The UAE’s Brilliant Marketing

Filed Under: Videos

I’m a huge fan of travel marketing and branding.

Maybe I give companies too much credit, but there’s something about a well marketed hotel, airline, or place, that instantly draws me to it. I’m not just talking about TV commercials and print ads, but there are other things that stay with me about travel experiences.

For example, if an airline has great boarding music, I almost always remember it. The same is true of a hotel with a signature scent (ideally a subtle one).

Some excellent companies market horribly, while some terrible companies market well.

Along those lines, I just have to stop for a second and acknowledge how damn good the UAE is at marketing. Feel about the destination as you may, but there’s no denying that the UAE knows how to market itself.

For example, check out these ads for Abu Dhabi:

Dubai is just as good, and possibly even better. This video has to be one of the most brilliant travel ads ever, in my opinion, and it’s played on every Emirates flight before landing (thanks to @leeabbamonte for posting about this a couple of days ago, as it reminded me just how much I love this):

I played it yesterday and Ford heard it and said “that was so good, play it again.” I played it again, and only then did he realize it was for Dubai, at which point he laughed (because his Dubai experience hasn’t been anything like that).

Seriously, the UAE does a spectacular job marketing the country as a destination. I’m not saying I think it’s necessarily the fairest look at the country, but then again, marketing rarely is.

Just to contrast that a bit, I think Singapore is a great country in many ways, yet this is what their tourism board came up with:

I just want to emphasize that the Singapore video is from 2014 (not 1998 — I was confused as well), which is just one year before the Dubai video immediately above it was produced.

Fortunately I think the recent popularity of “Crazy Rich Asians” more than made up for any bad marketing the country has had in the past.

Does anyone love these UAE ads as much as I do? What are your favorite airlines, hotels, countries, cities, etc., when it comes to how they market themselves?

  1. Meh. Created by slave labor no doubt. Have no desire to ever return to UAE. All fake and treatment of 3rd country nationals is horrible

  2. Lol the Middle East is not a desirable travel destination for 99% of people. Once the range of planes increases sufficiently DXB will be a ghost town.

  3. People travel to Dubai for the city, the waterside and the hotels – not for falconry and Scuba diving. It is well off the mark so, no, it is not a good advert at all

  4. Having lived in Dubai for 17 years, I can honestly say these ads are glitzy, but a lie. Your mind will not open, like the ad claims. Your spirit will not awaken either. Dubai (and Abu Dhabi) is a concrete jungle. Your visitor experience is filled with shopping malls, hotels and big tall buildings. Everything is superficial. Nothing about the experience will be fulfilling. I often tell people who want to travel to Dubai – it’s just like Vegas, without the gambling and the booze.

  5. Slightly random question. But is there any way to purchase the Shangri-La scent that is always in their lobbies etc? I can see that the SIN one sells it in their online shop, but can’t see an easy way to get it to UK, US etc.

  6. The UAE, in particular Dubai more than any other emerging nation has understood marketing in its value and power. Whilst I think Emirates customer experience is distinctly subpar, in particular the quality of their crew service – they are the single most consistent and polished airline brand in the world. It’s probably why they were the only airline to make it into Brand Finance’s top 100 effective brands not long ago… Sheikh Al-Maktoum while not a leader I like just gets it, and got the right people to do the job well.

  7. @Veejay: Completely agree, you can polish a turd, but at the end of the day it is still a turd. Dubai has no soul whatsoever… It’s all decoration…

  8. I don’t understand what is supposed to be good about these advertisements? They’re fine but they seem kinda boring and pretty standard for a country’s tourism ad. Had I seen them while watching CNN International or something, I wouldn’t have even noticed them.

  9. Having grown up in Singapore and visited the UAE (business only) many times, I appreciate these places as relatively sane operations where most people can build a decent life, or as hubs to visit the region, but not as a destination in themselves. If I were going to go on vacation, Oman, Israel and Jordan would be on the list in that order.

  10. Come for the marketing, stay for the abused, underpaid, and marginalized foreign slave workforce.

  11. @EthFlyer hub and spoke will always be around. There are oodles of planes that can fly between any two points in the CONUS yet you still have to connect unless its two major cities or one hub and a nearby small city thats served by that hub.

  12. I prefer the ads highlighting the mercenaries the Royal Family hires to hunt down and murder their enemies. Very tastefully done.

  13. I don’t understand why so many gay men are crazy about Dubai (and before anyone says anything, I’m gay). The number of gay men I’ve encountered who rave about it, tell me how much they love it, how they visit every year and how they’d love to life there.

    This gay man does not get it.

  14. I’ve been three times now. First for 2 days in the city Conrad Dubai right in the thick. Second time 3 days Park Hyatt, out of the way a bit. Third time, WAY OUT. Al Maha 4 days on what seemed like it belonged in game preserve level African Safari status. Ok maybe not as much. But I did ride a camel, practice and learn about falconry, shop in the mall, went to the Burj. Granted I was on my way somewhere each time (Maldives) but the stopover got longer and longer and we did way more than I mentioned while in Dubai. It’s one hell of a stopover in my opinion with a lot of flavor. Will I go again? Maybe not, but probably will go back if it’s convenient.

    We really enjoy it. I did appreciate the videos. Reminded me it’s a place where you can do a LOT of varied activity in a short amount of time. I think it’s not for everyone though.

  15. Middle East a perfect destination for me why beautiful weather restaurents shopping hotels and many different tourist attractions mix with a huge multicultural residents and workforce
    And fantastic value for money I just love it .

  16. @Peter – in complete agreement with you that the ME is a beautiful region to travel to. I loved living in Jordan, Israel, Lebanon and Syria. I did not enjoy Saudi Arabia nor the UAE.

  17. @veejay Totally agree with what you say . I find Dubai has no character , all high rises and shopping malls , awful place

  18. I digress from all of you. Having never visited a left-have-drive country in my life (I’m Indian), I would very much like to make the UAE the first. Specifically Dubai. My tastes are lower than any of yours. I am not the kind who enjoys a city with charm, soul or character. Which is why even Singapore (where I am now) does not impress as much, because you need to be in the downtown area to get anything like Crazy Rich Asians. Instead, the more (and taller) the skyscrapers there are, the better. This only Dubai can provide.

    What seals the deal for me is that nearly half the residents of the UAE are of Indian origin, so I will feel perfectly at home. This cannot be said of SIN, which is more Chinese than anything else.

  19. Dear People,

    UAE does not exist to fulfill your orientalist fantasies. No, they’re not going to live in tents and have magic carpets.
    Stop with this bull train, oh no soul, no history.
    It has history, but it’s history is of a small fishing village who barely survived in the unforgiving desert. It’s not of a large empire.
    Dubai’s story is of transformation, it’s absolutely not perfect, but it’s better than most. It’s a story which gave my family and millions of others from my country (India) a chance to make something of their lives as we didn’t have many opportunities in the impoverished post colonial India.

    You have to stop with this, because you end up looking stupid.

    Peace out.

  20. The ads for UAE are impressive but they don’t make me want to visit.

    Oman and New Zealand are two countries that always make me want to visit after watching one of their promotional videos. I have seen many impressive ads for India and Shanghai but I sceptical: I’m not sure that the experience would live up to the hype of the ads. New Zealand certainly lives up to the hype from much of its advertising material.

  21. @Syef Adnan – what’s the problem with sharing perspectives? It’s a blog – hardly a reliable source for information. Some people like Dubai and some don’t. End of story frankly. It certainly isn’t on my list of places to travel too, but that’s my perspective.

  22. @Lucky —> Syed’s comments aside (though perfectly valid), it appears safe to say that it’s only you…

    This isn’t to say I haven’t found certain advertising campaigns to be witty, clever, intelligent, stimulating, etc. — hell, I still remember the ad for Gaines Burgers dog food, featuring a bunch of baby chicks and a gigantic Great Dane standing over them, with the voiceover of one baby chick to another, “Dog? What dog? I don’t see a dog…” — but I still know/realize/understand that these are just ads. Period. Not since I was a kid and saw an ad for a new candy bar on TV did I ever serious want something I saw on TV.

    Chalk it up to my own inherent cynicism, or the fact that I grew up in and around Hollywood movies and television, or whatever else seems appropriate, but NO advertising campaign has ever made me want to visit ________________.

  23. @deltacharlie

    Absolutely nothing wrong with sharing perspectives. But it gets sickening when it’s the same thing over and over again.

    It’s like telling America only has gun violence, it’s police kills its own people because of their skin color, or how rigged it’s democracy. Imagine only this about it in a loop, in a loop, in a loop, and it’s the only story of a nation.

  24. It’s not really a case of what the carious countries came up with so much as the PR firms they outsources this work to, probably all based in London. Please wake up and stop being duped by good marketing !

  25. I absolutely LOVE the UAE, spent a 2 week holiday there back in 2014 and am already planning another 2 week vacation including Oman soon. Its a beautiful country, Dubai is an INCREDIBLE city, the culture is great, food is unique, everything is awesome. I love love the UAE and cant wait to go back to Dubai

  26. I absolutely LOVE the UAE, spent a 2 week holiday there back in 2014 and am already planning another 2 week vacation including Oman soon. Its a beautiful country, Dubai is an INCREDIBLE city, the culture is great, food is unique, everything is awesome. I love love the UAE and cant wait to go back to Dubai!

  27. i love Dubai, spend 2 weeks vacation there in 2014 and now planning another 2 week vacation with Oman as well. Cant wait to go back, UAE is amazing! those who dont like it just cant see the uniqueness and specialness of the country.

  28. The UAE is marketed very well. I found it to be beautiful, however I felt a lack of authenticity. As though I was in a Disney World for adults.

    Everyone should see for themselves so as to form a real opinion.

  29. I have lived in Abu Dhabi for 5 years. I’ve done the touristy things in Dubai and Abu Dhabi when I first moved here. I don’t really partake in any of the glitz and glamour activities available here (way too expensive for me). Like everywhere else in the world, there are pros and cons of living here. I do appreciate the safety and the speed at which things progresses out here. I don’t worry about getting mugged, held up, assaulted, car break-in, etc here compared to living back in the US. And it is impressive at how fast things are built (albeit on cheap labor, which all 1st world countries have done when they were first developing). Policies are constantly changing, and mostly for the good. It is a relatively young country.

    Anyhow, to each their own. But try not to generalize the whole middle east as a whole.

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