Establishing a video marketing strategy in the Middle East Why a tailor-made video marketing strategy for the Middle East is essential.

Marketing is adapting

The West instigated consumerism and capitalism. With consumer society came marketing and advertisement. For decades, businesses would only focus on big, wealthy Western markets. Nowadays, no business owner can ignore the fact that capitalism and mass consumption is global. Competition forced brands to invest in marketing worldwide. It didn’t take long for marketers to realize that what worked in their countries didn’t in others’. A few marketing campaign failures and backlashes and voilà!

Yet, most business universities still teach Western-style marketing, wherever you are. If you are a Saudi brand, for instance, chances that you are hiring a western-taught marketer are high. These techniques can obviously work everywhere. The difference between a win or a loss, however, is in the details. Arabs don’t consume like Chinese, Chinese don’t consume like Americans. Your ability to adapt to your local market and to a specific audience is key to your success. Marketing basics are certainly useful but won’t get you anywhere since everybody knows them. To survive and grow, you must hit the sweet spot.

The enormous potential of the Middle East

This region is one of the fastest growing in the world. For businesses, this might be the new El Dorado. Here’s why you can’t afford to not consider this market:

Jeff Bezos (Amazon) did not spend 580 million dollars to buy, the biggest e-commerce platform in the Middle East, for no reason…

shopping Saudi Arabia


The market specificities

Each region has its specific norms, values, beliefs, habits, et cetera. Ignore them and you’re on the road to ruin. Whether you are a local or a foreigner, when it comes to Middle Eastern markets, there are several things to consider and grasp.

The three major ethnic groups in the Middle East are Turks, Arabs, and Persians. Each one includes several distinctive smaller groups and is deeply different from others. However, to keep things simple, the following statements will focus on their similarities for marketing.

  • Traditional marketing still works. In Western areas, individual customization is the new marketing standard. In the Middle East, common advertisement doesn’t look a day older. Consumers are extremely receptive to massive entertaining advertisement campaigns and viral
  • Wasta, or the importance of relatives and relations. In the USA or Europe, the purchase decision may come from a deep analysis of all product reviews available online. In the Middle East, it does not work this way, at least not as much. What will matter the most is the circle of friends and family. A peer recommendation is a lot more important than your product description and reviews. Influencers are also incredibly valuable.
  • Fashion and social rank. Do you need an iPhone over another phone? No. Do you absolutely need a Louis Vuitton handbag over another good quality brand? No. In the Middle East, consumerism is higher than everywhere else. Social status and appearance are in most individuals’ minds. Thereby, the image provided by a product or a service will prevail over the product itself. Moreover, appearance and visible social status are a higher priority than personal
  • Locals do not tend to give feedback. Unlike in other regions, only a few reviews are given about products and companies. That makes the marketing message the most useful tool in reaching and convincing Easily above anonymous users’ opinions.

Marketing Middle East

How do I market this flood of youngsters and businessmen?

Previous general ideas and remarks on the Middle Eastern markets should already give you hints on the next move. To take advantage of that region’s specificities, you need a tailored marketing strategy. Make use of the best channels, bet on the technological advances, go mobile and, above all, make astonishing content. Let’s go deeper into the details.

Videos outshine other forms of content

First of all, don’t bother looking for the best form of content. It’s hardly breaking news: videos are the way to go. Texts and images are no longer effective enough. The world goes fast, our way of learning and communicating is nomadic. Our eyes, ears, and brains are trained for moving visuals and sounds. We need all of our senses to be stimulated. That is what marketing is all about, now more than ever.

Fact: newspaper readership fell from 43% in 2013 to 25% in 2017. Of all offline media, only the TV is not dropping too fast (98% to 93% usage in the same period of time). Why? Because TV shows video content.

Middle East newspaper VS TV

Social people, social media

The best media channel for your content is social media. In Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Lebanon, Qatar, Egypt, Turkey, Jordan… Almost everyone now has a smartphone and is connected (way above the USA’s 77%). Those who don’t, yet, will shortly be, there are no doubts. The Middle East region has the best planned smart cities projects and is to become the main one in terms of 5G infrastructures.

Internet penetration (95% for the 18-34) and mobiles made social networks common. The 15-24 spent 72 minutes on videos and 51 on social networks daily in 2015. The 35+ spent 80 minutes on social media daily (source).

Middle East social media

Not just all sorts of social networks…

Messaging apps, Instagram, Snapchat, and YouTube are rising extremely fast. The reason behind their particular popularity? Once again, visual content. Indeed, videos surpass images significantly. They are interactive, entertaining, combine visuals and sounds, play with feelings, et cetera. Moreover, they serve numerous purposes: reviews, influencers, explainers, education, news, and so on. There is nothing you can’t do, there is nobody you can’t reach, with video content.

Key statistics on the importance of video marketing for your strategy

  • Social videos generate 1200% more shares than text and images combined.
  • Twitter reported that videos are 6 times more likely to be retweeted, compared with pictures.
  • 79% of consumers prefer watching videos rather than reading a text.
  • 84% of consumers have been convinced into buying after watching a video.
  • Visitors spend 88% more time on websites with video content.

Video marketing stats

Getting down to business

Now that everything is clearer and that you know how most of your target groups behave, it’s time to plan your video marketing strategy. In addition, to make sure that you’ve got what it needs to defeat your competitors. Against those who don’t use video marketing, you’ve already won. Against those who do, nonetheless, you simply have to be better.

  • Adapt your video strategy to mobiles and apps. Make it easy to share on messaging apps and social media.
  • Make sure you have a region specialist able to understand the norms, trends, slang… Your strategy has to be carefully planned with the help of a region expert.
  • Localize your message, but also your whole strategy and branding! English only accounts for 28% of the Internet use in the Middle East. A single word can change the whole sentence in Arabic.
  • Do SEO (search engine optimization) for videos. But most of all, do Arabic (or the local idiom) SEO in addition to English SEO. SEO works even better in videos than in textual content. Websites displaying videos with proper SEO will appear much more often in search results.
  • Deliver entertaining Catchy visuals and attractive music work extremely well in this region. The better your videos are to share, the more viral they will become.
  • Hire influencers. Famous Internet stars featuring you in their social videos will give you a huge boost. 94% of UAE marketers believe that influencers played a major role in their success.
  • Become noticed and memorable, a synonym of trendy and high quality. Influencer marketing and word of mouth about your videos are your strongest allies.
  • Keep the marketing message in your videos short and clear. No never-ending descriptions and proofs: most locals trust advertisements.
  • Focus on top-notch video content to increase engagement towards your brand more than your offer itself. For instance, with corporate movies.
  • Be a major source of information about your business sector. Achieve this by providing educational and high-value content (explainer and educational videos).

Njoud Saudi influencer

Njoud, Saudi influencer with more than 1,5 million subscribers and followers (YouTube and Instagram).

Final thoughts on video marketing in the Middle East

The Middle East is a lively region, both economically and politically. That turbulent part of the world is regularly slowed down by diplomatic tensions, economic fears (about the oil price for example), occasional social media and speech censorship…

However, that must not keep you from investing in these markets. Indeed, inhabitants are loyal and active consumers. They love interacting with brands and sharing marketing videos.

Finally, The region is very dynamic, growing and modernizing at the speed of light. To make sure you are not seized and lost in the middle of it, you have to stand out from the crowd. You can do that with the best video marketing strategy campaign.

Graphics: Alba Fernàndez Gonzàlez

About Timothé Ameline