multicultural marketing

Brands Reach Out to U.S. Muslims

Posted by Sheila Shayon on July 9, 2010 01:00 PM

Estimates put the American Muslim population at six to eight million – a small but relatively unmined marketing ‘Mecca.’ The challenge of targeting this eclectic group remains somewhat daunting, although it’s worth about $200 billion. 

Many Muslims are recent immigrants of Middle Eastern descent; but just as many are U.S. natives. Many are African-Americans. Some are traditionally religious and others secular. Research indicates they are less influenced by price and value, more aware of brand names, and more gender-specific.

National brands including Best Buy, Ann Taylor, ESPN, Verizon and U.S. Healthcare are showing up on Muslim-oriented websites such as hijabtrendz.com and chillyoislamyou.com, while Hallmark sells Eid cards for the end of Ramadan.

S. Saad Ahmed, director of sales and strategy for the Muslim Ad Network, tells Marketing Daily, "For a communications company, for example, someone offering calling plans that are specific to Egypt would want to use Egyptian Arabic, but in a more general sense, it might mention Eid — that holiday means it's time to call back home to Muslims of any nationality."

Using food as an example, Ahmed continues, "While the Halal market is roughly equivalent to the $200 billion Kosher market, there are no big brands reaching out to them."

Citing ConAgra's LaChoy products, soy rather than alcohol-based, and Tom's of Maine alcohol-free mouthwash, Ahmed continues "These brands are already kosher and Halal, so it's just about letting people know."

Best Buy was one of the first major retailers to market nationwide to Muslims including 'Happy Eid' in a holiday flyer along with Christmas and Hanukkah last year. But comments on their website echoed the anger left by 9/11/01 and many threatened to no longer shop at Best Buy.

A recent study by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life reports that 35% of Americans have a negative view of Muslims and 45% believe Islam encourages violence more than other religions.

Experts like Rafi-uddin Shikoh, founder of DinarStandard, a consulting firm specializing in the Muslim market, advise against nationally-targeted campaigns like Best Buy’s attempt – and advocate a less mainstream and more ethnically and religiously skewed approach. 

"At this point, I don't know if there's a real need for a national campaign. They are curious to see if there is a way to tap into this market without risking their reputation or it backfiring in any way."

Maneuvering the tricky waters of marketing to groups within the American populace is not new. "We've been down this road before with other groups," Jerome Williams, professor of advertising and African American studies, the University of Texas at Austin said, referring to the 1960’s and featuring African Americans in advertising.

Williams references that companies were slow to do so – but ultimately, advertisers were attracted to the money. "They're not in the business of social justice. An advertiser does not want to do anything that will have negative impacts on sales. ... At the end of the day, they have to see if they've gained more than they've lost."

 

Comments

Muraculous Canada says:

Sorry but being a minority doesn't automatically entitle Muslims or anyone else to special treatment.  Those companies willing to spend the money betting that a real ROI will be obtained by appealing any sub-market should be respected for taking a chance rather than burned for not being perfect.  For example, the Hispanic market is huge and growing fast.  Nobody hears them complaining incessantly about small things that have no bearing on the bigger picture.  
At the end of the day, creating a market and place for your sub-group is a two way street - if you want the products you have to buy the products i.e., respond to the offer without caveat or complaint.  However suggestions of the constructive kind, given in good faith, may be welcomed by manufacturers, wholesalers and retailers - a process rather than an event.

July 12, 2010 12:22 PM #

Nick Wreden United States says:

There are two unexplored issues in this interesting article. One is the larger issue of faith branding, which is how brands reach out to Muslim, Jewish and Christian groups. They do this through specific religious products (eg, unleavened bread), strong outreach (think Chick-fil-A) or through alliances (think GM and church groups). The other issue is how such faith branding can help brands expand overseas. Muslims might be a small segment in the US, but about one out of four people on the planet is Muslim. Banks like HSBC recognize this, and offer financial services tailored to Islamic principles.

I am working on my next book -- Brand Clans -- which involves brands engaging with ethnic, cultural and religious segments. If you have a corporate case study on this issue, let me know at wredensignup (a) gmail.

July 12, 2010 07:05 PM #

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