Exploring the Evolution of Experiential Marketing in the MENA Region

By Ben Kershaw, Founder and MD of Hivemind Creative Marketing

In the modern experiential marketing space of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, the traditional metric of Return on Investment (ROI) has evolved to encompass a more nuanced and meaningful measure: Return on Engagement (ROE). Today’s discerning consumers crave genuine connections. They are drawn to brands that resonate with them on an emotional level, offering more than just a product or service. Instead, they seek shared values, stories, and experiences.

Our industry’s pivot towards ROE is a reflection of the modern consumer’s desire for authenticity. It isn’t enough for brands to simply shout their messages from the rooftops. Instead, they need to engage in dialogue, listen, and cultivate genuine relationships. Successful campaigns in this new era are those that evoke emotions and foster a deep sense of connection. Having been at the forefront of experiential marketing events in the MENA region through Hivemind Creative Marketing, I’ve witnessed firsthand the shift from conventional ROI-driven events to those prioritising ROE.

What new trends have you seen within the experiential events space in the region?

The landscape of experiential events in the Middle East has undergone a dramatic evolution, and it’s imperative that we adapt and realign to meet the emerging trends in the MENA region. There are three key trends to watch in 2023 and beyond:

  1. Connecting Through Experiences: Traditional event formats have expanded. Today, attendees expect to be transported into thematic worlds or cultures. Brands must focus on multi-format strategies, seamlessly integrating in-person, virtual, and hybrid events. Technological innovations have also emerged as pivotal gamechangers, and event-goers now anticipate immersive tech integrations, from augmented reality and virtual experiences to enhanced accessibility.
  2. New Realms of Technology; Metaverse, Web3, and AR: The concept of the metaverse may have been met with initial skepticism, but there’s no denying its potential. With augmented reality (AR) enhancing the user experience within these virtual worlds, a profound paradigm shift is underway. The global VR and AR market, forecasted to touch $142.4 billion by 2023, is a testament to this boom. In the event space, AR can amplify networking experiences by overlaying attendee information, drive engagement through gamified experiences, facilitate augmented tours, and allow product showcases in novel, interactive ways.
  3. Sustainability and Social Elements: Today’s consumers are more discerning and conscious. ESG commitments are crucial. The future will see more emphasis on measurable impacts, carbon footprints, and responsible event planning. The significance of diversity, equity, and inclusion cannot be understated, and an inclusive approach to venue selection, speaker representation, and event communication is vital. With the tumult of recent years, a renewed focus on health and well-being is evident, both for industry professionals and event attendees.


Can you talk us through a specific event (or two) that you are proud of – from the initial idea to its execution and results?

While numerous events have enjoyed tremendous engagement and outcomes, one from the Hivemind archive is particularly noteworthy.

Mindvalley Live in Dubai, 25-26 February 2023 at Dubai Festival Arena:

Mindvalley Live Dubai, the Middle East’s most impactful mindfulness event, is a personal favourite of mine. Never have I observed such tangible connections between audience and speakers in the MENA region. This two-day transformative event saw over 60% of participants travelling internationally, indicating its powerful impact on audiences.

The event’s ethos was simple: present a range of speakers to an audience of over 2,000. Yet the actual experience was so much more. At the event, the dynamic between speakers and attendees was truly remarkable. Topics were not only intriguing but also deeply pertinent to individuals’ lives, prompting meaningful change. Attendees were physically engaged with interactive exercises, energy sessions, and ample singing and dancing. Additionally, a spiritual dimension was introduced through group meditations, breathing workshops, and morning rituals rooted in time-honoured traditions.

Overall, the emotional connection between brand and audience was awe inspiring and we felt privileged to be a part of the Mindvalley MENA journey.

How do experiential events help a brand compared to traditional methods?

One significant advantage of experiential events is their ability to forge emotional connections with attendees. This is because firsthand experiences resonate on a deeper emotional level. To enhance these emotional ties, experiential event organisers can offer opportunities for attendees to contribute or give back during the events. Events featuring games, photo opportunities, or interactive and emotive experiences tend to leave a more profound impression than standard conferences or trade fairs. Such events provide attendees with more than just the experience itself; they offer lasting memories and establish a genuine bond with the brand. While traditional marketing strategies will often prioritise financial outcomes, experiential marketing seeks to deeply engage consumers. This approach not only bolsters customer loyalty but also amplifies brand awareness more significantly than traditional methods. Hence, the shift in focus again towards Return on Engagement (ROE).

For the foreseeable future in the MENA region, the emphasis seems to be on personal interactions where brands can personify themselves, cultivating relationships with potential buyers or new partners. It’s up to the agencies and professionals behind these events to ensure such engagements yield the meaningful results that audiences desire, with tailored itineraries, individualised communication, and bespoke activities and entertainment.