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  • Looking back at 2011 at Ogilvy Noor: the year in review

    We’re nearing the end of 2011, which means it’s a good time to take a look back at what has been happening, what we’ve been up to and of course the momentous changes beyond what could have been predicted 12 months ago.

    The big news was – and continues to be – the Arab Spring.  The populations of country after country raised their voices to say that they wanted to change and that they were determined to get it.

    Our research in 2010 had seen signs that the factors that could lead to such radical social, cultural and political change were very present, although we can’t possibly claim to have predicted the events. In February, we shared our thoughts in a paper entitled “The Future Rises in the Middle East.’

    We used our research which identified a group of Muslims we called ‘the Futurists’ as a lens through which to offer insight into what was happening. Looking back on our thinking, this thought is still front and centre:

    “The Futurists are fearless drivers of change, unafraid to stand out and be vocal in their beliefs. They don’t believe in letting their dreams die unrealised, or their demands go unheard. But we must not mistake them for iconoclastic anarchists. On the contrary, the world praised the largely peaceful Egyptian revolution and credited the maturity of its youthful protesters. Islam’s emphasis on respect for authority persists for the Futurists; they simply want it to evolve so that authority is not solely top-down anymore. It must make room for equal dialogue.”

    The obvious follow up to this was to take a deep-dive to look at changing attitudes towards leadership, and we did exactly that in our white paper: “Let’s do it our way: Muslim youth redefining leadership.”

    Businesses, brands and marketers began to wonder what events meant for them. Their curiosity was not about commercialising such profound changes but ensuring that these human beings are understood, and that their drivers and motivations are treated with respect and engaged with in dialogue. Our colleagues over at JWT wrote an excellent blog post “I wonder about the Arab Spring…” exploring that very question:

    “As international marketers we should care, because global brands operate in the region and will want to continue to do so.[...] And as communication people we should care, because the revolutions are also nothing less than an amazing example for the new power of the people.”

    In events of a less cosmic but nevertheless quite thrilling nature, Ogilvy Noor celebrated it’s first birthday in May. It was a year filled with excitement amongst media, press and clients.

    We re-vamped our website, launched our blog and started an exciting and fun feature called AdCritique. The latter shows great examples from around the world on the many and positive ways to engage with Muslims. It lived up to our advice to brands that when it comes to communicating with Muslim consumers there is no need to be fearful, there are many more ‘Do’s” than “Don’ts”.

    Our Twitter feed is humming along with news about Muslim consumers. Make sure you sign up.

    We also put together a lovely video so you can meet the team in person.

    Our thinking has been spotted by the media and we’re currently writing two monthly columns, the first in Malaysia’s Marketing Magazine, and the second is a “Marketing to Muslims” column for Sparksheet.com. We’ve also been featured in the world press, writing for FT.com on Muslim fashion, and “The Ramadan season is over: so what now for Muslim brands?” as well as being featured in the Middle East’s leading English language daily newspaper The National.

    One of the pillars of our work is to offer deep cultural insights into the contexts that shape Muslim consumers and translate that into meaningful marketing recommendations. We spent time exploring Ramadan, explaining “How to smarten up your branding this Ramadan” as well as exploring a common question: “So Eid, is that like the Muslim Christmas then?

    Hajj is the other big event of the Muslim year. We explained “What you need to know about the world’s most diverse gathering.” We also took care to explain about the relationship between “Brands and the hajj: it’s about concern, community and caring, not commercialisation.

    We took some unexpected angles on understanding the daily lives of Muslims. Did you know that perfume is very important to Muslims generally and in Islamic belief?  We looked at the “Sweet (halal) smell of success“, and pointed out that per capita consumption of perfume is among the highest in the world in Saudi Arabia with the country alone accounting for over US$800 million last year, according to a Euromonitor report.

    We also looked at hair on a number of occasions. We pinpointed a product that specifically targets Muslim women who wear a headscarf, and then also looked at the much under-discussed subject of Muslim men and hair.

    Our country focus was on the USA. Last year we laid out recommendations for brands on how to engage with the growing Muslim consumer segment in our report: “A little empathy goes a long way: How brands can engage the American Muslim Consumer.” It was very well received and won the Multicultural Award at the Third Annual American Muslim consumer conference held in October this year, and accepted by Ogilvy Noor’s Head of Strategy. Twelve months we reflected on developments in the market and discussed “Brand Courage and the American Muslim Muslim Consumer.”

    We also took a peek at Muslims in the UK, finding that they are ‘patriotic and optimistic.’ And we looked at the United Arab Emirates which is celebrating it’s 40th anniversary this year through another new feature called “Fast Facts.

    Phew! What a year!

    Looking back on all the activity and achievements the conclusion must be that this is a growing segment with a huge amount of interest, and one that promises huge growth and potential.

    We can’t wait for 2012.

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