When it comes to using or targeting minority groups in advertising, we’ve all seen and heard the controversies throughout the years. But marketing to Muslims doesn’t have to be rocket science. Through our years of helping businesses around the world grow through increasing their Muslim audiences, we’ve seen that the best strategies all have a few things in common. If you’re ready to expand your Muslim audience, read on for our 6 tips on how to land your advertising concept with Muslims – in the right way.
The Muslims across the world are a 2 billion-strong population of powerful consumers.
Countless brands like MAC, Johnson & Johnson, Nike and more are starting to understand the benefits of getting Muslims on board with their offer, against a backdrop of high digital penetration amongst Muslim consumers which means they’re now easier to reach than ever.
But we’ve all seen and heard the controversies around the targeting people from minority groups, let alone Muslims.
In day-to-day conversations with businesses, we’re seeing this increasingly translate into a reluctance to tap into Muslim consumers through fear of ‘getting it wrong’, or negative reactions from the press, or others in the same industry.
Navigating the ethics issues
It’s true that the ethics issues around advertising to specific demographics can’t be ignored.
Recent practices targeting specific groups of people based on single characteristics like race have been exposed in recent years; with the problem (amongst many others) being that these groups are painted as being monolithic entities with similar likes and dislikes on account of one characteristic they can’t change.
To mitigate the controversy, we think the main question is in how we advertise; and what we use the advertising for. As part of an inclusive and varied campaign, targeting specific demographics like Muslims in a respectful, well-informed way can be a great way to make your existing campaigns work harder for your business, as well as giving Muslims the representation they want.
Research by Ogilvy Noor shows that 67% of Muslims in the UK alone are disappointed with the level of engagement with them by brands and that 78% would appreciate Ramadan specific offerings.
When you take research like this into mind, the question becomes less one of ‘should we be marketing to Muslims?’ and more about ‘How can I market to Muslims in a respectful way that draws the right attention to what we offer?’
In our work with businesses all around the world, we’ve noticed that the ones that do it right take the following points into consideration.
1. They know their audience intimately or consult someone who does.
It’s no secret that to good advertising is down to knowing your audience well and talking to their pain points.
Defining the characteristics of your target audience makes it easier to create content that connects properly and establishes you as an authority.
Being able to do this though, relies on good market research; and it’s no different when advertising to Muslims.
So before you set up a campaign, consider the following:
- Have you carried out any market research on what Muslim audiences want from the category you operate in?
- Do you know if or how Muslim audiences purchase or consume your offer already?
- Do you know what Muslims think of your competitors?
- Their motivations for engaging in your offer, or other offers similar to yours?
- Do you know the unique needs of your Muslim audience?
- Do you know what unique messaging that will appeal to this audience?
If you don’t have the budget or time to do traditional market research, use your social channels to recruit members of the Muslim population that already follow you to give you some more insight through focus groups and questionnaires.
If this still doesn’t sound like an option, then there are countless market reports on Muslim consumer behaviour online that give you basic insights into how Muslim audiences behave in your category; but be sure to use insights specific to the locations you’re targeting.
Or you could get in touch with us to talk about what has worked in your category before and if we can’t help you, we can suggest others who can.
2. They engage their Muslim audience on a positive level.
We’ve seen examples in the past where although Muslims are present in the creative, the message speaks more to non-Muslims than Muslims.
The best content engages Muslim audiences on a positive level is by being 100% clear on what they aim to achieve through their content.
For example, if you want more Muslims to go in-store to buy your products, it helps that your content speaks directly to them, rather than at others around them.
This is because the common perception is that Muslims are either not integrating into society and being a threat, or being voiceless and oppressed.
Being shoehorned into these groups means it’s easy to miss the fact that the majority of Muslims i.e. the ones likely to be in your target audience are somewhere in the middle.
This is why creating Muslim-centred content that focuses on matters of group identity like ‘breaking stereotypes’ appears as more of an attempt to ‘humanise’ Muslims to others than it does to engage Muslims on a positive level and draw them into your offer.
Doing some research on the latest controversies in the media around Islam and Muslims, also helps you to avoid relying on cliched messages based on stereotypes or sensitive topics to market your offer.
3. Make sure your concept travels well.
Muslims are incredibly diverse; with a global population of 1.7 billion spread across high, middle and low-income countries, the cultural differences across the different markets that make up the Muslim world vary too much to be able to use one concept across even two different markets.
While there is research that shows that in Western diaspora communities you might be able to get away with using the same creatives, it’s worth bearing in mind that as but as soon as you start looking to advertise in Muslim majority countries it’s not just culture and language that will affect your messaging, but also things like:
- Literacy rate in the population
- Level of access to the internet
- Amount of women in the workforce
- How many people live in urban vs. rural populations
- Climate and seasons
- Local interpretations of global customs
An example of a creative that missed the mark on understanding how local interpretations can affect how global customers are experienced is 2017’s MAC ‘Get ready for Suhoor’ Ramadan campaign.
Suhoor is a small meal eaten before dawn in the month of Ramadan, and many Muslims in the West scoffed at the thought of getting ready for Suhoor with work in the morning.
Although the campaign was rolled out globally, it transpired that the campaign was made with the Middle East in mind; somewhere where lavish Suhoor parties are thrown that women do get ready for.
4. Target based on needs and behaviours, rather than demographics.
We already mentioned the vast cultural diversity within Muslims, even within diaspora groups; so using reaching out based on the fact that you can help serve the needs of a community is a much better way to engage your Muslim audience than trying to ‘tap into’ an entire demographic group.
Rather than targeting Muslims just because they’re Muslims, use your targeting as a way to enhance an existing campaign outreach based on needs and behaviours. The best way to do this is to make your advertising as inclusive of as many audiences as possible, with nuanced messaging for different needs.
Come from a place of understanding and wanting to serve, and focus your advertising and content on the category pain-points and provide a solution based on what you already know about the way your Muslim audience consumes.
As an agency that specialises in marketing to Muslims, we’ve seen hundreds of successful campaigns over the years.
While there’s controversy around marketing to specific demographics, we’re great believers that marketing specifically to Muslims is a good thing when it’s from a place of encouraging their inclusion and empowerment as consumers.
And our experiences over the years support this too. The best targeted campaigns we’ve worked on have been the ones that are based on a deep understanding of the Muslim audience, and that engage Muslim audiences on a respectful and positive level by avoiding stereotypes and the urge to ‘humanise them’.
They are campaigns that are based on concepts that are appropriate for the specific market they’ll be used in, and they focus on needs and motivations for consumption rather than demographics.
So there you have it. If you’re thinking of running an advertising campaign for Muslims, let us know your thoughts over a free consultation with us. Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or use the contact form here and we’ll get back to you soon, insha’Allah.