Emerging markets are opportunity havens for multi-nationals, not just because of the fact that a raw market usually constitutes huge revenues, but also because of the room to try out marketing experiments that results in critical intelligence for future decision-making.

The Gulf, backed by oil-revenues and consumer confidence that is unparalleled by any region in the world, is the most vibrant emerging market. And while Saudi Arab leads other GCC states in terms of consumption, owing to the large population as compared to other regions, it is the Emirates that is now emerging as the prime contender for the ‘trend-setter’ crown.

As a Chief Marketing Officer in such an emerging market, there are certain factors to keep in mind, when developing strategies, to achieve optimum levels of consumer brand awareness and equity.

Rising Consumption Levels Indicate Strong Market Engagement

The Gulf consumer’s growing consumption patterns reflect across multiple key-indicators. Take Saudia, for instance. Even though people have been savvy to catch on to the digital marketing arena, an earlier survey highlighted offline newspaper readership as greater to online, indicating a key area of focus for direct marketing campaigns and brand engagement.

Also, analyze rising consumer confidence in the UAE. By November of 2012, the UAE Consumer Price Index reached 117.24, with a .51% increase in the same period of 2011. According to Sami al-Qamzi, Director General of the Department of Economic Development, “As recent surveys indicate, Dubai is witnessing rising confidence among consumers, which is clearly reflected on spending patterns and future planning”.

Key consumer benchmark areas of Food & Beverage, Textile & Footwear, Household goods & Transportation reflect solid consumer presence. Hence, from a marketing perspective, it is necessary to understand the consumer behavior, that is typical of any emerging market, keeping these key benchmark areas in view.

Tackling Consumer Engagement in Emerging Markets

As a CMO, executing the right Gulf marketing strategies is critical to long-term success and brand establishment, since the market is still maturing. Marketing channels in the Middle East are generally fragmented, and each consumer segment needs to be tackled with a marketing strategy tailored right to that segment.

In the Gulf, pay special attention to cultural preferences, as they play a key role in purchasing decisions. Regionalizing a global product is the key to success. Yolanda Delport, Marketing Director at Al-Futtaim Motors, one of the Middle East’s largest family-owned conglomerates, highlights the successful Gulf marketing approach. “A roomful of creative energy and a very solid ability to listen to, and more importantly – engage (Middle Eastern) customers can build trust and support. This, coupled with a product that delivers the promised benefits, without deploying great amounts of marketing dirhams, is what brings results. This is what great marketing is about (in the GCC)”.

Establishing Local Channels for Consumer Interaction

Vodafone invested in 23,000 channel salespeople, to cover 360,000 villages in India. That amount reflects the attention that needs to be paid by senior marketing resources, when it comes to developing a segment-by-segment consumer strategy. As the CMO, invest a great deal in the attainment of consumer intelligence for each segment. That approach is the key to striking the right chords with the Middle Eastern consumer; a consumer with phenomenal purchasing power, and an equally particular sense of individualization of product and service.

Hence, the sales pendulum will swing your way, if you invest equally in understanding the local market and its constant shifts, as you would in other marketing activities. In other words, as the CMO, think global, but market local.