Saudi Female Consumers | Are they really ‘The Unreachables’

Ideas are an infinite resource and the more restrictions you are faced with, the better the ideas get. I saw these beliefs in action even before getting to work in the Middle East. But having come here, I have literally been living by it!

Especially the Saudi market. From purely a commercial communication view point, it presents an amazing mix of pros and cons.


  • A very high acceptable cost per consumer contact – gives you room to truly create brand experiences. Honestly, how do you think I felt when suddenly, I could spend $40 per consumer in Saudi vs $0.4 in Pakistan (these are rough annual per capita ad spends as per my calculations, indicative if not conclusive)
  • Amazing modern trade network. Focus on the top 3 cities with the top 50 outlets and you have just covered a lions share of your total market
  • Ever increasing internet/social media/mobile phone penetration
  • Ever increasing access to plethora of satellite TV channels. HD content beamed without ads for SR200 a month (yes this is a good thing for me, I am an activation strategist)
  • Busy outdoor venues to capture the consumers with tremendous opportunities (Huge Malls, Markets, Resorts, Universities – Male and Female both, Superstore Chains…)
  • No sex appeal can be used. This is a good thing because it levels the playing field. You have to play fair now!
  • Very strong and well defined cultural norms and insights
  • Best of all, clients who will not settle for anything but world class ideas


  • Strict policies on directly engaging women in public places
  • High inertia of authorities when getting permissions for creative ideas (read crazy ideas)
  • Very young population (around 50% under 18 years old)

A common myth I have seen amongst marketers, both outside and inside the Kingdom, is that Saudi women are an unreachable segment. You can show them all the ads on TV since they watch all the soaps, but you cannot create holistic brand experiences for them! I seriously disagree and I intend to prove it wrong with some examples, so here goes:

Example 1:

Lipton Clear Green – Go Silly Zones

Green tea makes us all feel good from the inside. Lipton Clear Green goes a step ahead, it says that if you feel good from the inside, it shows on the outside. Thats why they did these go silly zones inside malls across Saudi. Believe it or not, women were actually doing stuff like hula hooping inside, made simple thanks to technology (Wii to be specific)

@ Red Sea Mall Jeddah

Bird’s eye view

Example 2:

Sadafco’s Creative Kitchen

As authentic a Saudi Brand as it gets, Sadafco inspired women to be creative by doing live cooking demonstrations. Women came in group after group to attend. Surprisingly, the husbands were cooperative enough to take care of the kids and the shopping carts while the women participate in the activation for upto half an hour at times!

In a mall in Jeddah

Example 3:

Colgate Pro Relief – 1 minute challenge

When you’ve got a good product, flaunt it! Colgate’s new pro-relief guarantees major relief from sensitivity in 1 minute. The live demonstration in malls was doing just that, challenging people with sensitivities to try it then and there, at the mall food court and see the difference for themselves. The fact that the activation is still going on is evidence enough that it works, or else they would have a lot of angry ‘Sensitive’ consumers shutting it down!

(Title image source: arabianEye via Getty Images)

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