21 January 2018

100 trends to watch in MENA for 2018

Source: JWT website. Cover for the MENA 100 trends report.
Source: JWT website. Cover for the report.
The J. Walter Thompson Middle East and Africa's Innovation Group has released its sixth annual consumer trends report, covering the MENA region for 2018. The Future 100 Trends and Change to Watch in MENA captures key themes accelerating the pace of change for consumers in the economies of Egypt, North Africa, Lebanon, Jordan, the Gulf and KSA.

Each trend in the Future 100 MENA Report is part of a growing phenomenon, that Middle Eastern consumers are increasingly identifying themselves as global citizens. With the universal nature of digital networks, the region is experiencing new spins on parenthood, money and lifestyle matters.

Authored by Mennah Ibrahim, MEA Director of the Innovation Group, the report has 10 main categories - culture, tech & innovation, travel & hospitality, brands & marketing, food & drink, beauty, retail, health, lifestyle, and luxury.

Mennah said: "Borders are collapsing at the touch of technology, causing much faster trend evolution and similarities with the West, as the Middle Eastern consumer increasingly identifies as a 'global citizen'. Last year, I wrote about the growing demand for brands and lifestyle products to offer Muslim-centric options of diverse identity, social justice and social impact. Interestingly, these recurring themes, along with other emerging trends, are now flowing faster in the opposite direction. This East to West exchange is making those trends' influences felt across consumer categories around the globe - even in space."

According to the report: 

Mingling with the machine: Trend No. 7

According to Accenture, 82% of UAE respondents cited the availability of artificial intelligence (AI) anytime as a key reason why they prefer it to human interaction. At the Future Investment Initiative in KSA, a humanoid robot demonstrated her capacity for human expression and interaction. At GITEX Dubai, robo-cops keeping the peace and robo-surgeons performing surgery over 5G were a major highlight.

Halal space food: Trend No. 44

KSA has invested US$1 billion in Virgin Galactic, and Egyptian Mohammed Sallam is set to fly to the Red Planet as part of mission Mars One. With more Muslim astronauts travelling to space, Texas A&M University System plans to conduct research on halal food as part of its NASA programme. "If there is a demand for halal food we will have research on it, to NASA requirements," said Mian Nadeem Riaz, NASA R&D director.

By women for women: Trend No. 10

Women are using social media, girl-focused platforms and messages of empowerment to create content and solutions for women, by women. In KSA, Google expects this content to rise by 75% over 2016's figures. Vlogger Njoud al Shammari said: "YouTube gives me the power to have a voice not only to express myself but to express what other women need, and what they feel needs to change in our society."

Rebranding KSA: Trend No. 4

With a target of attracting 1.5 million foreign visitors by 2020, KSA's cultural reforms and relaxed tourist visa laws are already attracting foreign investors, who find that the country's unexplored territories add to its mystique. Virgin Group founder Sir Richard Branson said: "This is an incredibly exciting time in the country's history, and I've always felt that there's nothing like getting a firsthand impression."