The Brand Leaders in the Middle East

brand leaders

Since I moved from Lisbon to Dubai, I’ve been observing the cultural differences between the 2 cities and learning how those differences are reflected in marketing practices on this side of the globe.

So, earlier this week, when I was invited to attend the launch of The Brand Leaders (by Young Network), I couldn’t pass on the chance to hear first hand from top professionals here in Dubai what was their take on the Future of Marketing in the Middle East.

I’ve gone through all the video testimonies (watch here), talked to a few people and rounded up a few conclusions that I’d like to share with you.

First of all, I noticed the general mood here is very positive as opposed to what european brand leaders experience everyday in the face of the economic crisis. Back home, the biggest challenge for a marketer is doing more with less resources. But on the other hand, the lack of a big budget forces us to be more creative.

I also noticed that on the portuguese version of The Brand Leaders (which I was a part of), speakers presented a broader perspective of the future of marketing as a field, while here the speakers focused more on what they had planned for their brands. But collectively, we’re still able to grasp where marketing is going here in the region.

And that is… Digital! Social media was unsurprisingly mentioned by almost everyone. Very few leaders went into detail (it is hard to do it in 1-2 minutes, trust me!) but engagement, customer feedback, mobile and targeted communication were some of the concepts brought up. Gita Ghaemmaghami, of Sony Mobile pointed out that marketing is becoming more tactical than strategic, as a result of the digital real-time paradigm.

But contrary to what is the norm in Europe, traditional media still has a lot of influence here since the audience is not so fragmented. Few people singled out non-traditional tactics apart from digital, but guerrilla marketing was interestingly mentioned by Lennard Otto, of Wadi Adventure. I personally would like to see more of that.

I believe Elliott Santon, of DHL Express was spot on when he said that “businesses in general will start focusing more on customer services (…) there is a lack of customer services (…) and Marketing will play a big part in this.” I really hope marketing professionals do all they can to improve on this point because it is much needed. And it can be a competitive advantage, as consumers become more educated and more demanding.

The UAE is such a melting pot that taking into account all this cultural diversity is not an easy task, particularly in regards to targeting and brand positioning. Western influence is very present but local traditions must be respected and understood. Plus, as Jaime Galviz of Microsoft cleverly argued, there is a short-term, tourist audience to be addressed differently than the local community. I won’t elaborate much in hope that you hear it directly from him here.

To wrap this up, let us not forget the Middle East isn’t a unified market.

Different countries and different industries within the same country are growing at their own paces and stand in different stages when it comes to how developed is the marketing practice. As for Dubai and the UAE, let’s hope the Expo 2020 will attract even more and much needed marketing talent to the region.

I’m excited to see what the future will bring to Dubai. If you are too, check out what Nick McElwee from Yas Marina Circuit has to say. For me, it was one of the highlights of The Brand Leaders Middle East.

To read my own thoughts on the future of marketing, click here.

Rute Silva Brito

(Many thanks to Rita Rodrigues for the invitation).

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The Brand Leaders in the Middle East

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