences, given how the consumer and media landscape was evolving so dramatically.
For context, our team is a global hub for expertise within brand communications. We're trying to design a central space where experts come together to drive our brands in a more culturally famous way – that's one of the terms we like to use – and in a more meaningfully personal way, too.
Within the brand and content team, our remit is to lead this transformation. Further, we drive the organisation to push the boundaries of communicating with people – by leveraging mediums or tech-specific technologies, for instance – to deliver engaging experiences. We push that agenda as much as possible.
How is technology driving the creativity that you're seeking through your marketing and communication?
There’s fundamentally a very indirect impact that comes from technology. The creative landscape has changed dramatically over the last 10 years. You can actually associate that with key bits of physical technology that we've seen developing. Think of the iPhone, for example, and the way it’s paved transformation.
Today, we have significantly more immersive experiences which people now demand. Just putting out a piece of content that tells a story isn't enough anymore. It’s also a fair ask, considering we now have the tools now to create these experiences. Computing power and connectivity have both evolved significantly over the last decade. These immersive experiences have gotten us to communicate in different ways. We've shifted to very visual content from text, moving on from static imagery to video. This has birthed an entirely new way for the consumption experience of entertainment and media.
It's a space that's only just starting to evolve. As we start seeing the next stages of where it's heading – from a technological development point of view – we're going to see even bigger changes in how creativity is going to be involved.
How do you think tech-driven creativity can refresh well-established campaigns – for example, campaigns originally built for TV?
It [content-driven creativity] adds an entirely new lens to these campaigns. Engagement has become a significantly more important aspect of communication or entertainment. I'm going to put this into context with Snickers, a brand that I have worked with a lot. We all know and love the traditional ‘You're Not You When You're Hungry’ campaign. We have also experienced it in different ways over the last 20 years. Think of the Betty White commercial that went viral over the Superbowl. There are many other campaigns like this but they were pieces of communication that went in only one direction.
Now think of something like ‘The Hunger Insurance’ campaign. It’s a beautiful line. It’s also an articulation of the evolution of a simple creative platform – You're Not You When You're Hungry – into a relevant and engaging experience that is executable across several mediums. We've taken this concept from a traditional TVC and integrated it into a real-life consumer experience; now it is more relevant and adds value to audiences through the campaign ecosystem.
How has the use of data changed over the past few years? What's the role of data in your current creative process?
There are two sides to this very important and relevant topic. First off, it has become super important to know and understand your audiences intimately. We can thus design and communicate a message to them in the right space and in a meaningfully relevant way. We have also integrated this in the way we design the ICJ (integrated consumer journey). We leverage data on audiences to design where and how we're going to speak to them, what messengers we're going to use and of course, to understand them more intimately.
On the flip side, however, there's a fine balance in data collection. It's a topic that’s very sensitive and consumer privacy is a big issue. At Mars, we are very serious about not collecting data in an intrusive way. We leverage consumer data to improve the user experience rather than interrupt or be obtrusive.
COVID-19 has upended the customer experience, driving brands to think more about the omnichannel experience. How is the creative deployment of tech helping to create more memorable experiences?
Talking about much more personal or relevant experiences is the best way to touch on this. So, I'm based in Dubai. Throughout my time here I have seen the consumer experience dramatically change.
Several people are used to content and services coming straight to them. They are much more used to on-demand media consumption thanks to this constant ability to be entertained very easily. COVID-19 only accelerated this; it boosted the development of logistical frameworks to serve those needs and purposes. As a result, it has created a very different dynamic of how people engage and communicate.
Brands are bringing brand building and performance marketing closer together. What marks out real innovators in this space?
Performance marketing is where marketing science meets creativity. Organisations that have really innovated are the ones translating their brand experiences onto these evolving technologies and platforms.
Take gaming – an entirely different space – and building relevant, fully integrated consumer journeys. They [organisations that innovate] use these experiences to collect data on the fly. Then, they slice it up to learn a few vital things: how they've performed in this experience, how it's performed for audiences and whether it's been accepted or not. They can then fine-tune or completely change the way they execute their campaigns to improve the user journey.
The organisations that have managed this at an accelerated, almost start-up pace, are the ones who are driving the big push here. Some of the big brands like Burger King have been doing an incredible job of transforming how they engage with their audiences.
What kinds of lessons can we take from the world of gaming or online communities when thinking about how we drive forward tech-driven creativity?
I’m referring again to our 'Hunger Insurance' campaign; it's evolved into a gaming-specific campaign from a real-world campaign activation. When we first started on that journey, we assumed we could simply apply the same principles from our real-world activation. However, going down the rabbit hole of understanding the audience, the community, and the need state helped us understand that it’s a separate world with its own rules.
Gamers have a way of doing things that is specific to themselves. Understanding those communities in a real and relevant way is important. We've seen experiences within multiple iterations of the ‘Hunger Insurance' campaign that have been very different. Our first experience was quite generic and was a reach-focused approach.
The next time, we tried this in Mexico. There, we had a very hyper-relevant execution on social media with real gaming personalities and famous influencers. They were able to rally a lot of the community through the use of language and real, relevant moments. This is what drove the difference.
So, it's about diving into these communities, not as traditional mediums – digital, Facebook, or social – but thinking of them as entirely different experiences and ways that people engage with content.
Gaming is an immersive world. It probably tells us a lot about what's to come in tech. Think about augmented reality and the world that we're going to be experiencing over the next few years, and of course, evolving into web3.