When I joined Media Reach, a London-based advertising company, specialising into multicultural communications, I realised how little did I know about the terms such as Islamic Marketing. At the Leeds University Business School where I studied for my Masters in Advertising and Marketing, the concept of Islamic Marketing never cropped up during the course studies.
Indeed, we did study that cultural sensitivities do matter when we advertise a western product into an eastern society. Over the years, we have seen how international eateries such as McDonald’s and Pizza Hut have adapted the ways of Indians by sprinkling red and green chillies here and there, and also by adding pickles into their menus!
About 23% of the world’s population is Muslim. Islam is also one of the fastest growing religions in the world. It is estimated that products compliant to the Islamic law, Shari’ah, are worth over USD$2 trillion. So, obviously, it’s crucial that advertisers and marketing consultants all over the world take notice of this growing market and the sensibilities associated with the Muslim communities.
Dr. Paul Temporal, an associate fellow at the Said Business School of the University of Oxford, in his latest book ‘Islamic Branding and Marketing: Understanding the Global Muslim Consumer’ says the last few years have seen China and India being talked about in terms of having huge branding and marketing opportunities. He says, “The next big market is the Muslim market. There’s this huge group of people who have been relatively untapped in terms of what they want and need, and they represent a tremendous opportunity.”
Dr. Paul looks at Islam as a religion and a brand. He also analyses how the West sees Islam and how Islam sees the West.
The experts say that the most important thing that the marketing consultants have to understand is that must not hurt the Muslim sentiments. Otherwise, the basic purpose of promoting a brand is defeated. They must approach the consumer with a caring approach.
A report, recently published in the Economic Times of India, says that for decades, many Western companies failed to appreciate the unique needs of Muslim consumers. Worse, some companies offended potential customers by not understanding religious sensitivities. But as the Islamic population has grown in size and affluence – there are now 1.57 billion Muslims worldwide – more multinationals are seeking to tap into the market, the report adds.
For example, it’s crucial to understand that the dietary consumption among Muslims revolves mainly around four concepts; Halal- lawful, Haram- unlawful, Makrooh- discouraged and Mashbooh- suspect.
Food products prohibited in Islam are; dead meat or carrion, swine as well as all products and ingredients derived from swine, flowing or congealed blood, foods dedicated to idols, Intoxicants of all types, carnivorous animals with fangs and birds of prey with sharp claws.
The big companies are now responding to adapting the much needed change in their marketing strategies in terms of approaching the Islamic world. The U.S companies such as McDonald’s, Pizza Hut and Starbucks have made a number of changes to their business practices in “deference” to Saudi customs, including maintaining segregated seating in their restaurants and having separate entrances for women and men. Also, they serve Halal meat in their eateries.
I think it’s important for a marketing consultant to understand some of these basic do’s and don’ts of Islam before they commit to a campaign in a Muslim society.
The global food chain KFC has taken care of about 1.8 million Muslims in the UK. On its UK website it says “At KFC we listen to our customers to help us to evolve our menu and the choices we offer. For some time, we have received requests to provide Halal food in parts of the UK and as a result of this, we are running a Halal trial within communities where we anticipate a strong demand for Halal products.”
The KFC adds: “We have worked with the Halal Food Authority to understand the requirements involved in supplying and producing Halal approved products.”
The KFC beams with joy as it announces its premises Halal. “We are delighted that the HFA have certified KFC’s products in these stores, and the store environments, as Halal.”
Interesting! The times have certainly changed in marketing strategies.
“The concept of Halal is not restricted to food items alone. It is valid in a number of financial products as well,” says Saad Saraf, CEO, Media Reach. “I’m sure you must have heard of the Islamic mortgages,” he adds with a chuckle. Well….that’s the subject of my next blog!
Media Reach Advertising