Why marketing to women in the Middle East needs to evolve with the times

In 2014, we saw many global brands empower women through their campaigns, whether it be through acknowledging their strength or breaking stereotypes. In the MENA region though, brands still have some way to go. Ads often depict a family-oriented woman who is taking care of her children, ironing or cleaning clothes. That’s not to say that these things aren’t important or true, but it’s a very one-dimensional way of looking at a woman’s role within her family or society.

In fact, this perspective is quite outdated. More than half of University graduates in most countries in the Middle East are women. Furthermore, 45% of Saudi women over 30 actually choose to stay single because they want to pursue a career or are willing to wait it out for a like-minded husband. Internet access, social media and high smartphone penetration provide exposure to global influences, wherever these women may be. Consequently, aspirations and desires have evolved. Now, they want to work, travel and express their individuality. Culture and heritage are still important, but not at the expense of their ambitions.

Huge cultural shifts have already transformed the region. With 85% of purchases being influenced by women and Saudi Arabia emerging as a key target market, it’s time for brands’ marketing and communication strategies to evolve and connect with women in a more meaningful way. Here are some ways they can go about it:

1- Involve more women in the campaign process: from briefing to execution, women should be part of the strategy process if the campaign is targeted at women. Even if there are no women in the creative or marketing department, there’s bound to be at least one woman working in your company. Ideas can come from anywhere and even outsiders can even provide fresh insights and perspectives.

2- Focus on social media listening for insights: the highest smartphone penetration rates in the world come from the UAE and KSA respectively, with the majority of usage being attributed to social media. Couple that with fast adoption rates of new social networks, as well as high content consumption and creation, and you have an endless stream of insights on what women talk about and desire. Investing in the right tools and people to analyze and contextualize public conversations is essential to evolving marketing strategies effectively.

3- Segment by psychographic, not just demographic: ‘Females aged 20-35 years old’ is no longer a sufficient target segment. What are their interests and aspirations? What kind of content have they viewed in the past? For example, if we’re talking about a food brand, perhaps we should segment by women who cook for a family vs. for herself vs. having someone cook for them vs. ordering it from outside – and tailor communications to address each one of these groups. Segmenting differently can help shift the current view marketers have of women and thus enable them to engage with them more effectively.

These are just some of the ways that brands can start improving their marketing strategies, which will ultimately affect how they reach and engage this emerging target that is quickly evolving and becoming a force to be reckoned with.

Follow Nagham on Twitter: @nagham

Join the conversation