Advertising & Marketing

Young Gulf Arabs more likely to boycott brands over politics

·   Finding from 8th ASDA’A Burson-Marsteller Arab Youth Survey says more than a third of young people in GCC would blacklist brands over political issues

·   Survey reveals US brands are the most favoured among young Arabs, although youth in Levant have a negative view on American goods

More than a third of young Arabs in the Gulf states – and almost 60 per cent of youth in Saudi Arabia, the region’s largest market – would consider boycotting a brand for political reasons, according to a finding from the 2016 ASDA’A Burson-Marsteller Arab Youth Survey.

That is more than for Arab youth as whole, with 38 per cent of GCC youth saying they would boycott a brand, against 29 per cent for Arab youth across the region. In the GCC states, 13 per cent say they would not boycott a brand, while 40 per cent said ‘maybe’, with the rest saying they did not know. In the Levant, only 21 per cent said they would boycott for political reasons, similar to North Africa with 27 per cent. In Saudi Arabia, 57 per cent of young Arabs said they would boycott a brand, against just 8 per cent who said they would not.

Young Arabs are also conscious of where their favoured brands hail from: 52 per cent of all young Arabs say a brand’s country of origin matters to them, while 44 per cent say it does not. This is most pronounced in GCC, where 58 per cent say origin does matter, and least in Levant, where a similar number, 55 per cent, say it does not.

“These findings reveal that young Arabs really think about where a brand comes from, not just in terms of perceived quality, but also in terms of the politics of the country of origin,” said Sunil John, chief executive of ASDA’A Burson-Marsteller. “The Arab world, with its 200 million youth, is an increasingly important market for today’s multinationals, but in today’s globalised world, the power of that demographic can see them shut out of large parts of this market over developments beyond their control.”

US brands are the most popular among Arabs as a whole, with 17 per cent putting the US at the top of a list of favoured countries of origin, followed by Germany, France, Japan, Italy, China and South Korea. However, while this view is pronounced in the GCC and North Africa (21 and 23 per cent prefer US brands respectively) in the Levant US brands are viewed extremely unfavorably, coming 6th on the list with just 6 per cent picking US brands, putting them behind those from Germany, France, Japan, China and Italy.

This contrasting view is borne out by a more pointed question, which asked: ‘What is your general attitude towards American brands?’  While the overall figure revealed 41 per cent of young Arabs view US brands positively, more than half of Gulf youth (54 per cent) have a favourable view of US brands, with 18 per cent having a negative view, while only 23 per cent of young people in the Levant see US brands in a positive light, with more than a third (36 per cent) viewing US brands negatively.

Now in its eighth year, the ASDA’A Burson-Marsteller Arab Youth Survey has established itself as a key referral source for businesses and policymakers in the region and across the world.

For this year’s survey, international polling firm Penn Schoen Berland (PSB) conducted 3,500 face-to-face interviews with exclusively Arab national men and women aged 18-24 in the six Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries of the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, Oman and Bahrain; Iraq, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Palestine, Tunisia, Morocco, Algeria and Yemen. The interviews were conducted from January 11 to February 22, 2016.

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