Coca-Cola’s Ramadan promotion, as we know, is genius in its simplicity. McDonald’s? It’s a little more complicated, but aims for the same emotional connection with the Muslim marketplace.
The global king of the french fry is currently marketing a complex Ramadan celebration in predominantly Muslim countries across the globe.
For McDonald’s, the bare minimum is not to offend during Ramadan. In fact, in some places, it’s the law. The United Arab Emirates bans Ramadan broadcast content that might “offend God and/or Islamic beliefs.” As UAE media attorney Saarah Badr wrote last month in an examination of Ramadan messaging:
“Due to the high viewership during Ramadan, brands also frequently tailor their advertising to the Holy Month. However, due to heightened religious sensitivities during this time of year, brands and broadcasters alike need to be cautious about pushing the creative boundaries too far and causing offense with their Ramadan campaigns.”
Badr specifically called out McDonald’s as a brand with its fingers on the pulse of doing Ramadan marketing the right way:
“McDonald’s ran a similarly humourous, yet religiously sensitive, Ramadan campaign in Indonesia. During the fasting hours, McDonald’s adverts depicted the trademark golden arches, as well as their burgers, being covered up, highlighting the prohibition on eating and drinking in public during the day.
“After sunset, McDonald’s ran a further series of adverts with the burgers and arches ‘unwrapped’, sharing the breaking of the fast with their audience.”
McDonald’s has gone to great lengths to tailor its messaging and menus for markets from Southeast Asia to Arabia.
— McDonald's Egypt (@McDonaldsEgypt) June 18, 2015
In Egypt, McDonald’s social media messaging has been all about iftar eating and the holiday.
هتحلى ايه النهارده؟ pic.twitter.com/olAFuk5j0u
— McDonald's Egypt (@McDonaldsEgypt) June 28, 2015
McDonald’s Arabia, encompassing Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar and Oman, also released a special song and a heartwarming commercial message “Generations of Goodness.”
The ad is in line with McDonald’s Arabia’s previous efforts, including last year’s “True to Tradition.”
McDonald’s is also capitalizing on the fact that Ramadan is traditionally a time when families watch a lot of programing. McDonald’s Arabia has produced and released a #SpreadKindness web series.
The series consists of a new, two-minute episodes every night of Ramadan that focus on a family of five and teaches life lessons about neighborliness, kindness, filial piety, tradition and other good deeds. The episodes have not been popular, averaging under 100 views each, but McDonald’s effort is noted.
In Southeast Asia, McDonald’s is also focusing on the holiday in Muslim-populated countries like Indonesia, Singapore and Malaysia.
As with McDonald’s Arabia, McDonald’s Singapore is broadcasting a heartfelt Ramamdan message: “Share the Spirit of Ramadan.” Restaurants are offering after-dark “Ramadan Bundles” for delivery to famished families.
Can’t get your family down to a McDonald’s for a bundle? No problem. A spike in delivery requests in Singapore has seen McDonald’s enlist taxi services to make sure meals get to customers for suhur (pre-sun up meal).
In nearby Malaysia, McDonald’s has added Foldover Lazeez Chicken and Foldover Mashwi Beef specials to the menu. McDonald’s Malaysia’s Ramadan efforts include a great deal of charity work as well such as food donations to the less fortunate and elderly.
And in Indonesia, McDonald’s is combining the message of good deeds and humanity with a Curry Beef Delight Ramadan promotion focused on youth.
Last but not least, McDonald’s Pakistan is also marketing an all-Halal Ramdan menu: “Do Right with a Tasty Bite. Iftar till Sehar.”
While holidays like Ramadan present brands with an opportunity to connect with consumers, they also provide an opportunity to slip up. And when brands trip up during Ramadan, the results, thanks to social media, can be severely embarrassing. Sometimes this means small oversights like adding a hijab to a cartoon. But others, as Pringles discovered this year, are more severe.
— Narmeen Choudhury (@PIX11Narmeen) July 2, 2015
While McDonald’s does seem to be putting together a case study for how a global brand should approach Ranadan messaging, it’s hard to be on top of every tiny detail when you’re global valuation tops $105 billion.
According to a Dubai media consultant, McDonald’s was still running radio spots for its breakfast meals. (The McDonald’s Arabia site still offers its breakfast app download.) All things considered, a small oversight, and one could argue Dubai is an international city with a lot of non-Muslim residents who want breakfast.
Finally, McDonald’s may be doing Ramadan better than most global brands but it’s not without competition. For example, KFC Malasia’s Ramadan message—”Aina’s Meaningful Ramamdan”—has proven a viral hit.