The Saudi playbook – by Entourage’s Mohammed Tayem

The Kingdom has changed, writes Entourage’s founder & CEO, Mohammed Tayem, and brands must tell the right story to connect with a new generation of consumer

Five years back. if someone told you that K-pop bands were performing in Saudi, you might think that person was in another world. Today, if someone tells you that K-pop bands are coming to Saudi, you will ask why they haven’t performed in the Kingdom already. The Saudi scene has changed dramatically in the last few years as the Kingdom is being led by a visionary leader who believes in the power of influence. This changed the full Saudi spectrum towards using the power of media to facilitate behavioural changes of the Saudis and change international opinion about Saudis and the country.

With the multiple social and economic transformations that the country is going through, keeping in line with vision 2030, media plays a pivotal role in the changing consumer behaviours and patterns. The Saudi youth today is educated, well-travelled, exposed to global entertainment, connects with people from different parts of the world, welcomes exotic experiences, and more importantly has created its own space in the global workforce, challenging the stereotypes and cliches. Saudi youths are now driving most of the big government entities and businesses towards success by international standards.

The holistic changes in the country opened doors to multiple opportunities and varied experiences. Being a youth-dominated country heavily driven by media, the method of storytelling took Saudi into a wider range of engagements, leading to exponential economic growth. In the last five years, we have seen the Kingdom become a hub for global corporates and entities relocating to Riyadh or opening branch offices to influence the marketing trends and introduce global marketing channels and vehicles. From corporate to entertainment to social events, Saudis have entered the market aggressively, leading to heavy advertising campaigns offline and online. With the youth of the country driving demand further, the patterns of content consumption in the Kingdom have changed drastically, with most users now living online. These behaviour patterns open up a whole new paradigm for brands to connect with their audiences, tell their stories and drive engagement. Also, GDP, country ratings, country spending and revenue, and country brand equity all have been growing rapidly in the last five years due to the phenomenal changes brought about by the surge in demand and evolving consumption patterns of the Saudi people.

Users in Saudi Arabia are now more connected than ever. More than 91 per cent of the Saudi population accesses the internet over smart devices, which has led the market to quickly adapt and respond, with marketers using the new mediums creatively to drive brand messages and understand how this hyper-connected audience needs to be spoken to. Therefore, today, if you just run a digital campaign, the response to the campaign will be minimal; if you simply run an entertainment or even a corporate event, the response will be sub-par. In order to drive the right traffic and affect the audience across this new market with massive potential, you need to stand out. In order to stand out, you need to handle campaigns and events with a thought-provoking, strategised methodology, using only the right marketing vehicles to amplify reach across the relevant audience base. Every client, brand and event is different, requiring a customised strategy. You cannot employ the whole roster of marketing vehicles at your disposal, so selecting the right channel mix with the right content will make or break your campaign. Building emotional resonance is the key; that’s where storytelling becomes central to all your efforts.

Previously, advertising agencies used to rely on TVCs and outdoor campaigns to influence behaviour or increase sales. With the previously mentioned fact that 91 per cent of people are consuming the internet over smart devices, digital advertising today can play a major role in delivering a message of awareness, especially since most digital media users in Saudi consume 92 per cent of the content at home and 66 per cent of that content is video content, putting storytelling back at the heart of the campaign. You must tell stories that speak to the right audience, across all media touchpoints with the right adaptation, and stories that connect with your event audience to get them engaged with your stage content and screen content, building long-term connections to facilitate stronger relationships.

The Saudi youth, unlike their global peers, have completely unique consumption patterns, which lead us to devise creative solutions. Wearing their culture and tradition with pride, the youth of the country want contemporary international experiences, want to be treated by brands like their international counterparts, and want to be spoken to in a language they resonate with. Stories with nuances of Saudi culture, bringing the fast-paced digital world alive, are where the magic is bound to happen. It’s all about storytelling.