Chris Reed
Jul 31, 2013

Ramadan changes the way brands target Muslim consumers

Ramadan comes but once a year, but unlike Christmas it lasts for an entire month and has a profound effect on the ways that brands market themselves in Muslim countries, especially in Asia. Just like Christmas for the West, Ramadan in the Muslim world is when brands spend the most amount of marketing dollars too.

Ramadan changes the way brands target Muslim consumers

During the 9th month of the Islamic calendar, from dawn to dusk for the whole month, Muslims refrain from physical intake: no drinking, no eating. The evening meal called iftar (breaking of the fast) is a mini-celebration, and takes place at sunset usually with family and friends, after which Muslims can eat and drink until a final (suhoor) meal just before dawn.

The end of Ramadan, Hari Raya or Eid al-Fitr, is just around the corner and it’s a time where many countries like Indonesia close down for 10 days to mark the occasion in much the same way that Christmas closes Western countries. Both of these events create unique challenges and opportunities for brands in Muslim dominated countries.

With customers not being able to eat or drink from dawn to dusk many malls are closed except to tourists and the only way you can eat or drink is by visiting a hotel. Countries like Indonesia become very much a challenge to do business in and with during this time. Breaking the fast by comparison becomes a great B2C opportunity to target customers with special offers and themed meals.

The fast food brands especially go to town with specially themed deals for friends and family to enjoy. Muslim or non-Muslims.  McDonalds, KFC and Burger King who all have extensive Muslim customer bases see the breaking of the fast time in the evening a chance to really corner the market. 

In places like Jakarta, hotels, restaurants and cafes go out of their way to create specially themed Ramadan menu’s to attract the big spend in the evenings when friends and family are joined together to celebrate each day. Ironically the money spent in the evening is greater than the money lost during the day from lost food and drink sales such is the spirit of celebration and togetherness in communities.

Social media brands like mig33 have to adapt their marketing and aim at customers who will use the platform in greater numbers towards the end of the fasting day and then again during the breaking of the fast. They are quieter during the day, conserving their energy for prayers and work/relaxation. In places like the Middle East and parts of Asia where Muslims have high penetration social media peaks after 7pm rising to around 4am as people stay up all night and enjoy the evening entertainment/celebratory feeling.

As  people will often have shorter working hours more time is spent with families, more time dedicated for spiritual needs and drivers for charity are also much higher. People use social media brands like Facebook and Twitter as a source for charity needs for example.

Companies boost their spending on traditional ‘off-line’ campaigns by 20 per cent during Ramadan, and many brands are realising the opportunity to encourage social media posts that include content tailored to specific audiences during this time period to match both brand advertising and also tying in with TV content.

Engagement with brands is enhanced during Ramadan providing businesses with the idealwindow to communicate with customers through social media. The holy month enjoys higher organic engagement rates so budgets can push content further in Ramadan especially on social media.

Telco usage goes through the roof as you would imagine, especially at night time or in the moments just before and just after the breaking of the fast as people arrange get togethers and chat with renewed energy and excitement after a long day.

DiGi Telecommunications in Malaysia has jumped onto this bandwagon and launched the Ramadan Kareem & Eid Mubarrak portal in conjunction with the festive celebrations. This portal is open to all DiGi customers, it is specifically designed for the festive season.

In Indonesia marketing programs include Dealer Siaga (Standby Dealer), conveniently positioned Telkomsel dealerships, offering a 24-hour call center and a branded posko mudik (rest area) for weary Idul Fitri travelers.

Irlamsyah also cited as a driver of sales during the Ramadan Fair, where Telkomsel provide a 3G phone bundle. The 3G phone will also have a complete and convenient application for people going on their Islamic hajj or umrah pilgrimage tours to Mecca. The prayers are available in Arabic and Latin with an audio version for subscribers to just listen.

In Egypt Pepsi & Chipsy have come together to re-ignite the spirit of Ramadan by bringing together the most famous Ramadan icons: Nelly, Fatouta, 3amo Fouad and Boogie & Tamtam. As part of this strategy, Pepsi and Impact BBDO booked entire commercial blocks to show the 3 minute film over the Ramadan month. In the film old iconic Ramadan TV personalities are brought back to remind people that Ramadan is for spending time with the family.

TV viewing peaks in evenings and special programs/soap operas are scheduled for this time in any number of special editions to capture the captive audience who are sitting down with friends and family to enjoy the breaking of the fast each evening.

The latest viewing stats show that a third of all Indonesian TVs were tuned in to matches that English clubs Arsenal and Liverpool played there in July. Other than that, Islamic soap operas are ruling the day – and the night – in this mostly Muslim nation of 240m people. Ramadan creates perhaps the world’s most unlikely coveted prime time slot: 2.30am to 4.30am as a result of the festival’s effect on the population.

In countries like Singapore that allow residents to enjoy all faith’s holidays Hari Raya and Eid are observed with public holidays in the same way that Vesak Day, Deepavil and Christmas are. In countries brands have to be especially creative in their execution in order to appeal to Muslims and non-Muslims alike. Brands have the ultimate challenge of not trying to appeal to one audience more than the other and don’t wish to offend, it can often be a careful balance.

Ultimately Ramadan is a spiritual festival about self-improvement and fasting and brands need to be culturally aware in order not to seen to be exploiting this time for commercial gain. Brands however are also essential in providing services in keeping with the values of the people they are targeting at this very precious time of the year for Muslims.

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