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marketing consumer goods in the Middle East

Monday 18 February, 2008

I read this article by Raed Refei in the Chicago Tribune Arab pop stars at heart of Coke, Pepsi battle

Pepsi had the lead in many other international markets throughout the world in addition to the Middle East.  When I spent 7 months in Poland a few years after the Soviet Union dissolved, it was still pretty much a Pepsi country.  Coke invested heavily to build the brand & was successful, but Pepsi had a huge advantage being the entrenched brand, against which Coke had an uphill battle to climb.

There are increasing similarities with western marketing:  “Middle East retailing has gone through a tremendous amount of change over the past 10 years.  It has been fascinating to witness and participate in the rapid evolution of retailing in the Middle East.  The region has always had a rich heritage of shop keeping, starting from the original traditional souqs, through to the development shopping on the main high streets, to shopping malls to the current large-scale shopping malls that are being developed in every city across the region usually with a unique offering like a skiing slope to a themed concept to ensure that footfall to the mall is ensured.”-from a US Dept. of Commerce report.

However, there are still great differences.  I’m not sure that their full product range is sold throughout the Middle East.  Distribution can still be a real pain because the logistics infrastructure is not fully comprehensive.  People in the region can afford to pay the going rate for a can of soda, but despite the promotional push, there are still plenty of restrictions on what can & cannot be advertised & how. Given rising incomes, there is plenty of opportunity in this part of the world, but it’s not as simple to build a brand as the article suggests.

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