The Saudi Playbook

By Mohammad Tayem
Founder & CEO – entourage

5 years back if someone told you that K-pop bands are performing in Saudi, you might think this person is in another world. Today, if someone tells you that K-pop bands are performing in Saudi, you will respond with why haven’t they performed in the Kingdom yet. 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 utilizing the power of media to facilitate behavior changes of the Saudis and the international population 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 behaviors and patterns. The Saudi youth today is educated, well-traveled, exposed to global entertainment, connects with people from different parts of the world, welcomes exotic experiences, and more importantly has created their own space in the global workforce, challenging the stereotypes and cliches. They are now driving most of the big government entities and businesses towards success on 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 5 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, entered the market aggressively, led by heavy advertising campaigns, offline and online to drive the audiences. 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 behavior 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 & revenue, and country brand equity all have been growing rapidly in the last 5 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 with the fact that more than 91% of the Saudi Arabia population accesses the internet over smart devices, which led the market to quickly adapt and respond, with marketers using the new mediums creatively to drive the brand message and understand how this hyper-connected audience needs to be spoken with. Therefore, today, if you simply just run a digital campaign, the response to the campaign will be minimal or 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 impact the audience across this new market with massive potential, you need to stand out, and in order to stand out, you need to handle campaigns/events in thought-provoking, strategized methodology, using the right marketing vehicles only to amplify reach across the relevant audience base. Every client, brand, and event is different requiring a customized strategy. You cannot employ the whole roster of marketing vehicles at your disposal, 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 behavior or increase sales. With the previously mentioned fact that 91% of the 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% of the content at home and 66% out of that content is video content, putting storytelling back at the heart of the campaign. 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/or 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, is where the magic is bound to happen, it’s all about storytelling.

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