Marketing 101 for the Global Muslim Community

Marketing 101 for the Global Muslim Community

Marketing the Ummah

Islamic branding, halal marketing, Islamic finance, the global Muslim community are topics much written about and discussed today.

The justification for the same is apparent—at 23% of the global population (1.57 billion Muslims of all ages living in the world today, representing 23% of an estimated 2009 world population of 6.8 billion) the entire Muslim community is turning out to be a very important consumer segment.

But what exactly is this community’s DNA? The “bonding factor’ that has made this consumer segment the single largest consumer market today valued at over USD2 trillion?

Is it one homogeneous group of people, across the globe, bound together by virtue of their faith?

Or a series of socio-cultural clusters that have evolved over time, each with its distinct social and cultural nuances highly influenced by the environment it’s in?

Such questions can be quite confusing for marketers who are looking at the segment, both from the outside as well as inside, in order to establish brand relationships in this segment.

The answers lie in, first, understanding the trends within the community then, secondly, delving into each subset of the trends to identify emotional triggers that would provide a platform for the brand to establish itself with its target segment and lastly, basing or developing the brand’s business strategy on the ethical values of Islam.

The following macro and socio-cultural trends are just highlights given in two significant research studies (done between 2007 & 2009) by JWT– across North Africa, GCC, Levant, Central & South East Asia and by Pew Research Centre– Mapping the Global Muslim Population.

1. One key factor of this global segment is its young, median, age. 52% of the Muslim community are under 24 years old with an increasing awareness on Islamic values. These youth of today are the potential consumers and key influencers and decision makers of the future. They will be wielding an enormous cultural influence in the years to come.

2. It is tempting to view younger Muslims through the Generation-Y prism so favoured by us marketers. But there is an inherent difference in the ‘New Muslim Consumer’ and the older generation. That is—fundamentally, the new Muslim is different because of a strong reliance on faith and on the ethical values of Islam as their individual identity.

3. Modern or new Muslims are undergoing a major reassessment of their relationships with religious structures, cultural assumptions, authority, consumption and technology. This has an huge impact as Young Muslims are already starting to stamp their influence on the consumption habits of the wider global Muslim community.

Socio-Cultural Trends amongst the youth in the global Muslim community

1. A high proportion (62%) of the young Muslim consumers is proud to be a Muslim first and foremost. This sense of pride is driven by a desire for inclusion. Rather than distance themselves from religion in order to progress and succeed, the youth of the community say that Islam is what ‘gives life purpose and direction’.

2. 45% of this new generation believe that ‘religion should be adapted to suit individual lifestyles’ but crucially, they’re finding their own ways of doing so, with 27% agreeing that ‘protecting Islamic values from Western lifestyle and media influence’ is important to them.

3. They feel that Muslims have been misrepresented by the global media, by politicians and by educators, and they are keen to redress that balance.

4. The move towards conservatism should not be mistaken for a rejection of high-tech lifestyle products. Instead, New Muslim Consumers are often highly technically literate. At the same time they do not believe in an automatic acceptance of technology particularly if they reject the underlying ideas and values.

5. They believe in crafting ways forward out of their own faith, believing that religion and progress, far from being mutually exclusive, are practically inseparable.

6. The New Muslim Consumer is particularly wary of the kind of tokenism that continues to masquerade as an effective engagement strategy. Stamping products as halal or Shariah-compliant is not enough.

7. They ask more questions, and aren’t satisfied with glib answers. They are more educated, more questioning, more challenging and more discerning.’ ‘We need to look at the halal logo, yes, but also at the ingredients’. ‘And we need to know where the profits go’.

8. Research shows that despite the millions invested in Sharia compliant banking the, financial services, category is least trusted by Muslim consumers. Instead the New Muslim Consumer is highly interested in the authority and provenance of brands and the companies behind them.

This is just a tip of the iceberg in terms of the market research data and professional marketing expertise available globally, both, in multi-national and individual management consulting organisations who are in the overall Halal Marketing category.

Organisations (across industry categories) who are seriously looking at the global Muslim community as the next “growth driver” need to realise that they need the specialised expertise of such organisations in order to ensure achievement of business objectives.

Attempting to market, in this community, based on marketing techniques of the past would be akin to wearing a blindfold and trying to pin the tail on the back of the donkey.