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Founding Day is a day to celebrate the rich heritage and history of the first establishment of modern-day Saudi Arabia. It also has created a new opportunity for marketers to launch holiday promotions in the Kingdom. Given that there are relatively few holidays celebrated in Saudi Arabia, Founding Day is a great and welcome time to branch into the Saudi market and take advantage of the shopping booms that happen around special occasions like this. If you are eager to learn more about this new holiday, read on to get an idea of the history of Founding Day, typical traditions for the holiday, and marketing guidelines and ideas for your campaign.
This holiday may be only two years old, but it celebrates a centuries-long history: instituted in 2022, Saudi Founding Day is a new national holiday that celebrates the enthronement of Muhammad Bin Saud as the emir of the oasis town of Diriyah in 1727, marking the creation of the First Saudi State. Celebrated annually on February 22nd, this is a legal national holiday in Saudi Arabia and is only one of two non-religious holidays.
Imam Muhammad Bin Saud, Emir of Diriyah
Muhammad Bin Saud ascended to the throne as the Emir of Diriyah on February 22nd of 1727, paving the way for the establishment Saudi Arabia. Still ruled by the Royal House of Saud, the current Saudi rulers trace the beginning of this legacy to Mohammed bin Saud’s Emirate of Diriyah and thus established Founding Day to commemorate this date. Muhammad Bin Saud had a reputation for being a man of action, known for his bravery, goodness, and ambition. He held great influence amongst the local population.
Map: The Emirate of Diriyah
Muhammad Bin Saud’s mission was to overcome tribal disputes in the region and build a strong and unified Arabian state. The Emirate of Diriyah faced challenges from the Ottoman Empire throughout the 19th century, and though it suffered defeats, the strength and influence of Muhammad Bin Saud’s unifying vision ultimately prevailed.
Though it is a young holiday, Saudi Founding Day is widely celebrated throughout the Kingdom and has many cultural traditions and practices associated with it.
Dress is one of the cornerstones of this holiday, which is celebrated throughout the day and into the night. Many Saudis choose to dress in traditional clothing reminiscent of the origins of the holiday, which is characterized by colorful fabrics, beads, and embroidery. Commonly used for ceremonies and holidays, henna decoration of the hands and feet is typical for the celebration of Founding Day.
Traditional attire worn on Saudi Founding Day
Food and drink are an essential part of Founding Day celebrations. Traditional foods include jareesh, which is a dish of meat, cracked wheat, and spices. The quintessential Founding Day treat is Saudi coffee, which is a source of pride amongst Saudi Arabians. Made from roasted coffee beans, cardamon, and saffron, it is served in elegant cups alongside sweet desserts.
Saudi ‘Gahwa’ (Coffee) Preparation
In addition to learning more about this new holiday, you might be wondering why it is important from a marketing perspective. We’ll go over a couple of factors in this section to outline why Founding Day is a great time to launch a marketing campaign in Saudi Arabia.
With a GDP per capita of USD $59,065 in 2024, Saudi Arabia is one of the wealthiest countries not only in the Middle East but in the whole world. Though much of Saudi Arabia’s wealth stems from oil reserves, the Kingdom made strides in recent years in terms of diversifying the economy and encouraging foreign investment. This strong economy makes Saudi Arabia an excellent target for international businesses looking to market to a Middle Eastern Audience.
As a national holiday, Saudis throughout the Kingdom are out and about on Founding Day, spending time with family and friends and enjoying the festivities. Shopping culture is very important in the Middle East, and though this usually takes place in person, e-commerce has been thriving over the past years in Saudi Arabia. So while it is expected that brick-and-mortar businesses will see an increase in sales around the holidays, a well-developed online marketing strategy could see great results as well. Saudi businesses have seized the opportunity to launch Founding Day-related promotions, ranging from travel deals to furniture sales to limited-edition gourmet food items. For some examples of Founding Day branding for marketing, keep reading below.
If you are considering a Founding Day marketing campaign, remember that you should plan weeks if not months in advance. Campaigns typically run in the weeks leading up to the holiday, and starting yours on the earlier side will allow you ample time to optimize for the best results.
So how can you go about designing a successful Founding Day marketing strategy? This next section will detail the best ways to set yourself up for success.
A solid way to appeal to Saudi customers is by using recognizable imagery associated with the holiday in your promotional materials. Luckily, there is no shortage of symbols to choose from!
Saudi Founding Day has a specifically designed logo that contains five symbols, as outlined in the graphic above
The flag in the center represents the Saudi Arabian flag and the heroism of the men who first carried it. Next, there is the souq, meaning market, which represents Saudi’s economic diversity and openness to international trade. The palm symbol is a date palm, given that the date is a national Saudi product and a source of pride for the Kingdom, as well as an important food culturally as it symbolizes generosity, growth, and life. The horse represents the Arabian horse, evoking the bravery and chivalry of the Saudi princes. The last symbol is the falcon or the majlis, the Saudi Council, which stands for societal unity and harmony. The text under the emblem reads youm al ta’assis 1727 (Founding Day) and the font was mirrored after writings in manuscripts from the time of the Founding.
The logo and the five symbols are closely linked to Founding Day and are found in many marketing materials. Additionally, many Founding Day ads appear with the same color scheme, comprising hues of earthy colors like green, beige, red-brown, and off-white.
Instagram ad for Dana Beach Resort makes use of both the Founding Day logo as well as palm imagery
Birkenstock website banner shows a stylized photo of men on horseback
Another theme commonly noticed in Founding Day ads is Diriyah and desert imagery, granted the city’s importance to the history of Founding Day. Diriyah is characterized by the old ruins of the city and the Saud Palace. The city is officially designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Instagram ad from Diet World shows a graphic design of old Diriyah
Honda ad shows a photograph of the Diriyah desert oasis and palm symbols from the Founding Day Logo
More than just a drink, coffee preparation is an important traditional ritual in Saudi Arabia and drinking coffee is a national pastime that is cherished. The coffee cup symbol represents hospitality and the richness of Saudi culture, and it is commonly found in Founding Day ads for food and drink
Instagram story from Babkia Bakery offers special deals for Founding Day, with coffee cup and palm images in the background
Starbucks KSA Instagram post
Instagram ad from Al Jeed Restaurant features the coffee cup symbol
Given that it is a National Holiday, patriotism is important to Founding Day celebrations. The Saudi flag and its vibrant green and white colors, rooted in Islamic tradition, are an important symbol of this day. Including the Saudi flag in marketing materials is a great way to show respect and appreciation for Saudi national culture.
Instagram ad from Your Works Consultants shows men holding the Saudi flag above the clock
Instagram ad from Outies KSA
Another important factor to consider with a marketing campaign launched around Founding Day is carefully designing your approach to optimize results. As with any SEO campaign, keyword choice can make or break your campaign. Given how new this holiday is, there is good potential to rank highly on natural Google search results with keywords that include Founding Day, such as Founding Day Sale or Founding Day Promo.
You will want to consider your target audience, as well as research keywords in English and Arabic – rather than just directly translating over your English keywords. Saudi Arabians speak Arabic, both dialectal Saudi Arabian Arabic and Modern Standard Arabic for formal contexts. Many Saudis also speak English, given its importance in the international arena. Saudi Arabia is also home to a very large amount of foreign nationals, making up nearly 40% of the population. Many foreigners speak English or other languages based on their national origin.
If you’re considering launching a marketing campaign for Saudi Founding Day, it’s important to remember that your ads or promotional materials must be culturally appropriate and respectful. As a fairly conservative Muslim country, any clothing or activities shown in images should be modest, in line with Saudi standards. Also, you should not advertise anything that goes against Muslim practices, such as alcohol or pork products. Keeping cultural sensitivity in mind is key: not only will inappropriate ads displease potential customers, but they will likely be censored online.
Written by: Luisa Bocconcell
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