Ad Critique

How to tell a personal Muslim story and build credibility and trust

12, April, 2013



AdCritique details

Brand: McDonald’s | Country: Malaysia

The context

Can a brand really be part of Muslim life? Does it respect Muslims and therefore can I expect it to uphold the values that are important to me? These are the questions that Muslim consumers ask themselves, and look for brands to answer. Brands are often viewed with scepticism and anecdotes abound about how they adhere (or in many cases, don’t adhere) to halal standards, or how they do not treat staff with care, or which inject doubt into the minds of Muslim consumers about whether the brand really is compatible with Muslim religious aspirations. Brands need to connect personally to Muslim consumers, as a peer in their community circle and demonstrate through word and action that they understand the importance of Islamic values and practice, and they also live those values in their own brand.

The concept

This is the story of Nasir, a personal tale told simply and honestly. It is a story of aspirations in life being upheld through core Islamic values and bound by family and the respect for the mother and maternal wisdom. We see Nasir’s day to day life, his integrity and his Islamic actions.

The voiceover for the advert runs as follows: “I’m grateful for the life I have now… I still remember my Mum’s advice… “Nasir, ‘rezeki’ (livelihood) is everywhere. Find a job that brings you blessings… ” While waiting for my university results, I took on a part time job in a restaurant. That’s how I started my career in the restaurant industry. It has been 22 years now. In the food industry, halal is not only about slaughter but also includes other aspects. For instance, smiling is a form of ‘sedakah’ (gift). Hygiene and cleanliness are noble practices. I’m allowed to step out to perform my prayers even when I’m in a meeting. I’m grateful that the place I work at allows me to perform my religious duties as a Muslim. Most of the restaurants have a ‘surau’ for the staff to pray in. It’s part of my life. And that’s why I love my job. My name is Nasir.”

What we liked

From our research with Muslim Futurists, we know that personal endorsement is a very significant from of brand communications. The story of Nasir, is the story of someone like us, someone who shares the same life goals and standards. This establishes trust with the brand and a personal connection.

Nasir’s tale is told simply, honestly and directly. These are important values to Muslim consumers both in a brand and in communication.

The brand demonstrates how it easily and respectfully integrates with Muslim life in all that it does, not just in the shop window. It allows Nasir the opportunity to conduct rituals such as prayer. It creates prayer rooms for its Muslim staff. How Muslim employees are treated by a brand is important for Muslim consumers, as a yardstick for judging whether they as Muslim consumers are respected and treated well, and whether the brand overall respects Islam.

The brand also has a clear understanding of halal, that it is not a tick-box requirement for Muslims, which the brand fulfills robotically and for which they are rewarded with an halal logo. They understand that halal is wider, and that halal issues can be complicated. This is important for Muslim consumer to know because Western food brands in particular can be viewed with suspicion as to whether their products really are halal. In this case, McDonald’s counters the suspicion by clearly explaining that it knows halal is more than just slaughter, more than just a logo.

More than all of this, the brand recognises that being a Muslim means more than just eating halal food. It has a holistic understanding not just of halal, but of the wider values of Muslim life. It highlights key words such as ‘rezq’ (livelihood) and ‘sedaka’ (gift or charity) as well as core Islamic behaviours like smiling, hygiene and cleanliness.

Nasir talks about his 22 years in the industry and this is important because Muslim consumers like a sense of longevity, that the brand has a track record and is not telling its story as a publicity gimmick.

Finally, this is all bound together with respect for family, in particular the mother, whose initial advice sets Nasir off on his career. For Muslim consumers family is crucial, and mothers play a central role, and the subtle relationship with maternal wisdom and family concern lend additional weight to the brand’s values and how in keeping they are with Muslim consumer values.

Below: storyboard from the advert. Watch the full video here.