Guest post: Current consumer trends in Libya

Guest post | 04-02-2013

In the first of our new series of guest posts, Donya Abdulhadi of ZHL Marketing (JWT Libya) offers her thoughts on the post-revolutionary consumer market. 

Although there is a lack of official and statistically significant data in Libya, here are a few ongoing trends in the Libyan marketplace based on observation, consultation and common anecdotes from consumers, particularly in Tripoli.

By taking note of these factors, companies can stay ahead of their competitors and respond to the needs of Libyans more rapidly. 

1. Social good as a competitive advantage

As Libya emerges from an era in which large institutions are perceived to have failed to meet people’s expectations, the active scrutiny of civil society and consumers is on the up. It will no longer be enough for brands to simply advertise their products to captivate Libyan consumers. Instead, companies that choose to take on a more proactive approach through products and services that deliver social and environmental benefits will gain access to new consumer segments, become influential and differentiate themselves in the market. Brands like Toyota understood this and have launched a “Discover Your Talent” programme as part of their corporate social responsibility (CSR) portfolio.

2. The need for positivity and encouragement

As security concerns, poor healthcare and education, limited institutional capacity, weak infrastructure and unemployment are still widespread throughout the nation, the attitudes of Libyan people are becoming cynical towards the willingness and capacity of institutions to benefit society. While brands may not be able to reduce consumer cynicism by tackling the root sources, they may be able to address the symptoms. In other words brands, government agencies and companies who disrupt the current mood by conveying messages of positivity and who position their products, services and campaign strategies as helpful to Libyans, will be associated with feelings of happiness and excitement that will help them gain competitive advantage in the long-run.

3. A shift towards the digital landscape

Social relations are a pillar of Libyan culture and building relationships is evolving into tech-infused styles of communication. Due to increasing crime rates, limited social infrastructure and cultural perceptions of gender differences, the safety and anonymity afforded by the internet has turned it into a major platform where discussion forums are held, surveys are conducted, news is learned and where people network and follow the developments of the nation. And as consumers, particularly women, Libyans discover the latest trends and promotions through the official Facebook pages of the companies and brands they follow. For example, shops like Mango, New Look and Monsoon have thousands of followers who learn about promotions, product launches and sales in Libya.

4. Creativity and personalization through the Libyan dialect

In the Arab world, dialects are a powerful way of discerning national and cultural identity. The main dialects used in most ads, music and TV shows broadcast through pan-Arab satellite channels are the Egyptian and Syrian dialects. This is why advertisements and shows in the Libyan dialect offer a degree of authenticity and familiarity, giving the Libyan consumer a feeling of greater connection to the messages being conveyed. Though the appeal is difficult to quantify due to the lack of official statistics, its effectiveness can be seen in the massive popularity enjoyed by shows, events and media that air content regarding Libya, with a “Libyan style” and in a Libyan dialect. Hyundai’s recent billboard ads in Tripoli displaying taglines in Libyan dialect show that brands which already have remarkable market shares are beginning to perceive and respond to this trend.

5. The emerging international dining scene

As Libya emerged from decades of isolation, one trend that was developing shortly before the revolution was the speedy internationalization of the dining scene - particularly in Tripoli. With a rapidly rising number of Italian, Spanish and Indian restaurants, to name but a few, Libya is beginning to generate a dynamic and interesting dining scene that caters to all types of social experiences - from fine-dining, to playful family-oriented outings as well as youth hang-out locations. In doing so, it is refining and sensitizing the Libyan palate to diverse cuisines and cultures and setting new trends in customer service etiquette. Restaurants like La Scala in Tripoli, for instance, send personalized “Thank you” emails to customers who provided feedback – a relatively new practice in Libya.

6. The “Made in Italy” craze

Again building a pre-revolutionary trend, the reputation of Italian premium and value brands continues to be very strong - learning Italian is popular and Italian organizations remain influential in Libya. Perhaps because of cultural similarity, geographical proximity, or the fact that many of the Italian architectural landmarks built during the Roman era and in colonial years still stand, Libyans – just like many other people around the world - have a strong affinity for Italian lifestyle and brands. Italian words are embedded in the Libyan dialect and the “Made in Italy” brand is, on a cultural and subconscious level, a promise of beauty,  a sign of culinary and sporting excellence, and a symbol of a more refined lifestyle. Manifestations of this are clear on almost every street in Tripoli: a significant number of Libyan clothing stores, restaurants and coffee shops have Italian names or are named after famous Italian landmarks.

7. Word of mouth continues to be a very powerful marketing tool in Libya

For a campaign, a product, service or an idea to “go viral” in Libya is not very difficult to achieve. Making up a relatively small population, who also happened to have lived under a highly oppressive regime, people are used to relying on each other and not on external sources when making decisions and formulating opinions. This means that today’s Libyan consumer is less prone to doing business with complete strangers, and is primed to trust and engage peers for the buying and selling of goods. 

Written by: Donya Abdulhadi