Why Arabic is an Afterthought in Today’s Digital Market
Surf social media and you’ll definitely see this: many MENA brands, targeting Arab audiences, are speaking in English. Only in English. You’ll surely wonder: isn’t their audience of Arab origin? And aren’t their markets where Arabic is still the predominant language? But if you’ve been operating long enough in the GCC and North African markets, it may not come as a big surprise when you see brands totally ignoring Arabic in their outreach on social. The reason? It’s just easier and less labor intensive to use English.
Here are the top 5 reasons why Arabic is, unfortunately, still an afterthought for many brands today:
1- The Manpower
Let’s admit this – 70% of all branded social media outreach in today’s market is being done by international PR agencies instead of in-house teams. While this may help achieve some synergy between PR and social for brands, it creates a vacuum where Arabic gets abandoned because most of these PR agencies tend to hire Western nationalities and few strong Arab execs. Arabic then becomes too labor intensive because there just aren’t enough people on board who can do it – and do it right.
2- The Language
It’s not an industry secret that Arabic hasn’t been able to catch up in full with modern terms that just aren’t available in Arabic. Unlike English whose dictionaries are constantly updated with terms like ‘tweet’ or ‘tag’, Arabic isn’t. Many execs still face huge challenges communicating their modern concepts in Arabic.
3- The Business
In businesses such as tech, media and entertainment, few understand how essential it is to create an Arabic brand glossary (more on that in a next our article on Game Localization) for their sophisticated brands. They opt for random or quick Arabic terms because they believe there’s not that many options to pick from. And then comes the notion that Arabic may not be as adequate as English in selling their products and communicating their USPs. This is of course, false.
4- The Misconception
There’s a common misconception that Arabic is simply ‘un-cool’. Where English can be humorous, cheeky, snarky, sarcastic and serious, Arabic seems to many as a monotone, one-style language that can’t express different emotions. Also not true.
5- The Complexity
While most brands see Arabic as ‘un-cool’, it’s not just its perceived lack of flexibility that’s stopping them from using it heavily in outreach. It’s also its complexity – and that’s undoubtedly true. While Arabic can certainly be hip, expressive and cool, there’s no denying it’s more complex in grammar and structure than English. There are punctuation signs, diacritics, many grammar rules and a lot that’s governing how words should be written .
So why is this article in English and not Arabic? We’re kicking off our D&S articles in a language that, unfortunately, most brands only speak. But we are also creating an Arabic only room to walk the talk and create content in Arabic only – so stay tuned for that launch coming soon. We’re here to make a love comeback for Arabic and show you how to really talk to consumers and stakeholders in Arabic in everything you do from strategies, and social media outreach to impactful future campaigns.
Mina Takla Mina brings more than 10 years of experience in the media, market research, gaming and film sectors with deep knowledge of both art-house and commercial cinema. He has offered several training programs on Arabic tone of voice and creative content writing for brands. He has attended, covered and developed Arabic content from over 10 film festivals online including the Dubai International Film Festival, Abu Dhabi Film Festival, Cannes, Venice and Annecy Film Festivals. He is also an animation enthusiast and an Oscar pundit, having been following the Oscar scene since 2000 with accurate and office-pool winning predictions year after year. He holds a Masters degree in Strategic Marketing from Australia’s Wollongong University and a Bachelor’s degree in Integrated Marketing Communications with a focus on Arabic language. He is the co-founder of Taghreedat with Samy Al Mubarak which is the largest Arabic crowdsourcing initiative in the MENA region.
In 2017, Takla and Mubarak launched The Syndicate, the region’s first film content and news agency. The agency currently works with several film clients in Hollywood and the region including: Awards Watch, Dubai Film Festival and Empire Arabia, the MENA edition of Empire, the world’s top film magazine. You can follow Takla’s daily film articles, reviews, features and box office analysis on: empire-arabia.com, awardswatch.com and diff.ae.
Named one of the 25 Tech Stars of the Middle East by WSJ at the age of 24, Samy Al-Mubarak is a certified geek and the co-founder of Taghreedat, a pioneer of crowdsourcing in the MENA region with a community of thousands of members worldwide. Being a GCC born culture lover, over the last 10 years Samy has developed an exceptional expertise of the region’s digital and cultural landscape through his role in leading key digital projects for government, commercial as well as non-profit sectors. Samy holds a bachelor’s degree in Computer applications and 6 diplomas in computer science and networking – he specializes in multimedia, gaming and creative marketing and worked to manage the localization and culturalization of the Arabic products for brands and studios such as twitter, TED, WhatsApp, Google, Universal, Gameloft, Marvel, Pixar and more.
Samy also has a passion for cinema and film festivals, managing the multimedia and digital coverage for over 22 film festivals including Cannes, Annecy, EMPIRE Awards, Dubai International Film Festival, Abu Dhabi film festival and more. In 2017, Mubarak and Takla launched The Syndicate, the region’s first film content and news agency which supplies several media outlets and publications with exclusive film content. As part of the agency’s film content creation engagements, Al Mubarak frequently sits down with Hollywood stars and directors to host interviews about their upcoming hits such as Spiderman Homecoming and Okja to name a few.