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Unveiling the Power of Localisation: A Key to Success in the MENA Region

The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region is not just a market—it is a dynamic landscape teeming with opportunities for businesses eyeing global expansion. However, simply having an excellent product or service is not enough to succeed in this vibrant market. Businesses need to communicate effectively, both literally and figuratively, to truly resonate with local audiences.

Localisation is the key to this communication. It involves much more than translation; it requires understanding the unique cultural and linguistic nuances that make audiences tick. By embracing localisation, businesses can tap into the pulse of the MENA region and unlock its full potential. Let’s explore how.

Localisation: More Than Just Translation

Localisation is a thoughtful process of tailoring your message, product, or service to deeply connect with a specific audience in their cultural context. 

Language is Crucial: In the MENA region, Arabic is predominant, but it is not one-size-fits-all. Diverse dialects such as Egyptian, Levantine, and Khaliji add complexity. Opting for Modern Standard Arabic (MSA) ensures your message is clear and comprehensible across various regions. This strategic choice enhances your reach and impact, making your offerings resonate more effectively with local audiences.

However, in some cases, using local dialects is essential for truly resonating with the target audience. By incorporating regional language variations, businesses can create a more personalized and relatable experience for consumers, fostering a stronger emotional connection.

Targeted Marketing Campaigns: Utilising local dialects in marketing campaigns fosters a deeper connection with the audience. For instance, Qatar National Bank and Ooredoo use Qatari dialect in their advertisements, especially during national events, to foster national pride. Emirates Airlines and Etisalat incorporate local Emirati dialects in their promotions, especially during UAE National Day, to build familiarity and trust with local customers. STC and Almarai in Saudi Arabia use Saudi dialects to target young Saudis during Ramadan and Saudi National Day, creating impactful connections with local communities.

Relevance to Each Market/Region: A one-size-fits-all approach will not work. Tailor your content and marketing strategies to the specific cultural context and preferences of each market in MENA. For instance, Coca-Cola successfully entered the Egyptian market by launching campaigns during the holy month of Ramadan, incorporating traditional symbols and messages that resonate with local customs. This culturally aware approach helped Coca-Cola establish a strong presence and connect with Egyptian consumers on a deeper level.

Social Media Engagement: Engaging with audiences on platforms like X or Instagram using dialects such as Khaliji can boost interaction and virality. Content in familiar dialects increases shares, likes, and comments, amplifying brand visibility and engagement.

Community-Based Initiatives: Initiatives targeting specific communities, such as health campaigns in various Arabic dialects, ensure clear and impactful communication. For instance, Egypt’s “You’re Stronger Than Drugs” انت أقوى من المخدرات (inta a’awa menel mukhaddarat) campaign effectively used local dialect to increase acceptance and effectiveness.

Strategically incorporating local dialects alongside MSA ensures broad accessibility while deepening connections with diverse audiences across the MENA region.

Navigating Language and Cultural Sensitivities

Social norms and traditions vary significantly across the MENA region. Localisation requires sensitivity to these differences to ensure your message resonates with the target audience. Certain words or phrases might have unintended negative connotations in specific dialects. Understanding cultural norms around humor, imagery, and color symbolism is also essential.

For example, promoting a state-of-the-art tractor as “Jarrar” in Saudi Arabia can backfire since “Jarrar” means “pimp” in Saudi dialect. Similarly, the word “yatheb” (jump) has different connotations in Syria and Yemen.

Formal vs. Informal Tone

Adjust your tone to fit the audience. Marketing materials in Egypt may require a formal approach, while content aimed at younger audiences in the UAE should adopt a casual, conversational style.

Humor and Imagery: Cultural differences shape what’s funny and appropriate. Avoid region-specific jokes and consider local sensitivities in imagery. 

Timeliness: Being on Trend

To really hit the mark in the MENA market, you must stay in the loop with current events, trends, and pop culture references. This shows your brand understands the local vibe and builds a stronger connection with your audience.

Content Adaptation: Bridging Cultures for Success

Localisation is crucial for businesses expanding globally, enabling companies to step into new markets with content and products that resonate deeply with local audiences, thereby boosting brand loyalty and gaining a competitive edge. For example, Netflix’s success in the MENA market can be attributed to its robust localisation strategy, which includes a localized content library, Arabic user interface, and culturally adapted subtitles and dubbing. Similarly, McDonald’s tailored its menu in India with chicken and fish options, supported local suppliers, and localized its marketing with Indian celebrities and festive themes. This strategy helped McDonald’s build loyalty, expand its customer base, and thrive in India.

Conclusion

Localisation is powerful for businesses looking to thrive in the MENA market. By understanding the unique challenges and opportunities of the region, businesses can leverage localisation to enhance their brand’s impact and relevance. Successful examples like Amazon and Nike illustrate that effective localisation can significantly boost customer loyalty and drive sustainable business growth in the diverse MENA market.

Effective localisation requires more than just accurate translations; it demands specialized expertise and cultural insight. MUSE is your ideal partner, offering a team of native experts who deeply understand the nuances and consumer behavior in each target market. We deliver top-quality professional services to ensure your content is effectively localised, helping you engage your audience and compete with local market leaders. 

Contact MUSE now for a free 30-minute consultation, and let’s embark on a journey where transparency, innovation, and strategic excellence shape the success story of your business.

Ahmed Salem

Ahmed leads on all English-Arabic translations at Muse. He has more than 18 years of experience in the field of translation and linguistics, and has worked for prominent organizations including Thomason Reuters Foundation, Association for the Prevention of Torture and King Khalid Foundation. Ahmed is also in charge of all media monitoring at Muse, offering our clients insightful reports on their voice share in media and an assessment of their brand presence.

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