How you can grow Muslim consumer affection for your brand
Here is our monthly column for Malaysia’s Marketing Magazine.
February is traditionally, the month of love. Clever marketers rebuff the use of red hearts and cuddly toys; no swoony poems or cheesy chat up lines for us please. Thank you very much! It is far more effective a marketing strategy to deeper explore what love means to your consumer, in order to support them manner that resonates with their values.
Is all this talk of love however, of any use when it comes to talking to Muslim consumers? If anything, it sometimes feels like newspapers and media outlets are filled with discussions advising pious Muslims to avoid Valentine’s Day and related celebrations of romantic love. It’s no doubt that whilst some Muslims will embrace it with gusto, there are those who will eschew it just as vigorously. Malaysia’s Muslims tend to fall into the latter camp, shunning what is seens as ‘a consumerist orgy that demeans love’. It is no wonder then that marketers prefer to play it safe and avoid stirring up controversy, erring on the side of caution rather than finding brave and creative ways to talk to the Muslim consumer segment.
One deep insight you can take away with you is that for the Muslim consumer, the love of community is extremely potent. Futurist Muslims – the young, tech-savvy, well-informed, movers and shakers of the Muslim consumer segment – have a strong sense of individual identity, this is balanced by a deep sense of community and caring for the collective. There is an emphasis on belonging, giving rise to a ‘we’ consciousness in which one’s self is rooted in the social system.
The consumer has to be seen as one part of an inseparable and inter-connected web of individuals who collectively help to shape their identity.
Brand messaging needs to be cognizant of the way Muslim consumers often see themselves: as fathers, mothers, sisters, teachers and friends first, and individuals second.
A key vehicle for messaging transmission is word of mouth, with consumers showing a high degree of trust in their own in-group peers and authority figures.
Another implication is that successful brands are expected to be integrated into the collective web that makes up this social identity: and they can do this by avoiding association with values that do not appeal to Muslim cultures, for example extreme self-sufficiency or selfish indulgence. Since Muslim consumers feel deep concern and love for their community they expect the brands that they let into their lives to do the same. Corporate social responsibility must be demonstrated in action, not just words, and definitely not checked in boxes on annual reports, or as big gaudy TV announcements heralding charitable donations. No, social investment must be heartfelt and demonstrate a genuine commitment to the needs of the community.
In Egypt, Persil Detergent and Pril Dishwasher Liquid supported local volunteer groups to clean up the local streets after the uprisings. They organised teams to be driven to locations that needed attention, and provided cleaning supplies. This is perfectly targeted to their brand. More importantly, it demonstrates that they genuinely understand how their products can be of service to their community.
In Pakistan, Colgate launched a ‘Colgate Bright Smiles, Bright Future’ programme. Colgate arrange school drives to educate children about dental health and brushing teeth to grow up strong and healthy, seen by consumers as an investment in their children’s futures.
The thing to take away for your brand is that there is no such thing as talking to just one individual Muslim consumer. Their deep attachment and love for their community, and the fact that they see themselves – and you – as part of their community informs how they feel about you, what they will tell others about you, and ultimately their commitment to you. The good news is that if you can support their sense of community, their love will not be like the wilting red roses, and tacky hearts. Instead, this group of consumers can and will show a genuine love for your brand.
By Shelina Janmohamed, Senior Strategist, (Ogilvy Noor)