A pioneering research study by Ogilvy & Mather, in partnership with TNS, has revealed the emergence of the ‘New Muslim Consumer’: young, proud of their religion and emblematic of the remarkable spending power embodied by the world’s fastest-growing religion.
The ‘Brands, Islam and the New Muslim Consumers’ Report serves as the launch pad for Ogilvy Noor, a multidisciplinary global Islamic Branding practice that aims to help brands better engage with Muslim consumers worldwide. The Muslim market is viewed as a critically important playground for marketers, with the halal segment alone worth $2.1 trillion, and growing by $500 billion annually.
Polling consumers in four key Muslim markets – Malaysia, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan – the research study has identified the New Muslim Consumer as a critically important development for brands hoping to build successful relationships with the Islamic world.
In doing so, the report debunks many of the stereotypes that surround Muslim consumer attitudes towards brands and their marketing communications. For example, halal stickers, while important to showcase certification, are no longer sufficient to persuade the New Muslim Consumer of a brand’s belief in Islamic values.
Similarly, despite the massive sums spent by financial services brands on Shariah-compliant banking services – Ogilvy Noor can reveal that the vast majority of consumers view this category as the least effective in terms of Shariah-compliance.
The findings become particularly important given the risks that exist once Muslim consumers are alienated. Despite the evident economic potential, for example, Muslims are often neglected or misunderstood by global brands. The report highlights examples of brands that have inadvertently got it badly wrong, and provides guidelines on how to avoid the same fate. It also explains how brands should react when affected by forces outside of their hands.
‘We didn’t really have much thought of Denmark, until they started the photos that depict Prophet Mohammed when we started to boycott them’. (Respondent, Egypt)
According to estimates, Danish exports of about $ 2.6 billion a year disappeared with that particular boycott. It’s unsurprising that many brands believe the area is fraught with risk. Brands that get it wrong are commonly boycotted. Brands that engage effectively, though, are able to develop long-lasting relationships with a global Muslim community that is almost 1.8 billion-strong and are some of the most loyal consumers in the world today.
For these reasons, the research incorporates the groundbreaking Noor Brand Index which, for the first time, benchmarks the appeal of specific brands to Muslim consumers. The Noor Category Index repeats this exercise at a category level.
The study analyses the factors that drive beneficial relationships with Muslim consumers, distilling the findings into an eight-step toolkit for branding success. It is required reading for all brands that want to deliver more effectively against the needs of the New Muslim Consumer.
The New Muslim Consumer
The global Muslim community stands at almost 1.8 billion people. By 2050, more than half of the world’s population will be Muslim. Significantly, 52 per cent of the Muslim community are under 24 years old, pointing to the enormous cultural influence that will be wielded by Muslims in the years to come. Young Muslims are already starting to stamp their influence on the consumption habits of the wider global Muslim community, known as the Ummah.
The assembled portrait of the New Muslim Consumer explodes the lazy stereotypes that commonly surround this area. Modern Muslims are undergoing a major reassessment of their relationships with religious structures, cultural assumptions, authority, consumption and technology. This can be quite confusing for observers who are not familiar with these trends.
It is tempting to view younger Muslims through the Generation-Y prism so favoured by global marketers. However, the Ogilvy Noor report reveals that the New Muslim Consumer is fundamentally different because of a strong reliance on faith.
62 per cent of these respondents, for example, agreed with the statement: ‘I am proud to be a Muslim’. This high proportion reflects that that the new generation of Muslim consumers is proud to be a Muslim first and foremost. This sense of pride, the research finds, is driven by a desire for inclusion. Rather than distance themselves from religion in order to progress and succeed, 38% of these consumers say that Islam is what ‘gives life purpose and direction’.
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.
They feel that Muslims have been misrepresented by the global media, by politicans and by educators, and they are keen to redress that balance.
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, though, they do not believe in an automatic acceptance of Western technology, particularly if they reject the underlying ideas and values.
They believe in crafting ways forward out of their own faith, believing that religion and progress, far from being mutually exclusive, are practically inseparable. 22% of them appreciate ‘flexibility within boundaries’ and 25% see Islam as ‘adaptable to suit individual needs’.
They want to stand up, be heard and make an impact – ‘I want to be a useful person for my society and prove my presence’, said a Saudi Arabian female respondent.
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.
They ask more questions, and aren’t satisfied with glib answers.
In fact, the research shows that despite the millions invested in Shariah 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. 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’ said a young respondent in Malaysia. ‘And we need to know where the profits go’, agreed her friend.
While their trust is difficult to win, once achieved it is deeper and longer-lasting.
Noor Brand Index
The groundbreaking Noor Brand Index benchmarks the appeal of specific brands to Muslim consumers, by ranking consumer perceptions of their Shariah-compliance. Chief among its findings are that global brands can forge highly successful relationships with Muslim consumers if they approach the task in a sensitive, honest fashion that is consistent with the core values of Islamic Branding.
The first Noor Global Brand Index throws up some fascinating questions. Why do Nestle, Lipton and Kraft all appear among the top five ranked brands? And why is Emirates, the flagship airline and pride and joy of the United Arab Emirates, in the bottom ten?
Answers are to be found in sensitive analysis that starts from an understanding that Islamic Branding is not like any other kind of branding. A different kettle of fish, it requires a specialised set of practices. In personal care, Lux is the clear global winner, with a top five performance in each of the surveyed markets. The report reveals that branding success is less about provenance, and is instead based on whether brands can fundamentally empathise with the needs of the new Muslim consumer through tailored offerings and communications.
‘I think of Nokia as an Egyptian company… they did research and produced products that suit the Egyptian consumer… they have Islamic values and know how to deal with Egyptians’ said a respondent in Egypt.
The Noor Category Index provides a similar analysis of category appeal to Muslim consumers, including such important areas as food and finance. For example, what effect does the healthiness of the category have on the consumers’ demand for it to be halal?
The Noor Category Index also investigates a number of other critical questions, such as the difference between products used daily, and products used a couple of times a year. Or whether a product is for individual or collective consumption. The Noor Category Index is designed to answer these questions by breaking down the insistence of consumers on halal compliance into tiers, and explains what brands must be specifically mindful of in any of these tiers.
Good business practice
The Ogilvy Noor Report has enabled Ogilvy Noor to formulate an effective definition for Islamic branding: ‘Branding that is empathetic to Shariah values in order to appeal to the Muslim consumer, ranging from basic Shariah-friendliness to full Shariah-compliance in all aspects of the brand’s identity, behaviour and communications.’
Brand, Islam and the New Muslim Consumer’ report provides invaluable insight into Shariah values, from the perspective of consumers and marketers, clearly explaining how businesses should navigate this area. Significantly, it finds that Shariah practices are closely aligned with the existing universal ideals of good business practice.
This has become particularly important for global business given the massive erosion of trust in bodies of authority, including corporation, in recent years. Shariah values can offer brands a roadmap back to the kind practices that build credibility with all consumers. 32% of Muslim consumers agree that ‘respect’ and ‘responsibility’ are still the fundamentals of a good brand.
Islamic values, in fact, can champion the cause of corporate social responsibility in both the Muslim and Western worlds. Values such as transparency, discipline, humility and purity are universal in their appeal. Shariah-friendly practices – which commonly relate to food – include such factors as ethical sourcing, humane treatment of animals, cleanliness, nutrition and fair trade practices. Values such as these are obvious assets for a food industry that has experienced numerous crises related to contamination and negligence.
The Ogilvy Noor Report has further distilled its research into Shariah values and how consumers want to see them lived by brands into a toolkit for branding success, focusing on the following eight factors, and providing an invaluable list of do’s and don’ts.
- (1) A brand’s role in the community: including all aspects of a company’s corporate citizenship
- (2) Product: including both the range of offering, ingredients and manufacturing processes
- (3) The brand story and its PR strategy: focusing on the tactics brands can employ when talking
- about themselves, to better appeal to the New Muslin Consumer
- (4) Corporate business practice: every aspect of how the business is run internally
- (5) Visual Identity: the specific needs of the Muslim consumer when it comes to visual information
- and appeal
- (6) Brand communication: a success guide built on decades of Ogilvy experience in Muslim markets
- (7) External endorsement: who to partner with and who to avoid
- (8) Customer service and delivery: why getting this right is so important and how to do so.
Ogilvy Noor is a multidisciplinary practice focused on Islamic branding, drawn from across the breadth and depth of Ogilvy & Mather Group’s global network. It is the world’s first bespoke Islamic Branding practice, offering expert practical advice on how to build brands that appeal to Muslim consumers, globally. Ogilvy Noor is led by a team of experts based across our key Muslim market offices worldwide: Dubai, Pakistan, Malaysia and the UK and our core team: John Goodman, President of Ogilvy Action Asia Pacific and President Ogilvy & Mather South and Southeast Asia, and strategically by Nazia Hussain, Director of Cultural Strategy for Ogilvy & Mather globally. They are supported by Tanya Dernaika, Planning Director for Memac Ogilvy across the Middle East, Zayn Khan, Regional Business Strategy Director for South and South East Asia, and Shazia Khan, Associate Planning Director at Ogilvy in Karachi. A wide network of communications professionals supports the core team across all the Muslim markets in which Ogilvy operates across 450 offices in 171 markets.