How to Localize Digital Media for Arabic Audiences

The Middle East North Africa (MENA) region is currently the second-fastest growing eCommerce global market and a thriving hub for Big Tech companies. However, marketing to the 135 million Arabic-speaking internet users is not as simple as translating ad copy and tweaking visual aids. 

Considering only 2% of marketing content is written in Arabic, with barely 5% of Fortune 500 websites with Arabic translations, Arabic marketing is still far behind its American and European counterparts.

If you’re marketing to an Arabic audience, your chosen topics, distribution channels, and advertising methods can directly impact results. Fortunately, these Arabic digital marketing practices can put your business on the right track. 

The State of Content Marketing in the UAE

Historically, the prime medium for UAE-based advertising has always been television. However, as governmental restrictions continue to wane, many businesses are taking advantage of the constant online boom.

As of 2022, 98.99% of the entire UAE population is active on social media. On that basis, it’s safe to assume that content marketing in the MENA area is thriving. In August 2022, the World Media Group awarded Khaled Al-Shehhi, executive director of marketing and communications for the UAE government, for content leadership and innovation.

Al-Shehhi’s creative excursions include the Burj Khalifa’s transformation into the world’s largest donation box, raising 1.2 million meals for those affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. Other groundbreaking initiatives included Al-Shehhi’s support for the Middle East’s first mission to Mars, developing a limited-edition passport stamp dubbed “Martian Ink.” 

Since becoming president of the UAE’s content bucket, Al-Shehhi has empowered the region’s developmental, humanitarian, cultural, and knowledge efforts. 

Tips for Implementing Arabic Marketing Practices

Now that the UAE’s position in global content marketing is clear, how do you align your marketing strategy with local audiences? Here are a few best practices to keep in mind.

Research Your Market

Researching your target audience is always the first step in deciding how to position your business. After all, how do you communicate with consumers if you don’t know who they are in the first place? 

Twenty-six countries, including the UAE, Palestine, and Morocco, list Arabic as their official language. 

Go Bilingual

While most Arabic countries are primarily English-speaking, 76% of online shoppers prefer to purchase items on websites available in local languages. Producing bilingual content enables further personalization of online experiences and expands cross-border opportunities. 

Doubling up on website translations can also improve SERP rankings, local search results, and overall SEO efforts.

When translating your website, don’t depend solely on AI. Whenever possible, hire human translators who can provide the correct context. Not to mention, human translators can provide error-free work to make your website translation-ready.

Note that Arabic has multiple vernacular languages. Geographically, you can classify modern varieties into five categories: Egyptic, Mesopotamian, Levantine, Maghrebi, and Peninsular Arabic. You’ll want to dedicate adequate time to research when developing dialectic keywords. If your Arabic marketing budget can handle it, consider working with a native speaker or language services provider (LSP).

In addition, ensure that your currency, date, weight/measurement, and time formats are accurate. 

Understand Cultural Implications

Localizing your content means putting what you create into cultural context. For instance, while western marketing may speak to consumers’ individualism, Arabic consumers prioritize a sense of family and togetherness. As such, you can market your content to promote family values and honor authority.

Simultaneously, remember that the Arab world is an amalgamation of cultures. While Saudi regions prefer luxury shopping, Egyptian culture appreciates thrifting.

Part of being culturally sensitive is keeping up with Muslim holidays. For instance, come Ramadan, you’ll want to position your marketing strategy to promote shopping for Eid. At this time, mobile Google searches typically increase by 5%.

Whatever the case, focus on keeping your messaging targeted. Align with your consumers’ values and avoid implying anything offensive. 

Use Diverse Marketing Channels

Google Ads and Facebook are advertising giants. While using them to promote your UAE business may seem like a no-brainer, you’ll also want to consider other popular channels among Arab users. These include:

  • YouTube: 88% of Emirates consumers use YouTube, which provides high potential reach for SMEs.
  • WhatsApp: WhatsApp is another popular marketing platform frequently utilized in the UAE. On this messaging channel, messages have a 98% open rate, with excellent potential for reaching roughly 7.98 million users in the UAE.
  • Tiktok: While relatively new to the MENA region, Tiktok is experiencing rapid growth among millennials and Gen Zers. You can integrate ad-formatted in-feed videos that barely disrupt viewing experiences.
  • Instagram: With over 7.73 million users in the UAE, Instagram is another platform you should consider leveraging. Like Facebook, Instagram boasts impressive features for hyper-targeting and campaign monitoring.

Gear Your Efforts Toward Community

Arabic culture strongly emphasizes togetherness and community. When you compare Arab and American advertisements of the same products side-by-side, you’ll often find that Arab media is geared towards family. 

This advertising approach is evident in global brands like Nissan. Most American ads position vehicles in ways that are spec-filled. Ads will highlight features, prices, and other technical information. However, UAE-based Nissan ads almost always depict SUVs as family cars.

Community-forming is also evident in the way Arab brands connect with their customers directly. In B2B sales settings, many Arabic professionals prioritize forming relationships before accepting a deal. While online marketing is a powerful tool, it is less personal than having dedicated discussions with your prospects.

If you have an existing roster of clients, pay attention to them! Remember, customer retention is cheaper than acquisition, which is between five and 25 times more expensive than the former. 

Keep existing customers in the loop by providing frequent updates through social channels or email. Let your valued clients in on new projects ahead of the rest.

Use Arab Influencers

Despite significant changes in the marketing landscape brought about by the pandemic, the use of influencers isn’t showing any signs of slowing. In 2022, Arab influencers are taking platforms like Instagram and Tiktok by storm.

In 2020 alone, mentions of influencer marketing in the UAE increased by 57% from 2019. Arab influencers are in touch with cultural tendencies and will lend a natural yet convincing voice to your brand.

arab infuencers

Not to mention, these influencers cover every base of business—from fashion to activism and public relations to automobiles. Currently, a few of the most popular Arab influencers include:

  • Najwa Hubaishy: This self-proclaimed fashion enthusiast is Saudi Arabia born and bred. Najwa is popular for her signature streetwear style and knack for fashion facts.
  • Huda Kattan: Also known as hudabeauty, Huda Kattan is one of the most successful Saudi influencers and has garnered an impressive following on YouTube. According to Forbes, Huda is among the ten most powerful beauty influencers, cashing in a whopping $18,000 per sponsored post.
  • Abdullaziz Baz: Dubai-raised Abdullaziz Baz is a comedian and model who has amassed five million followers on Instagram. He is an adored jokester known best for his comical take on life in the UAE.
  • Mo Vlogs: If your brand screams luxury and lavish, Mo Vlogs is an influencer you should consider working with. This Dubai-based social media personality is known for showcasing luxury cars and an extravagant lifestyle.

Support Humanitarian Initiatives

Humanitarianism is big in the Arab world. While the United States continues to lead in humanitarian efforts as part of core business values, the UAE is not far behind. 

When developing your advertising strategy, find ways to incorporate charitable efforts. More importantly, commit. Nowadays, household names like Nike and Adidas are foundationally dedicated to lending a helping hand to impoverished communities, children, and other significant causes.

Monitor Your Success

Monitoring campaign performance is the key to success. After all, you can’t improve if you don’t know what needs improving. 

When localizing your campaign, divide and conquer according to region. Specifying your market will allow for a more catered approach. Remember, you aren’t just targeting the UAE. Arabic is also the primary language in regions like Qatar, Bahrain, Oman, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt. 

Consider your most successful campaigns, what makes them successful, and what remained different or the same across all regions.

The Bottom Line

Localizing your content for Arabic audiences is what promises success. If you don’t speak the target language or are not in the know about cultural implications, working with a professional localization agency for Arabic marketing can benefit you. 

If you want to ensure that you’re on the right track and that your messaging is well-received, our Arabic marketing team at Igloo can set you up for success. Book a consultation today to find out how we can position your advertising campaigns for local audiences.


Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *