As the influence of beauty bloggers in the Middle East becomes more entrenched, the proliferation of new players on the scene represents a potential minefield for beauty brands looking to reach new consumers in the market.
Aside from the exceptional success of Huda Kattan, who has expanded her reach globally and launched her own beauty brand, the region is home to several beauty bloggers who command serious influence. Like in other markets, bloggers are now more influential in the region than magazine editors.
Names like Kuwaiti make-up artist Fouz Alfahad, Canadian-born Nilo Haq – a former MAC make-up artist and editor-in-chief of Saudi Beauty Blog and desiBeautyblog, or Kuwait’s Sondos Alqattan, Dala AlDoub or Ascia AKF are some of the names currently attracting attention, says Dubai-based beauty, health and wellness marketing and public relations agency Tish Tash managing director and co-founder Natasha Hatherall-Shawe.
“Kuwait is a real hot spot for influencers and is a market that we keep an eye on when it comes to beauty influencers who impact and disrupt the whole region,” comments Hatherall-Shawe, adding that key beauty influencers can provide brands with access to most markets in the Middle East, and particularly Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the UAE.
“[Beauty bloggers] are now replacing models in fashion shoots, as well as advertising campaigns. They are the ones influencing and shaping the landscape which is why brands cannot ignore them,” says Hatherall-Shawe. “If you are looking to target Saudi Arabia, which for many beauty brands is the primary target due to its size, then online influencers are key, especially given the amount of time women in this country spend online and their predisposition to purchase on the web.”
However, as the beauty influencer set in the Middle East continues to grow, reaching the true influencers is becoming more difficult – and more expensive – for beauty brands. There is a challenge in controlling the quality of content and reach, and the top beauty bloggers have exclusive contracts with brands, or contracts that are split according to category enabling them to work with multiple brands.
“One of the biggest challenges is establishing the bloggers that are worth working with and investing in. Too many people are jumping on the bandwagon seeing it as a way of getting freebies and earning easy money,” comments Hatherall-Shawe. She estimates that in 2015 and 2016, 50% of beauty brand PR budgets are being allocated to “paid for PR” and influencer campaigns, a figure that is only expected to rise.
“The key beauty influencers are in demand and many of the big bloggers are being represented by talent agencies. A sponsored post with the truly influential bloggers can vary between $8,000 and $30,000,” says Hatherall-Shawe.
Because of the difficulties of accessing the big bloggers, working longer term with a range of mid-tier or up-and-coming bloggers and setting an agreed number of posts and interactions can be a good strategy for brands with smaller budgets or niche players looking to target specific audiences.