Statistics show that Saudi women make up 30 per cent of the public sector workforce, and as much as 84 per cent of the educational sector. They comprise 40 per cent of all Saudi medical doctors, and hold successful positions as deans of colleges and universities, and as CEOs of banks and major companies. There are several female advisors on the Saudi Consultative Council, and even that is no longer considered remarkable. In economic terms, Saudi women are responsible for a combined capital worth 60 billion riyals.
Marketers now ﬁnd themselves stuck between the conservative and modern mindsets, a polarity that is leaving marketers and brand owners alike with little option but to adhere to the conventional and ‘safe’ routes in communication. Such clinging to convention is evident in the marketing communications that are still so predominant in Saudi Arabia – almost invariably depicting the role of the Saudi woman in settings such as family gatherings, motherhood, home duties, and generally being the good wife and fulﬁlling the responsibilities which that entails.
Admittedly, we are beginning to see new communications that focus on the Saudi woman’s active lifestyle and are aimed at the newest emerging target – the working woman. But is this enough to build true loyalty and grow brand value? Surely this is the time when marketers and agencies alike should rethink the way they target Saudi women, in line with the way that the target market is itself changing. For many brands, the female market is a constantly moving target, simply because marketers have been unwilling or unable to adapt to the new realities of that market. Successful communication to Saudi women now requires a shift in thinking – a shift from outside-in to inside-out.
In other words, our communication must be based on translating insights from inside Saudi Arabia and not choosing uniform communication that safely applies to the whole GCC. Today, more than ever, Saudi women require brands to play a role in their lives – capturing them in a way that no brand has yet achieved, although the opportunity to properly connect with Saudi women is wide open and brands can jump in and capture a signiﬁcant share of this important market.
What is required is an honest rethink of communication strategies by actually targeting the changing Saudi woman by engaging her in a conversation with the brand that plays an important role in her life. Now is the time to act – and the brands that are ﬁrst to do so will score by achieving lasting relationships with a vitally important and ever-growing market segment in Saudi Arabia. After all, by effectively targeting Saudi women, a brand might just inﬂuence Saudi men!
Clearly, change is in the air for a new generation of Saudi women. As their achievements reach new heights, more and more attention is given to pertinent feminine issues such as women’s education, their right to work, and the long-standing prohibition on women driving. In the midst of this change, marketers still avoid using insights that go against common culture – ignoring these debatable issues that arise so regularly in normal Saudi communication.