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KFC, Pepsi, Adidas and Nokia. These are a few of their favourite things…

KFC, Pepsi, Adidas and Nokia. These are a few of their favourite things…

Sidra Tariq gets down with the kids as she wades through AMRB data on what brands teens in Egypt, Saudi Arabia and UAE prefer.

July 19, 2011 3:44 by

What do women want? This question has been on the minds of men (and women) around the world for decades. But that is so last season. The question on everyone’s lips today, and not only marketers’, is: What do youth want?

To state the obvious (and somewhat cliched), they are the future. So marketers would love to know what is “rad,” “sick” or “swell” these days. The Middle East youth in particular are becoming increasingly attractive to marketers, both in the region and around the world. And brands know how beneficial it is to be on their list of favorites.

International brands, such as KFC, McDonald’s and Pepsi are the most popular among MENA teens, a study conducted in the UAE, Saudi Arabia (KSA) and Egypt reveals. The study, conducted by research company AMRB, is part of a global study by US-based TRU across 40 countries. Both companies are part of Kantar Group, the market research, information and consultancy division of London-based holding company WPP.

For the MENA region, AMRB conducted face-to-face interviews with around 2,000 citizens (as opposed to expats) aged 12 to 19 years in the three countries – about 400 in the UAE, 800 in Saudi Arabia and 800 in Egypt, says Gagan Bhalla, CEO of AMRB. “The idea really was to understand teens, their values, their behavior, brands that they like, teens as consumers, their media habits and so on,” he says.

Part of the research reveals the most popular brands among youth in each country. (See the tables at the end of this article) The brand rating or level of popularity depends on the percentage of respondents who named a particular brand when they were asked to list their five favorites. “The higher the percentage [a brand has]… means that overall it is more popular,” says Deepali Bamane, project director at AMRB.


While fast-food outlets KFC and McDonald’s emerge on top among UAE teens, Pepsi reigns in the KSA and Egypt, the research suggests.

In the UAE, 24 percent of respondents ranked KFC and McDonald’s among their five favorite brands. Twenty-seven percent of these were male and 20 percent female. Meanwhile, teens in KSA (36 percent) and Egypt (42 percent) listed Pepsi among their five favorite brands.

“Marketers need to be careful about how they are marketing these products to these teens,” says Bamane. “Yes, they are in love with international brands, but all the brands that are their favorites have kind of tweaked themselves to the local culture, and that is something that teens really love.”

Bhalla agrees: “What has worked for the fast food kind of brands, like Deepali mentioned, is that they have localized their offerings; so their menus, the kind of variety that they offer, is suitable for the local palate as well. This is helping [the brands] gain this level of popularity.”

He elaborates on why he thinks fast-food outlets are on the top of the list, “In terms of [the youth’s] leisure activities, a lot of the time is spent in malls. Obviously if we go to shopping malls there will be these kinds of [food] outlets, and if you are eating [at the mall], you will pretty much end up eating at one of these kind of places.”

Adidas, Nokia and Galaxy also made the cut with a large number of teens in each market rating them among their five favorite brands. But, surprisingly, Nokia was the only mobile phone brand to make the overall top brands list.

In a region where you see people typing away on BBM (BlackBerry Messenger) and browsing the web on their iPhones, neither
made the list. However, the two brands made the top five mobile phone brands owned, in a separate section of the survey, says Bamane.

From the automotive industry, Mercedes- Benz and Toyota were listed among favorite brands overall. Some local brands also made the top 10 list, particularly in Egypt and Saudi Arabia. Dairy food brand Almarai was rated among five favorites by 15 percent of Saudi youth. And in Egypt, local brand Chipsy followed internationally recognized brands Pepsi and Adidas, with 26 percent of Egyptian youth listing it among their top five. Egyptian beverage and yoghurt company Juhayna also made the list. Nevertheless, most of the brands in the top 10 were international.

Respondents were also asked to list their two favorite brands in terms of categories, which include fast-food outlets, athletic shoes, soft drinks, apparel, chocolates, etcetera. Since the lists will be sold to companies, Communicate only got access to a few.


KFC and McDonald’s are the most popular fast-food brands in the three countries, and score the most in UAE and Egypt. In the UAE, 50 percent of respondents ranked KFC among their two favorite fast-food brands, while 48 percent ranked McDonald’s. However, in KSA, McDonald’s tops the list with 47 percent listing it among their two favorites (KFC follows with 32 percent).

While the highest scoring fast-food outlets in UAE are all international, KSA and Egypt teens have listed local brands as their favorites too. Brands such as Herfy, Al Baik and Al Tazaj are also very popular in Saudi Arabia with 18 percent, 17 percent and 16 percent of the respondents respectively listing them among their two favorite fast-food brands. Meanwhile, Egypt’s Moemen emerges as one of the top two brands for 29 percent of Egyptian teens.

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1 Comment

  1. MK on July 20, 2011 11:38 am

    this is sad and alarming…enter ‘fast food nation’, the sequel!


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