Opinion: Ogilvy Noor Year 2013 in Review

Shelina Janmohamed

In the last 12 months, awareness, interest and brand engagement with the Muslim consumer has continued on a steep upward curve. From an Ogilvy Noor perspective we take a look back at the events, ideas and highpoints of the year.

In any industry segment that is in its early growth stages, it’s natural that establishing awareness, understanding and the scale and shape of the opportunity is the crucial first stage. We spent time discussing the business opportunities for brands today when it comes to Muslim consumers as well as some of the challenges when marketing to Muslims. It’s a population of 1.8 billion people, spending an estimated $2.1 trillion, and 42% of whom are under 25, which is an astonishing 11% of the entire global population.

The big buzz word in the industry is ‘Islamic branding’, but what exactly is Islamic branding and why is it significant?And of course what you really need when assessing the opportunity for your business are some key facts about the growing segment.

Keeping our focus very much on this rapidly growing segment we set about diving deeper into how brands should establish and grow their relationship with consumers.  In the FT.com we looked at three powerful areas of focus for 2012 – finance, fashion and halal brands.

Of course, one of the big questions for businesses in an ever better connected world, with a Muslim population that spans all continents, is how to build global halal brands, another issue we tackled in the FT.

We took some time to focus specifically on how food brands can market to Muslim consumers, and looked at the rising crossover trend of eco-halal.

In trying to understand the vast spread of Muslims around the world along with some of their geographic and cultural contexts we looked at bite size insights with our Fast Facts onBangladeshBrunei Darussalam and Indonesia.

In the eyes of Muslim consumers how friendly are global brands to their needs? This was a question that we at Ogilvy Noor set out to answer. Our findings were published in the Noor Brand Index, a first-of-its-kind study into Muslim consumer attitudes towards global brands. And the results might surprise many. For the very first time, there is a benchmark of the appeal of  specific brands to Muslim consumers.

Reflecting on the appeal of brands to Muslim consumers we asked a crucial question: how shariah-friendly is your brand? Brands seeking to engage the world’s 1.8 billion Muslims need to make sure they’re products and services are “shariah friendly” and as we explained, that’s easier than you might think. And in case you are still feeling nervous, we can reassure you that it’s more profitable and less frightening than you might expect.

The Economist Intelligence Unit published a substantial report on the ‘Sharia-conscious consumer’, featuring insights from Ogilvy Noor. Their finding was that “demand for Sharia orientated products and services is strong, and expected to grow. Among the reasons: expanding Muslim populations, rising purchasing power, shifting consumption patterns, and a broader range of products and services on offer. The range of Sharia-orientated products and services is broadening, from food and Islamic finance products to pharmaceuticals, fashion and tourism, among others.”

BBC Radio 4 covered the rise of the Muslim consumer segment in its radio documentary ‘The Future is halal’. Ogilvy Noor’s Shelina Janmohamed explains to the programme the detailed findings from our pioneering publication “Brands, Islam and the new Muslim consumer”, and paints the landscape across the diverse industries which are embracing ‘halal’. You can read more about the documentary here, and also listen to the programme if you are in the UK.

Across print, TV, radio, consumer and trade marketing, the media has been buzzing the whole year with the growth of the Islamic branding industry, quoting Ogilvy Noor at the forefront of its reporting.

BBC Radio 4?s flagship consumer programme You and Yours was fascinated by the rising voice of Muslim consumers, asking what is Islamic branding and why do we need it?

The National looked at the popularity with Muslim consumers of Kraft’s Tang and cheese products.

In an extensive report by Swiss Bank Sarasin on Islamic Wealth Management in 2012, Ogilvy Noor’s pioneering presence in the field of Islamic branding and understanding of how brands are perceived by Muslim consumers sets the scene for their explanation of the growth of this segment.

The Egypt Independent looked at making travel halal.

The UK’s Guardian asked ‘Halal toothpaste, anyone? Religious observance has become a global brand.’

London based radio station Monocle 24 focused on retailers reaching out to Muslim consumers in Ramadan.

And PR Week in the USA quoted the growing segment as ‘Affluent and untapped’. “The key to connecting with Muslim Americans is respecting their unique qualities while recognizing the similarities to other US consumer markets, writes PR Week. One look at the American-Muslim demographic will reveal a young, educated, affluent population that’s both highly loyal and eager to be engaged by US companies. Yet, the market is basically untapped.”

The Houston Chronicle echoed that Muslim consumers are growing in the USA and they have money to spend. And theHuffington Post added that Muslim growth is good for business.

Across the other side of the world the Times of India reported that “Indian brands get ‘halal’ stamp, set to woo Muslims in global markets“.

In Malaysia, Marketing-Interactive magazine asked “Is online the new space for halal?

Like all consumers, Muslim consumers like to be courted by brands, and we looked at three top tips for talking to Muslim consumers: tete a tete with personal contact, crossovers with mainstream marketing, and through community engagement.

Arts and culture are also powerful media through which to engage with Muslim consumers, and we looked at some world class organisations who are using exactly these methods to build relationships.

One of the lynch pins of a relationship with consumers is to build love for your brand. And on Valentine’s Day – a day which often holds controversy among Muslims and some consumers generally, we asked how you can grow Muslim consumer affection for your brand.

At the 8th World Islamic Economic Forum, Ogilvy Noor Vice President Shelina Janmohamed spoke about ‘Revolution unveiled: how Muslim women are driving innovation.’ With the rise of the Muslim Futurists, and amongst these the epic changes affecting Muslim women, the latter are now demanding innovation from brands and where they are not being heard they are engaging in radical entrepreneurship themselves.

One of these industry trends includes the growth of Muslim lifestyle magazines.

We also spent time investigation the growth of Muslim fashion in a two part series (here and here) on the rise and rise of this global segment.

Ramadan has an overwhelming significance in the Islamic year, with Muslims joining together for the month of fasting. We delved deep into a number of important symbols and traditions, including the crescent moon known as the ‘hilal’, with a specific focus on designing the moon.

We looked at the Islamic tradition of dates and its new modern twists, as well as Ramadan traditions in Egypt oflanterns, cannons and night callers.

Ramadan also coincided with the huge global event of the Olympics, and we spent time considering the relationship between Ramadan, the Olympics and Muslim athletes.

Of course since Ramadan has such importance for Muslims, brands must work hard to get it right and cut through the clutter. We considered how brands can make life easier in Ramadan acting as a friend that solves problems, rather than a devil causing distraction.  And we crystallised five top tips on engaging Muslim consumers during the month of fasting.

Finally, the end of Ramadan is marked by the festival of Eid ul Fitr, and in our Eid message we focused on Eid traditions and attitudes towards children, including rituals, gifts and community.

The Islamic pilgrimage, known as the hajj, also plays an extremely important part of the Islamic calendar. For clarity we looked at three things you should know about Muslims and the hajj. Marking the culmination of the hajj is the Eid festival known as Eid ul Adha, the Festival of Sacrifice. In our Eid message we focused on the principles of purity, renewal and community.

And in case marketers were having difficulty in contextualising the significance and meaning behind the events of the Islamic year, we unravelled any misconceptions with a deep look at how to understand the Islamic new year, the crescent moon and Muslim seasonality.

For the second year in a row, Ogilvy Noor won a prestigious WPP Atticus Award for original thinking.

Ogilvy Noor, was selected by the World Islamic Economic Forum (WIEF) Foundation to develop and execute a worldwide public relations strategy for the upcoming 8th WIEF to be held in Iskandar Malaysia, Johor from 4-6 December 2012. The 8th WIEF is organised by WIEF Foundation and hosted by Government of Malaysia and Johor State Government. You can read more about the 8th WIEF here and the ‘Muslim world is open for business.’

We spoke at the 8th World Islamic Economic Forum in Johor Bahru, Malaysia. We’ve already mentioned Shelina’s presentation on Muslim women and innovation. You can also see her thoughts on “Trade is a mutually lucrative means of establishing relationships between the Muslim and wider world.”

At the 3rd Annual Asia Islamic Banking Conference, Ogilvy Noor’s President John Goodman shared his thoughts speaking on from Doubt to Devotion, alongside Ogilvy Noor colleague Hendri Satrio who spoke on Don’t just talk Islamic, walk Islamic.

The last 12 months have seen extraordinary growth and ever increasing interest in the Muslim consumer market. Next year we will be extending our thought leadership in this space. If you feel that you would like to be part of reaching out to the ‘third billion’, then we’d be delighted to hear from you.

In the meantime, we hope you too have had a successful 2012, and look forward to connecting with you in 2013.