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Localise to fit in – by Hashtag’s Rola Omar Hashem

Hashtag’s senior account executive, Rola Hashem, explains what localisation is, and how to do it right

By Rola Omar Hashem, senior account executive, Hashtag Social Media Agency

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We are living in the internet-age; globalisation is accelerating, and as a result cultures are converging. Trends are no longer confined to a specific country or region. Instead, global trends trickle down to every culture, as people are finding more and more things in common. However, a ‘one content for all’ strategy is still far from perfect. With the rise of globalisation, we also see a parallel rise in nationalism. While one could think the two terms conflict, the reality of the matter is different; the more similarities we have with one another, the more important our remaining differences become. Most nations and cultures maintain core sets of attributes that set them apart; uniqueness that lies within their people and how they live. In this article, we will cover the concept of ‘localisation’ within the context of social media marketing, and try to answer three key questions: What is localisation? Why is it important today? How do we localise?

What is localisation?

It can be simplified and thought about in this way. Let us assume, a non-local is visiting Saudi for the first time. She will be exposed to the country’s language, food, music, people, decorations, sights, events and much more. Localisation is a collection of all these. It is the different aspects that make a culture, and it could range from habits to lifestyle. In social media marketing we localise by adapting and adjusting our content to match and relate to our audience’s cultural background.

Why is localisation important?

Living in a fast-paced world, we are exposed to hundreds of pieces of content every day. However, only a few resonate with us. These few must have touched us by being relatable, humorous, inspiring or emotional to still be meaningful and memorable.

Let’s further clarify with an example: a video showcasing a kashta gathering with fire in the middle and authentic Saudi snacks being enjoyed. This content is more likely to resonate with the Saudi audience, as they would have already experienced it and collected memories of it.

In contrast, we have a video showcasing camping scenery in the woods. The audience in this case would not relate as this isn’t a part of the culture and lifestyle of Saudis. Additionally, the content would be meaningless and the message would be lost. Here comes the value of content localisation, as it leads to positive association with the brand, the development of brand equity and an increase in engagement. Localisation helps brands fit in and be relatable to the markets they are serving.

How to localise

First and foremost, research, research, and research.

It is critical that brands thoroughly understand the market and audience they are targeting. In addition to conceptualising an accurate image of the culture and values, we should also acknowledge their dos and don’ts, figure out how we can tap into their feelings of nostalgia, and keep an open eye for the latest trends surrounding them.

A typical consequence of insufficient research is falling into the ‘wannabe’ traps. For instance, in the Saudi context, an awfully common trap that brands fall into is featuring a man with improperly fitted traditional headwear. Such incidents could backfire and create negative sentiments. Instead, brands should focus on nailing down the details to achieve natural ‘relatability’.

Inducing feelings of nostalgia is also a very powerful way to achieve relatability, as you prove to your audience that you not only understand their present state, but also their history.

A key driver for engagement is being timely and up to date with what is trending. As your brand celebrates national holidays with its audience, or laughs at the latest TikTok trends with them, said audience will eventually feel that the brand is journeying through life alongside them, and that it understands
them. At the end of the day, who wouldn’t want to engage with those who make them feel understood?

Let us try and bring our three recommendations to life. Be timely in Ramadan and ask the audience about their age when they first fasted for Ramadan. Also, use the Saudi dialect and align the design with the usage of an old nostalgic popular Ramadan show.

Let us be more practical. The next time you are planning for a social media campaign, try to replicate the following thought-process: Assume you are a chocolate store operating in Riyadh, planning to launch a social media campaign to promote a newly released chocolate box. First, start by building the context via relying on your understanding of the culture. Ask yourself:

With what do Saudis typically enjoy chocolate? Saudi coffee.

Where would they typically enjoy their cup of Saudi coffee? A friendly gathering at home.

What would they be wearing in that context? Thobe for men, and Abaya for women.

What unique elements are found in homes? Bukhoor, Saudi patterned objects.

By following the above method, we can generate multiple content ideas that are inherently localised. For example, one could capture a photo of our star product (the chocolate box) placed on a table next to Saudi coffee dallah and cups. In the background, one could see the traditional bukhoor.

The scene can be humanised and further localised by the inclusion of a local man grabbing a piece of chocolate, with his thobe apparent from the sleeve. A caption using proper Saudi dialect should also be used to complete the scene and tie the pieces together.

To conclude, localisation is key for effective communication. Research, deep-dive and understand where your audience comes from, then adapt. With that, brands will be able to decrease the communication barrier and
be more meaningful.