How brands can make life easier in Ramadan: a friend that solves problems, not a devil that causes distractions
With Ramadan barely weeks away, due to start around July 20, Muslims are beginning to make plans and preparations for the month of fasting. And brands should be doing the same. It’s a month during which advertising spend typically increases, TV viewing in certain regions skyrockets with new dramas developed specially for evening and post-iftar viewing, and people are out shopping for food and other festive goods.
However, the biggest mistake brands can make in Ramadan is to see the holy month as a celebration of consumption. Without understanding the core spiritual message that resonates with Muslim consumers, and conveying that in their brand messaging and consumer engagement they will be left out in the cold. Ramadan is about re-connecting with the spiritual, through abstention from the physical. The hardship of fasting is seen as a pathway to a physical detoxification and a clarity of the spiritual and emotional. An intense community spirit and sense of togetherness through prayer, breaking fast and shared tribulation are the great hallmarks of this month.
It is important that brands do not stand in the way of this process, and must not be seen to be preventing Muslims from achieving their spiritual goals. Instead, they must work hard to be a friend and supporter to Muslims during this spiritually signficant month.
There are already plenty of barriers that Muslims face in achieving their goals during Ramadan, and sadly some of them are exacerbated by companies and brands.
Price hikes are commonplace, as unscrupulous retailers try to increase profits from their captive audience. Simply getting the shopping done can be more challenging than usual when it has to fit around iftar (breaking fast) and suhoor (the early morning meal before the fast begins). In majority Muslim countries, traffic becomes a source of difficulty as people rush between work, shopping, home and mosque all at exactly the same time periods, because iftar time is exactly the same for everyone.
The heightened importance of iftar and suhoor make meal planning and preparation into both a pleasure and a burden, the responsibilities usually falling onto the shoulders of the women of the household. And for those who are single and don’t want to dine alone, or for those who want to go out and share iftar with friends, a constant question arises: “where should we have iftar?”
In terms of the physical challenges of Ramadan, there is a counter-intuitive problem: how to avoid putting on weight during Ramadan. With a desire to eat all your treats during the hours of darkness, many are concerned about eating food which is healthy, and keeps the body in optimum condition for fasting. And for those who suffer illnesses, they are always looking for ways to keep healthy so if possible they can fast.
Given such a myriad of challenges facing Muslims, brands can think creatively about how best to support their consumers in removing obstacles and freeing them to concentrate on their spiritual endeavours.
Meal planning, with tools such as recipes, are helpful although fairly common. Relevant brands can offer tools that make gathering ingredients easier for example.
Brands can offer navigation tools in mapping traffic and iftar times together.
With iftar being a shared experience, apps that allow friends to locate each other easily, and their chosen restaurant or mosque can be supportive.
Finding the cheapest price for goods especially food is another way to help take the worldly burden from consumers and free them up to focus on the spiritual and community aspects of the month.
Gyms can adjust their opening hours around the fasting schedule. Pharmaceutical companies can think about whether medication can be developed to suit the no-daytime-consumption-rule. Meal planning can be offered to ensure the right intake of calories and nutrients depending on iftar and suhoor timings.
For brands that offer solutions that are truly helpful, Muslims will share them rapidly across their networks, extolling their virtues, which is a great boost for brands looking to amplify their reach to wider audiences.
In short: your brand should remove your consumers’ obstacles. By helping rather than hindering, your brand will rightfully earn its place in Muslim consumer trusted circles.