Happy Eid! This week, it’s the big celebration of Eid al-Fitr, which follows the end of Ramadan. The UK’s four million Muslims will be celebrating in style with plentiful food, family gatherings, festivity and shopping.
Over the years, the occasions of Ramadan and Eid have slowly inched its way on to the radar of UK brands and our high streets. If you popped your head into some supermarkets over the past month, you might have found some Ramadan or Eid banners next to some bulk-buy packs of rice and perhaps a Ramadan chocolate advent calendar.
Morrisons developed a whole line of Eid packaging, from plates and party bags to chocolates and fragrances. Sainsbury's has been popping into my Facebook feed trying to tempt me with Ramadan delights. And Asos launched its modest fashion edit just before Ramadan in time for the season (pictured above).
But once Ramadan has passed and the Eid banners have been taken down, one obvious fact is overlooked: Muslim consumers don’t hibernate until next Ramadan; they continue to exist and they continue to want brands to engage.
It’s time to realise that a Muslim consumer is not just for Ramadan, but also for the whole year. Perhaps some numbers might help: UK Muslims spend £20.5bn every year and make an annual contribution of £31bn to the economy. Muslims are also a young demographic; 58% are under 30 [source: Muslim Council of Britain’s Muslim Pound research].
We’re going to need a mindset shift. Simply for the industry to get its head round Ramadan is still proving a challenge. And that is despite the fact that it is a clear occasion, with defined parameters, habits and, above all, clear product needs. What comes through in much of the current Ramadan engagement is a product focus, rather than the people who are consuming them. And the failure to think of the people, their needs and their emotions is what lies behind the glaring absence of engagement with Muslim audiences for the rest of the year.
Think about how brands do Christmas; it’s not about putting your head above the parapet for a few weeks at the end of the year and then disappearing for 11 months. It’s the opposite: the chance to put a shine on the year’s activities and remind your consumers why they love you.
The same applies to Ramadan. This is a shining moment of the year, but there does need to be a year of activities.
So what if you have engaged with Ramadan and Eid, but not reached out during the rest of the year? Or if you’re at an even earlier stage than that and saw the missed opportunity of Ramadan, but wondering what to do now?
You can begin a calendar of activities that, in 11 months’ time, will lead to your own shining moment of Ramadan.
The foundation, of course, is understanding who exactly is the Muslim audience. At Ogilvy we have defined this as Generation M – the Muslims bringing faith and modern life together. They are seeking products and brands that are the best there is on offer, but which uphold their faithful lifestyle.
Then ask yourselves: how does your brand and product offering intersect with Muslim lifestyle? Your product might have specific characteristics that support Muslim lifestyle choices. Is your beauty product vegan? Does your fashion brand lend itself to modest style? Do your financial services support and empower women, particularly those from under-represented backgrounds? There are all sorts of questions you can ask in order to extract and refine the insights for an effective and long-lasting engagement. And many of the answers might surprise you in terms of how they engage directly with Muslim audiences but at the same time serve the needs of other consumers too.
Of course, there are some immediate needs that follow Ramadan and Eid that are often overlooked. Ramadan is a physically and emotionally challenging time, so travel is increasingly popular. Halal travel company Serendipity Tailormade, which curates travel for Muslims, has been offering special Eid packages. Other airlines are starting to offer Eid travel deals too.
Fitness post-Ramadan is increasingly on the minds of Muslim audiences. If you’ve lost weight and become more focused on health during Ramadan, keeping it up can be appealing. Of course, the opposite is also true. If Ramadan has been a smorgasbord of high-calorie food and sumptuous desserts, getting yourself to the gym or into personal fitness to shed the pounds you’ve put on can be equally appealing.
The point is, the conversation needs to continue post-Ramadan and throughout the year. After all, if 62% of UK Muslims are disappointed during Ramadan when there is at least some engagement, just imagine how disenchanted they must feel during the rest of the year. So instead of saying goodbye to this segment on Eid, instead think of it as the beginning of something beautiful.
Shelina Janmohamed is vice-president of Islamic marketing at Ogilvy Consulting