Rethinking Marketing Communication - Using Social Media to Attract College Consumers in the Middle East

Article excerpt

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

Social media platforms such as Facebook, LinkedIn, MySpace, and Twitter have changed the direction of business and created a chaotic underutilized media market for many companies in the Middle East. This study utilized a non-probability convenient sample of college students in three Arabic speaking countries: Jordan, Lebanon, and Dubai - United Arab Emirates (UAE) to report the effectiveness of various promotional strategies preferred by college consumers. The data will assist local and global businesses in these regions with the allocation of marketing communication methods to end-users to better target the evolving trends shaping this valuable market segment.

Keywords: Social media, Marketing communication, Middle East, Dubai, Jordan, Lebanon, United Arab Emirates (UAE)

MARKETING COMMUNICATION IN THE MIDDLE EAST

It is crucial for marketers to understand the impact of advertising on consumers' attitudes and move beyond the longestablished mass-media communications such as satellites, broadcast (cable television and radio), and printed media (newspapers and magazines). In the past 15 years, the Arab World has undergone tremendous changes in the region's television landscape, moving from a few television stations restricted by the governments, to a multitude of television stations. (www.arabadvisors.com) Television and radio advertising resources have increased substantially in the Gulf region where listeners have access to over 44 radio broadcasting channels, 21 of them in the UAE (Barkho, 2007). According to the World Press Trend, the newspaper share of advertising resources is on the decline for developed countries, while advertising in newspapers has increased in the Gulf States due to the government control and restrictions of televisions in the Middle East. Moreover, there has been an explosion of over 40 new magazines, most of them originating in Dubai Media City. Since magazines have limited political content, they enjoy more freedom than newspapers and televisions (Barkho, 2007).

The advancements in communication technologies have transformed traditional marketing strategies to adapt to a new consumer with many demands and changing interests. In recent years, with the introduction of the Internet, a denaturized advertising platform has evolved in these regions, changing the way people in the Middle East behave, feel, live, and think.

The Internet, proven by the vast amount of search engines and websites to drive marketing success, is the most effective source of current, up-to-date information for consumers worldwide. According to a report by market researcher RNCOS, the Middle East's retail industry doubled in value between 2003-2008 to reach a staggering $400 billion. The rapid growth in the Middle Eastern region has increased consumer demand for goods and services. As a result, the region has become a high growth market for advertising (Carter, 2007, p.5) "due to the various changes in marketing communications particularly Web-Based media where virtual communities share, exchange, and participate in social groups" (De Rose et al., 2007).

The Middle East Internet usage growth rate, between the years of 2000 - 2009, reached 1,648.2 %, the highest growth rate in the world; followed by Africa at 1,359.9 %, Asia at 516 %, Europe at 282 %, and the United States growth rate at 132 % (www.Internetworldstat.com). According to Arab Media Outlook, 75 % of the population of Lebanon and the UAE use Social Media platforms. For firms, this translates to an untapped marketing prospect. Table 1 demonstrates the Internet usage in Jordan, Lebanon, and Dubai - UAE.

METHODOLOGY

The researchers employed online survey research from college students in Jordan, Lebanon, and Dubai to gather data regarding their attitudes toward western-made products (clothing, electronics, and luxury items) for the study. The survey link was mass emailed to all available students, ensuring every student had an equal opportunity to access and complete the questionnaire online. …