While spoken Arabic Language becomes less used across the Arab world, and the use of English gains prevalence, (largely due to the Western film and entertainment industries) young Arabs continue to see this as a worrying prospect. Khalil Haddad, Head of Arabic Content at Serviceplan Group Middle East believes the creative and advertising industries can play a major role in reversing the trend and giving Arabic language the prominence and recognition it deserves.
The most recent Arab Youth Survey revealed that 80% of young Arabs, especially in GCC, see Arabic as central to their national identity. Interestingly, in the GCC the figure was 90% while in North Africa it was 79% and the Levant and Yemen 70%. The survey also posed the question, “is Arabic losing its value” with 60% of young Arabs agreeing with the statement, an increase of 3 points over the 2016 survey. This was most pronounced in North Africa, where 69% of young people felt Arabic was losing its value followed by youth in the GCC at 59% and the Levant and Yemen at 53%.
In a pre-dominantly Arab region, marketing communication plays a major role because the Arabic language, like any other language is evolving, and if we look carefully we can see it everywhere – from slang language used on the street through to graphic artists, poets, singers and writers who continue to shape the language every day.
As communications experts, we believe we have a responsibility to fully understand the importance of the Arabic language, and the impact it has on millions of Arabs in the region. We need to treat it as a fundamental part of our structure; a structure that puts the Arabic language in the forefront of our way of thinking not the back seat, and instead of relying on alternative languages to fill the gaps that we feel our language can’t fulfill. It’s our role to explore our language to its full potential, as an essential part of our culture.
That means brands need to use language that has more true resonance with the target audience, in other words. They need to stop literal translation of ideas and concepts from English to Arabic, but rather create Arabic content that stands up on its own and delivers messages in a clear and simple manner.
A great example from an international brand that has been able to create a piece of content that’s disruptive, thought provocative and authentic is Nike’s Commercial, “What Will They Say About You”. It is one of the few culturally rich, empowering campaigns that sets a great example of how we can truly and genuinely target Arab youth, and in this case, young Arab women.
Even though Nike continues to use its famous slogan “Just Do It” in English after all these years in the region, with this campaign, actions are speaking a lot louder than just slogans.
It goes far beyond selling sportswear, telling the story of aspiring female Arab athletes and the challenges they may face in their professional career. It’s an emotional and bold campaign, reflecting the region’s millennial spirit – and it’s just one sample, which reflects the change in the brand’s strategy. A region with a population of more than 200 million needs a specific and individualized brand approach to be successful.
One question comes to mind: How can we create a similar impactful campaign? Especially in times where the Middle Eastern consumers are questioning their brand loyalty. According to a study done by YouGov, 65 percent of consumers in the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait admit they find themselves less loyal to brands than in the past. This is why brands need to work even harder on a consistent and more accurate communication strategy towards their target group.
Creating brand loyalty is not an easy task and it’s definitely nothing a brand can achieve in a short term; it requires a well thought marketing strategy and a long-term communication plan that sets the tone create awareness and deliver relevant message to the target audience.
BMW Group, decided nine years ago to create relevant local content to gain a bigger share of heart in the region. Multiple pieces of communication where created throughout the years that aimed to achieve this one strategy of speaking the consumers language. The utilization of relevant insights helped the brand talk to the consumers through create effective content,
Some campaigns are led by the brand. Ramadan campaigns, local activations and most recently the creation of a platform in the consumer language #AnaBMW. Some are led by the consumers themselves: The campaign around BMW Stories, allowed 13 actual customers of five markets to be heroes in the brands story movies. It helped the target group to identify themselves with the brand through seeing themselves as a hero true ambassador of an international brand in their own market and language.
Other brands should be following these excellent examples. Preserving the language by using it boldly and effectively in creative campaigns should be an automatic consideration. After all, it’s an expressive and rich language which continues to evolve in the same way that the English language does, and in many ways can be more appropriate for targeting an audience that, if the findings of the Arab Youth Survey are anything to go by, are very conscious of its relevance to their identity.
First published on Gulf News.