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Older Arab consumers defy stereotyping

News, 10 November 2015

BEIRUT: The Middle East and North Africa is reaching a demographic tipping point and a growing number of older consumers are challenging preconceptions about ageing and retirement, a study has said.

J. Walter Thompson MEA identified a group of MENA consumers in their 50s and 60s that it dubbed Generation Bold; this cohort currently accounts for 12% of the population in MENA Arab countries but is set to grow by 42% over the next ten years to total 53m.

The agency conducted a survey of 244 50-69 year olds across six key markets – Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Morocco, Lebanon and Kuwait – in addition to carrying out in-depth discussions with eight participants and extensive desk research.

The life trajectory of this demographic is now "sinuous rather than linear", the study said.

"They are skipping and revisiting life stages at will; dating, studying, travelling the world, launching new businesses and much more."

Four typologies were identified, with Traditionalists making up the single largest group (37%). They were happy to just relax and spend time with their grandchildren.

Almost as many were Adventurers (36%), however, with a newfound appreciation for experiences over possessions and keen to travel and explore the world.

Self-actualisers (17%) were a driven group with no intention of slowing down, ready to start a new business or a new career; alternatively they could find an outlet for their needs in taking up education and studying.

The final, smallest group were Activists (11%) who want to leave their mark on the world, whether by starting a foundation, supporting charities or fighting for a worthy cause.

"The opportunities for brands across multiple sectors is astonishing," said Mennah Ibrahim, director of J. Walter Thompson Intelligence MENA, in remarks reported by Gulf Marketing Review.

"This is a forthright and vocal group who have a lot to offer as well as cash to spend, yet perceive that society views them as something of a burden."

Brands need to avoid stereotypes in their advertising, the study said, and to offer "age-friendly" rather than "age-oriented" products and services.

Data sourced from Gulf Marketing Review, J Walter Thompson; additional content by Warc staff