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Arabian Bytes: The Power of Purpose in the UAE

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In the UAE, nonprofits and corporate citizenship emerge to meet the expectations of the rising citizen consumer.

Edelman’s 2nd goodpurpose® study conducted in the UAE (and the 5th study globally) revealed how the Power of Purpose is driving consumer preference and loyalty with respect to corporations and brands.

From an ideological standpoint, our market is ahead of the global average in 2 key ways:

  • More than half of UAE residents believe the  responsibility of people like them  to address societal issues has increased over the past year, and
  • Almost 6 in 10 think that compared to five years ago, we have more power and influence to make a difference on those issues.

So the takeaway is… in the UAE, we’re motivated to support good causes and we feel empowered to do so. That empowerment could very well be related, in part, to what we’ve seen happen in this region as part of the Arab spring.

When it comes to intentions, again, we’re ahead of the global average in several ways:

  • We’re more likely to say we buy brands that support good causes at least monthly.
  • We’re more likely to pay a premium for products and services from companies that support a good cause (by over 10 percentage points).
  • We’re more likely to invest in companies that support a good cause (by almost 15 percentage points).
  • We’re more likely to want to work for companies that support good causes (again, by almost 15 percentage points).

But the reality is that business and cause partnerships are not as straightforward in the UAE.

We think a couple of factors influence this:

  • Role of government – When businesses DO partner with a third party to address a social issue here, that third party is more likely to be the government or a government agency (like the Abu Dhabi Education Council, for instance) than a non-profit, NGO or cause organization.
  • Resources – Though global perceptions tend to lump our market into the “big spender” category, brand marketing budgets here seldom reflect that stereotype. Communications offices are fledglings, having been set up in the last 2-3 years, and are dealing with much smaller pots of money than their counterparts in the US and Europe.

But this is changing.

From our perspective, non-profits are beginning to proliferate. Relatively new local causes like Think Up GCC, Dubai Cares and Gulf 4 Good are joining more established global/regional causes like the Red Crescent and UNICEF.

And businesses are starting to appreciate the opportunity to give back – for both altruistic and commercial benefit.

  • Just this year, Aramex partnered with Care by Air to underwrite services to relief and humanitarian organizations at-cost.
  • UAE Exchange partnered with UNICEF to donate a sum for their remittance services in support of underprivileged children.
  • And last month, KFC hosted a 5k run on Jumeirah Beach, donating proceeds to the Red Crescent.

The challenge moving forward will be strategic.

  • Which organizations should partner?
  • How will they best leverage scant resources?
  • How will communications leads sell it to their management teams?

As the business-cause partnership trend continues, there will be more need than ever before for guidance on stakeholder mapping, cause selection, KOL engagement and reputation management throughout the process. Studies like goodpurpose®, particularly because it provides information tailored to our market, will be critical in predicting the needs of the market, and guiding it in its development.

By Arabian Bytes

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