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It’s a Saudi guy thing

It’s a Saudi guy thing

Daily rituals are a direct route to consumers’ hearts and minds, says a recent report from ad agency Impact BBDO, which studies the Saudi working man.

September 15, 2008 9:22 by

If there’s one thing that unites the Saudi working man (SWM) with his peers, it’s hair gel. The SWM can’t start the day without it. It’s his single most important morning product. It doesn’t matter much which brand it is just as long as it’s there.

That’s one of the important findings of a recent study carried out by ad agency Impact BBDO. It global research methodology, BBDO – The Ritual Masters, updates its research on various demographic groups every quarter across the region. Its most recent study focused on men in Saudi Arabia.

After gels, fragrances come a close second, but here brands are more important, especially in Jeddah. In Riyadh it is more about the category than the actual brand. But both categories – gels and fragrances – are crucial to morning ablutions in whichever city.

Shaving, however, is not. In fact, it’s probably a twice-a-week ritual at most and is as likely to be done at the barber’s as at home – a major difference between the SWM and men elsewhere. It presents a major barrier to entry for shaving brands.

Similarly, the SWM views breakfast as non-essential. He may grab a sandwich or some cheese with coffee or tea – which in all likelihood will be washed down with Rainbow evaporated milk.

A quick surf of the net before leaving for work, however, is almost mandatory. An update on news, stocks and sport helps the SWM feel better prepared for the day ahead. The brands that win out here are Facebook, Hotmail and Al Wafiq. Some visit religious sites offering Holy Koran recitations. En route to work, slow music will help ease him gently into the day ahead.

“Unlike most cultures the unique thing about Saudi men is that their morning ritual is not only about preparing for the day,” says Hubert Boulos, strategic planning director, Impact BBDO. “Looking good also plays a part in their morning ritual as evidenced by heavy use of hair gel and fragrances.”

Fortress brands

The agency defines rituals as a series of actions that move people emotionally from one place to another, sequences developed over time that make people feel good.

“While there may be bad habits, there are no bad rituals,” says Boulos.

BBDO has identified five rituals that are performed most often by most people throughout the world: Preparing for Battle; Feasting; Looking Good; Returning to Camp; and Preparing for the Future.
Those brands already embedded within a ritual that enjoy great “stickiness” with consumers are identified as fortress brands.

“We believe it’s possible to create business around a ritual. It could be an ad or NPD (new product development) or anything related to marketing, including packaging,” adds Boulos.

Preparing for Battle is the most rigid of the rituals, the one where people least welcome change and thus the most limited opportunity for brands. But in Saudi Arabia – unlike the rest of the world – there are still many opportunities for brands in all categories as the morning ritual is much less branded, especially in Riyadh.

“If your brand is already inside a ritual, then great,” says Boulos. “If it’s outside, then the challenge is to persuade people to change their ritual and add the brand.”

Banquet or burger?

Health concerns barely register with SWMs. Married or single, he relies heavily on fast food – whether breakfast or lunch. Being exempt from food preparation accounts for this, and if his wife or mother does not supply a healthier alternative, he will opt for takeaways. Again, category triumphs over brands.
The SWM may lunch alone, although this is less likely among married men. If a meal is not prepared, favored fast food brands including KFC, Al Beik and Hardee’s along with the requisite hot sauce – Alali or Crystal – will be eaten.

Dinner is usually taken with friends, and watching football nearly always demands Dominos and Pizza Hut. And although fast food rules supreme, the meal duration is unusually long, lasting perhaps an hour and a half. But the weekend is the time for large family gatherings, maybe 20-40 people, and likely to last most of the afternoon. According to Boulos, there are strong opportunities for brands within the Feasting ritual, as most consumption across all occasions is unbranded apart from major fast food brands.

Peacock syndrome

All around the world Looking Good is about confidence building, but for the SWM, with his gel and fragrances, it dovetails into Preparing for Battle. This, says Boulos, is largely due to the traditional social structure, in which opportunities to interact with women are more likely to occur during the day – usually via Bluetooth.

At night social interaction becomes an all-male affair revolving around shisha and coffee, or a visit to a sports club to play or watch a match.

Confidence-building brands embedded in the Looking Good ritual include Pantene, Sunsilk, D&G, Chanel, designer fashion such as Diesel (particularly in Jeddah) and Bison or Red Bull energy drinks before leaving the house.

The SWM in Jeddah clearly feels a sense of seduction despite social traditions – this is much less pronounced in Riyadh. And it is a major ritual for single men even though they socialize only with other men.

Base camp

The SWM’s day is divided by his afternoon nap, which helps him unwind. Showering (and a change of clothes) is vital to the ritual but, unlike in Preparing for Battle, the motive here is relaxation. Brands that can aid in relaxation have an opportunity.

The morning ritual of surfing is repeated but now it is about entertainment and socializing, not information gathering. TV – particularly sport – and newspapers play a big role in relaxation, particularly Facebook, Al Jazeera, Al Arabiya and Al Riyadh. Beyond media and casual fashion brands, BYC particularly, few names are embedded in this ritual, so there is huge potential, says Boulos.

Forward thinking

The final ritual, Preparing for the Future, is mostly function-led. But whereas his global counterpart will double-check the locks, the SWM will focus on the air conditioning, which for him is essential to a good night’s sleep. In fact, AC brands Panasonic, York, LG, Sanyo and Gibson were sighted during the research.

Staying connected is important. Most SWMs spend half an hour on the phone, although, says Boulos, this moment – though very important – is generic to the category and is largely unbranded.
The married SWM spends precious time with the kids, and worries about his responsibilities. The single SWM frets about his bachelor status and dwells on personal insecurities. Both worry about politics.

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