Marketing to Muslims – Food, fashion and faith

Marketing to Muslims – Food, fashion and faith

August 2, 2007

Posted by islamicfinanceaffairs

MARKETERS and self-proclaimed trendspotters in the
Western world love slicing and segmenting consumers into an ever larger
number of categories. They created the teenager, the yuppie, the baby
boomer, the singleton and the metrosexual. For all of them they
invented “needs” that could, inevitably, be met by whatever product
they happened to be promoting. Yet to this day they tend to tiptoe
around Muslims as a distinct market segment.

Although they have settled into a fairly comfortable relationship
with Jews and Christians whose cultures they feel they know and
understand, the cultural divide with the Muslim world seems to be too

But a new study by JWT, an advertising agency, points out that the
6m or so Muslims in America are, on average, richer and better educated
than the general population. Two-thirds of Muslim households make more
than $50,000 a year and a quarter earn over $100,000; the national
average is $42,000. Two-thirds of American Muslims have a college
degree, compared with less than half of the general population. Muslim
families also tend to have more children. So the perception that
marketing specifically to Muslims is not worthwhile would appear to be

According to JWT food, finance and packaged goods are the three consumer markets most affected by Islamic law. The global halal market

is worth some $580 billion annually. In America an estimated 16% of

sales in the $100 billion kosher industry comes from Muslims who lack

adequate halal options. Manischewitz, the leading maker of

kosher foods, has already spotted an opportunity. Last year it launched

its first campaign under the theme “Simply Manischewitz”

designed to reach out beyond Jewish customers.

Muslim-owned consumer-goods companies are also beginning to tap the

Muslim market in the West. Since January the Burqini—a

full-coverage swimsuit made by Ahiida, whose founder is a Lebanese

immigrant in Australia—has been sold internationally, mainly

online. As the name implies, the polyester suits are a cross between a

burqa and a bikini, and are designed in accordance with Islamic law

requiring women to dress modestly.

Similarly NewBoy Toys, a Syrian firm, has created Fulla as an

alternative to the blonde, big-breasted Barbie doll made by Mattel, an

American toymaker. Fulla has dark hair, brown eyes and a small chest,

and wears a white headscarf and a coat. Unlike Barbie, Fulla does not

have a boyfriend or a job, say her makers. She spends her time cooking,

reading and praying.

Big Western companies have also started to reach out to Muslim

consumers, albeit slowly. In April McDonald’s, the biggest American

chain of fast-food restaurants, began serving halal Chicken

McNuggets and other food items permissible under Islamic law for a

trial period at a restaurant in Southall, in west London. The firm is

treading carefully: the new offerings are not advertised beyond the

walls of the restaurant. Yet demand is strong, sales are increasing,

and McDonald’s is thinking about extending the experiment.

Such companies are also trying to be more sensitive and inclusive in

their approach to Muslims. Each year Coca-Cola, the biggest maker of

soft drinks, runs a series of marketing initiatives focused on charity

and tolerance during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. An ad based on

the concept of sharing food during iftar, the fast-breaking

meal after sunset, is especially popular. Yet Coke is not adapting its

global brands to Muslim consumers. “We don’t segment our

consumers based on religion,” says a spokesman for the firm.