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  • If you’re a soft drinks brand and you want to capture the lucrative Ramadan market…

    This week I’m looking at the fact that Ramadan brings its own special drinks which are indispensable favourites and which Muslim consumers simply cannot do without. What makes them part of the cultural fabric and what makes their sales spike during this month?

    Ramadan is a time of powerful nostalgia and heightened senses. In some cultures, a child’s first fast is a celebrated occasion and paves the way for many of their future consumption choices during subsequent years. And the drink used to break the fast is one of its most powerful triggers.

    Take the drink Sobia, described by an 87 year old Saudi woman as “the most popular drink in Ramadan; it is sold almost on every street corner.” She added that it gave Saudis “energy and power.” But her words are most striking when she talks about how such drinks pass down through the generations. “I have witnessed my mother and grandmother preparing this drink ever since I was a child, and now I’m proceeding with this tradition and teaching my grandchildren”.

    Whilst the drink Sobia is made up of ingredients including barley, brown bread, cinnamon, sugar and cardomom, the lessons of its enduring appeal and close ties to Saudi Muslims’ enjoyment of Ramadan should be an object lesson for drinks brands that wish to make a dent in this incredibly lucrative market – and one which is at the heart Muslims showing their devotion to their faith.

    Vimto knows this only too well. It sold more than 25 million bottles in the Gulf and other parts of the Middle East in 2010.  It was first introduced in Bahrain and the Arab region in 1928 and has become traditionally associated with Ramadan.  It elicits strong childhood memories, as one report covered: “We got used to it being a Ramadan regular in our tender age.” So woven into the fabric of Ramadan is Vimto that when some supermarkets restricted sales to consumers, there was shock that “only two bottles were allowed.”.  The Ramadan prize is high – and a huge part of the drinks’ sales: reaching almost 20 times its regular monthly sales during the month of fasting.

    Vimto is milking (no pun intended) this aspect of memory through their local distributor in Saudi Arabia who is launching an 80th anniversary media campaign of multi-million riyals called “The Sweet Storyteller” designed to stir up Ramadan memories collected from generations of gatherings and celebrations seen through Vimto’s eyes.

    Over in Pakistan, Tang – as featured in our AdCritique for last week - wants to break into Pakistan’s favourite Ramadan drink status which is dominated by the red syrup drinks. Their approach also ties into the power of childhood which seeps into future Ramadan purchasing. Their ad features a girl on her first fast – an occasion called Roza Kushai in Pakistan – who can think of nothing better than to break her fast with Tang, and insists that her guests are treated with the best drink also.

    These brands are tying together a sense of commercial longevity with the religious tradition of Ramadan, making their brands an indispensable part of the religious tradition. Heritage is an important factor to Muslim consumers, and staying power is important too, especially when connected to religious duty – and none more so than when it is depicted through the eyes of children who are seen as the bearers of the next generation, just beginning their journey on the Islamic path.

    Read more of Shelina Janmohamed’s Insider’s View at Ogilvy Noor every week here on the blog

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