Gone Global is a Collabary series that aims to study the role of influencer marketing in markets outside of Europe and the West. By exploring influencers, campaigns, and trends in markets such as China, the Middle East, Africa, Latin America, and India, we can not only find inspiration from the exciting ideas coming out of some of the most lively and expanding economies in the world, but celebrate their cultures and the diversity of human creativity.
The Middle East is a geographical region that contains within it 18 unique countries and countless other fascinating cultures. An important area that has shaped the course of human history with its staggering feats in technological, artistic, and scientific advancements, recent decades have shown the world an image of the Middle East as a whole that differs wildly from this ancient narrative. Despite this, countries such as the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia are shaking off this image as they strive to build some of the most modern and cosmopolitan cities the world has known.
In this post, we’ll explore four influencers and their brand collaborations that we believe represent both the changing face of Middle Eastern society and the future of influencer marketing in the region. While the benefits of influencer marketing are gradually being realized, there is still much more to be done in the ways of influencer marketing in Middle Eastern countries, especially in comparison to Europe or our previously covered region, China.
Nevertheless, we believe that the economic and social future of the Middle East makes it an exciting, bold new playing field for influencer marketing and is definitely deserving of attention.
One of the most successful influencers of all time, Huda Kattan is an Iraqi-American entrepreneur based in Dubai that has built a billion-dollar empire through her cosmetics line Huda Beauty amongst other lucrative enterprises. Loved and trusted by followers in the Middle East and beyond, Huda’s image and products coincide with the lavish, over-the-top West-meets-East decadence of the United Arab Emirates’ Dubai.
Photo credit: Huda Beauty
Starting as a make-up artist to the stars, her story is a true rags-to-riches tale. As she steadily gained a reputation, her trajectory changed when she launched a blog through WordPress and thus Huda Beauty was born. Now, she is one of the world’s highest-paid influencers. She has even recently released an online reality TV series Huda Boss through Facebook Watch.
If it weren’t for good timing, Huda Kattan may have never been able to afford to begin her empire. As of this year, the UAE demands that any new influencer must pay a $4,000 a year license to be a paid brand ambassador.
Hatoon Kadi is an online personality, influencer, and commonly regarded as Saudi Arabia’s first female comedian. She rose to fame through her Noon Al Niswa YouTube channel, where she shares her skits, makeup tutorials, and lifestyle advice. Most notably, though, is that she has made a name for herself with her opinions on social issues – namely, gender equality, in her native country.
Her YouTube channel has over 350,000 subscribers and she has collaborated with brands like Levi’s for their I Shape My World campaign and a series of commercials for Raid Insect Killer. Although one could argue there isn’t anything too glamorous about being an ambassador for an insecticide, her humorous testimonials are fitting for her style.
Photo credit: Hatoon Kadi
To her largely female fan-base, she is seen as an everywoman in a country that still holds deeply rooted conservative values when it comes to gender. It’s these conservative values that must be considered when searching for Middle Eastern content creators. In an industry where authenticity is everything, it’s important to ensure that your influencers aren’t just authentic as people but are authentic to the culture of the market they advertising to.
Ahmad Al Boloushi is a Kuwait-born mechanical engineer, influencer, and one half of the blogging duo The Hybrids with his wife Ascia Al Faraj. Together, Ahmad and Ascia have built a following of fans who trust their honest lifestyle, grooming and beauty advice. Having collaborated with brands like Kenzo and TAG Heuer, the couple are renowned for wearing modern streetwear styles and producing meticulously curated images in a region that typically celebrates more conservative traditional aesthetics.
Ahmad, in particular, represents the changing tide of what is expected of men in Kuwait. Where before there was less emphasis on men taking pride in their grooming and appearance, Ahmad is one of the few personalities that is letting his male followers know that it is okay to express your individuality through your style. This could be why he now regularly collaborates with Nike in showing off their latest streetwear drops.
Photo credit: Ahmad Al Boloushi
It is a wise move on the part of Nike to select Middle Eastern ambassadors for their brand. While in the past, the male fashion sector in the region has grown at a slow pace, a recent study has projected that menswear revenues are projected to grow at a rate of 5% – higher than the growth in womenswear. By seizing this opportunity to market to a more fashion conscious male mindset in the Middle East with the use of influencer marketing strategies now, brands looking to expand their appeal could get a strong foothold in acquiring new fans before IM is more widespread.
Darin Al Bayed is a Saudi-raised Lebanese blogger and influencer whose popularity spiked after she joined the HowaWaHeya YouTube channel, a sketch group that explores the male-female dynamic. Many of her own videos, such as this, require no knowledge of her language, making her the perfect ambassador for many local and international brands who want to use her intelligence, humor, and talent to sell their products across the region.
As well as an ambassadorship for Dubai’s 2020 World Expo, she has also recently teamed up with Huawei to endorse it’s new P30 PRO smartphone, featuring it a number of her personal Instagram posts. An early adopter of IG in comparison to other users in the UAE – where she is based – she has embraced the new format to create a community of over 4.3 million followers which has increased the potential impressions her sponsored posts can reach.
Photo credit: Darin Al Bayed
Across the whole Middle East, the popularity figures of various social media platforms vary wildly. While many in Europe may not see Facebook Watch as the most attractive social media platform, it makes sense in the UAE, where 82% of the population use Facebook over a mere 53% who use Instagram. Comparatively, in nearby Iran, only half the population uses any social media at all!
By taking note of influencer marketing trends in the Middle East, brands can ensure that their methods of marketing in the region are culturally relevant and effective. To summarize:
1) The UAE demands that any new influencer must pay a $4,000 a year license to be a paid brand ambassador. This may limit the pool of micro-influencers to choose from.
2) The typically conservative values of the region need to be considered when searching for Middle Eastern content creators. It’s important to ensure that your influencers and their images are culturally authentic.
3) The male fashion sector is expected to grow by 5% over the next two years – outpacing the growth of the women’s fashion sector.
4) It’s important to consider the best platforms to use to reach your audiences. In some countries, YouTube bloggers may be the best way to target your market, whereas elsewhere, Facebook Watch could be better.