Communicate was proud to host the region’s first Marketing to Youth conference for the marketing, advertising, and creative community in KSA.
Amid global economic instability, aggravated by a number of factors – from war to the great resignation, climate change, and recession forecasts – the group of consumers that emerges globally as the most resilient to uncertainty and change is Gen Z. Yet, these buyers of tomorrow are also the most challenging segment to market to; they’re well-informed, passionate, and capable of easily spotting a hard sell. Many variables, including brand ethics, social responsibility, value, and quality influence their spending behaviors. In KSA, the youth constitute around two-thirds of the entire population and is set to play a significant role in the Kingdom’s transformation and the achievement of its Vision 2030.
With all that in mind, Communicate launched its first Marketing to Youth conference, in Riyadh’s Boulevard City at Muvi Cinemas, on March 8, 2023. The event attracted some 80 professionals hailing from the marketing, advertising, and creative industries, along with influencers from the region and students from local universities, giving them all the opportunity to gather critical learnings on the latest trends, strategies, and technologies that cater to the Saudi youth.
“About 67% of Saudi’s population is under 35 and over half the workforce is ruled by youngsters. Saudi Vision 2030 prioritizes the growth and development of young men and women in the country to significantly drive change in society. Today, we’re gathered to ease that transition for brands, marketers, businesses, and of course the youth,” said Sahar Rafique, Managing Director at NordStella Group, Communicate’s parent company, in her opening address.
The half-day event featured regional experts from across the spectrum, including marketing, branding, communications, tech, and research specialists. Flipping through a Communicate magazine, a student pursuing a bachelor’s degree at King Saud University, said, “I’m so excited to be here and listen to the professionals speak. I am looking forward to understanding how experts are thinking about our generation and if they can really understand us.”
Sunil John, President of ASDA’A BCW, set the tone for the day with a deep dive into the 2022 Arab Youth Survey, which collects annually over 3,000 samples from 18-24 years old Arabs across 50 cities in the MENA region, providing rich insights into the attitudes and aspirations of the Arab youth. In his address, John highlighted the six themes that best define the Saudi youth – Identity; Livelihood; Politics; Citizenship; Lifestyle; and Aspirations. “There is no part of the world that is more optimistic and confident about the future than the Kingdom. Our survey reveals that 97% of the Saudi youth feel that their best days are to come in the future,” he explained.
The panel discussion that followed centered around the importance of building a personalized and content-centric experience for the Saudi youth. By now, most brands know that they can’t talk to this generation like they would to others, with speakers arguing that the youth can easily identify a product pitch. As Mustafa Zaatari, Chief Brand Officer at delivery app ToYou, said, “Today, about 63% of the youth wants to boycott brands that are not aligning with their purpose.” Adding to this observation, Aamir Allibhoy, Regional Chief Marketing Officer at Tim Hortons, said, “It is imperative for brands to take a step back and re-evaluate their consumer journey when speaking to the Saudi youth. This set of consumers, unlike any other, is always looking for richer experiences.” The session also opened the floor to brand managers, marketers, and strategists in the audience to engage and take away learnings on how to devise a strategy for millennials and Gen Z.
Next, Injeel Moti, Founder of Catch Communications, explained how brands can use PR to engage with young people. Moti argued that PR is often misunderstood and not leveraged to its full potential. “There’s no denying that creativity and innovation play a very important role in attracting the youth today. Considering the pace at which things are moving today, brands need to find a way to connect with their audiences first. One way this can be done is through impactful storytelling and the way to go around this through public relations is to make them a part of the conversation,” she explained.
Building on Moti’s insights, Tim Buckler, Product Director - Digital Marketing at Mastercard, drew together, in his presentation, the types of digital acquisition channels that brands can use as part of their youth marketing strategy. According to Buckler, brands need to go back to their purpose before curating their customer journey. He also argued that, before investing in advertising across all channels, it is critical for professionals to first decode their targeted consumer profile.
As a part of the forum’s main objectives, Communicate invited the students who attended to share their opinions and concerns with the experts. When asked what makes her feel the most connected to a brand, one student in marketing at King Saud University answered, “For me, what matters the most is the value that a brand is creating with its ad campaigns – if they’re talking about issues that matter and create awareness about something.”
Although they addressed various challenges that marketers face today when reaching out to the Saudi youth, all the sessions at the forum converged on one key insight: if an opportunity to engage the youth presents itself, brands need to take it and strategize on a long-term solution to retain this demographic. Dwelling on that thought, Elias Sawaya, Marketing Communication Manager - Mobiles at Samsung, said, “No matter what strategy a brand works on, it should have value for its youth. Brands need to become a part of their culture and their community, to speak to them at their level. This way, brands will be able to come across as responsible problem-solvers to the youth.”
This article was first published in Communicate's Q1 2023 print issue.