The Untapped American Muslim Consumer Market

By Rafi-uddin Shikoh

A while ago, as I was going through my subscribed Time magazine, I was
reminded of marketing sophistication in action. I noticed that the Ford
Taurus advertisement on the back of my copy was different from another
copy of Time magazine (same Edition) that was subscribed by a female
colleague. Hers had a female in the ad (mine had no person) and the car
was of a different color. Ford obviously was trying to appeal to us
differently. Ford does more than customize its marketing communications
as it also develops its products for various segments (rugged trucks,
Mustang sports car, family mini-vans etc.)

has indeed been the world’s most sophisticated consumer market and so
no wonder its marketers are the most innovative. From major brands such
as Ford, McDonalds, Coca-Cola, Disney, Apple, Citibank to smaller
emerging brands, the level of market segmentation and target marketing
in this vast/ diverse market is incredible. Customers are communicated
and products customized based on needs that are categorized by
demographic (gender, age, income, education, life-stage, ethnicity),
psychographic (values, personality, lifestyles, hobbies), and
behavioral (readiness, attitude, usage patterns, etc.) segmentations.

Faith-based marketing precedents

the various segmentations, faith-based marketing in the US has
undoubtedly been another way to better reach and standout with large
segments of audiences. Christian magazines today reach over 100 million
Christian readers throughout the US every day (National Mail Order
Association, 2008). Marketers from all categories of products and
services advertise here and find this an effective way to build brand
loyalty. A point to note here is that these publications do make
exceptions not allowing advertising for sex, gambling, alcoholic
beverages, or tobacco products. In addition to marketing messaging to
reach this segment, there’s also an over $4.2 billion market (EPM
Communication, 2004) of products specifically geared to the Christian
market (books, gift items, music, school curricula, etc.)

Similarly, the market for ‘kosher’ food products in the US is estimated at more than $9 billion catering to Jewish faith based needs.

There are an estimated 5-6 million Americans of Jewish faith. According to the US Bureau of Census (2005),
40% of US grocery sales were certified kosher.  Also, the average
number of kosher products in American supermarkets is 17,000 and 40% of
the retail food products sold in the US today bear some type of kosher
certification. Today, the kosher market has a much wider appeal than
just for American Jews and is not limited to food products only.
According to data compiled by Integrated Marketing Communications,
consumers spent approximately $165 billion for kosher products in 2003.

American Muslim consumers: the un-tapped potential

there is a large and growing population of American Muslims who also
provide marketers – mainstream and niche – tremendous opportunities.
Opportunities that are, 1) related to better accessing them through
right media, custom messaging and services, and 2) delivering products
and services unique to their needs.

of the American Muslim population vary widely from 2 million to 7
million, with Muslims active in all walks of American society as
doctors, entrepreneurs, lawyers, educators, athletes, and musicians. A
2007 JWT (major marketing agency) study showed that Muslim Americans
spend about $170 billion on consumer products and estimated that this
figure is expected to grow rapidly as the population expands and
younger Muslims start working.

American Muslims
Coverpage of Newsweek’s

July 30, 2007 Edition

the 2007 Pew survey found that Muslim Americans generally mirror the
U.S. public in education and income levels, with immigrant Muslims
slightly more affluent and better educated than native-born Muslims.

the above, it would seem logical that both mainstream and niche
marketers are including the American Muslim segment in their marketing
mix or business plans.

There is indeed a growing
‘Halal’ product category (similar to kosher – products in compliance
with Muslim religious laws) emerging in the US covering Halal food
deli’s, finance, clothing, media etc. Walk the streets of New York city
(Manhattan) and you will find a Halal food stall on every other corner.
‘Halal’ mortgage offerings are now maturing. Amana Mutual Fund (managed
based on Islamic rules of non-interest bearing, ethical investments)
has even become a recognized quality fund amongst all US funds.

However, conspicuously missing
are main-stream American consumer brands focus on this segment. No
major brand has effectively targeted this segment in a consistent way.
It’s surprising that the 2007 JWT study that substantiated the size and
potential of this market hasn’t yet drawn any attention from major
marketers. An AdvertisingAge, November 2008 article, (magazine read by
major US marketers) aptly asked “It’s a $170 Billion Market, Why Aren’t
You Targeting It?”

2009 American Muslim Consumer Conference – Another look

Perhaps the American Muslim market had been hard to reach (given its
fragmentation and diversity), perhaps the right media channels weren’t
available, perhaps the post-9/11 environment made it difficult for
main-stream marketers to pursue it. Much of this however is changing –
in an environment of economic crisis, the growing potential of American
Muslim consumers is getting harder to ignore; a variety of media
channels to access this market are maturing; and the post 9/11
environment of mass-media negative perceptions of Muslims is fading.

An upcoming conference, American Muslim Consumer Conference (AMCC),
October 31st, 2009 in New Brunswick, NJ, USA is set to present this
changing environment and the new market opportunity. This event is
bound to provide marketers with another convincing look at this market.

The event has a great lineup of
speakers of marketers, analysts, and experienced Muslim market
entrepreneurs who will cover American Muslim markets scope, trends and
opportunities, and ways to effectively reach them.

In an economic environment
where any new idea or opportunity is worth evaluating, this market is
bound to provide invaluable opportunities for both main-stream
marketers and niche Halal market entrepreneurs. It’s the proverbial
‘elephant in the room’ for US marketers, one which they will
increasingly run into. The question is: who are the few who will
creatively and effectively ride it?


Note: DinarStandard is a Knowledge Partner and presenter at the American Muslim Consumer Conference. DinarStandard provides Muslim market related market intelligence and growth strategy consulting through its Muslim Lifestyle Marketsm services.