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Marketing to Muslims | Food, fashion and faith | Economist.com August 2, 2007

Posted by islamicfinanceaffairs in Uncategorized.
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Marketing to Muslims | Food, fashion and faith | Economist.com

MARKETERS and self-proclaimed trendspotters in the Western world love slicing and segmenting consumers into an ever larger number of categories. They created the teenager, the yuppie, the baby boomer, the singleton and the metrosexual. For all of them they invented “needs” that could, inevitably, be met by whatever product they happened to be promoting. Yet to this day they tend to tiptoe around Muslims as a distinct market segment.

Although they have settled into a fairly comfortable relationship with Jews and Christians whose cultures they feel they know and understand, the cultural divide with the Muslim world seems to be too daunting.

But a new study by JWT, an advertising agency, points out that the 6m or so Muslims in America are, on average, richer and better educated than the general population. Two-thirds of Muslim households make more than $50,000 a year and a quarter earn over $100,000; the national average is $42,000. Two-thirds of American Muslims have a college degree, compared with less than half of the general population. Muslim families also tend to have more children. So the perception that marketing specifically to Muslims is not worthwhile would appear to be wrong.

According to JWT food, finance and packaged goods are the three consumer markets most affected by Islamic law. The global halal market
is worth some $580 billion annually. In America an estimated 16% of
sales in the $100 billion kosher industry comes from Muslims who lack
adequate halal options. Manischewitz, the leading maker of
kosher foods, has already spotted an opportunity. Last year it launched
its first campaign under the theme “Simply Manischewitz”
designed to reach out beyond Jewish customers.

Muslim-owned consumer-goods companies are also beginning to tap the
Muslim market in the West. Since January the Burqini—a
full-coverage swimsuit made by Ahiida, whose founder is a Lebanese
immigrant in Australia—has been sold internationally, mainly
online. As the name implies, the polyester suits are a cross between a
burqa and a bikini, and are designed in accordance with Islamic law
requiring women to dress modestly.

Similarly NewBoy Toys, a Syrian firm, has created Fulla as an
alternative to the blonde, big-breasted Barbie doll made by Mattel, an
American toymaker. Fulla has dark hair, brown eyes and a small chest,
and wears a white headscarf and a coat. Unlike Barbie, Fulla does not
have a boyfriend or a job, say her makers. She spends her time cooking,
reading and praying.

Big Western companies have also started to reach out to Muslim
consumers, albeit slowly. In April McDonald’s, the biggest American
chain of fast-food restaurants, began serving halal Chicken
McNuggets and other food items permissible under Islamic law for a
trial period at a restaurant in Southall, in west London. The firm is
treading carefully: the new offerings are not advertised beyond the
walls of the restaurant. Yet demand is strong, sales are increasing,
and McDonald’s is thinking about extending the experiment.

Such companies are also trying to be more sensitive and inclusive in
their approach to Muslims. Each year Coca-Cola, the biggest maker of
soft drinks, runs a series of marketing initiatives focused on charity
and tolerance during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. An ad based on
the concept of sharing food during iftar, the fast-breaking
meal after sunset, is especially popular. Yet Coke is not adapting its
global brands to Muslim consumers. “We don’t segment our
consumers based on religion,” says a spokesman for the firm.

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