The countdown for Ramadan 2020 has begun – are you ready? Because the right Ramadan marketing strategy could be a huge opportunity for your brand. Here’s why.
Hands up: Who knew Ramadan is the third-biggest festival in the UK after Christmas and Easter? Or that it’s celebrated by around a quarter of the world’s population – two-thirds of whom live in the APAC region?
It’s first and foremost a month of spirituality and charity. (If you’d like to know more, there are some key facts here.) But like any festive season, it brings with it increased spending. It’s a clear opportunity for brands to drive revenue and lay the foundation for brand loyalty among their Muslim customers.
And yet many brands appear unsure how to approach Ramadan marketing. They either play it safe or ignore it altogether. 78% of UK Muslim consumers would like to see increased engagement from brands and retailers. Although Muslim-majority countries may be better served, international brands are still lagging behind.
So, what can you do about it? Here are the key details you should know.
EIGHT WEEKS OF CELEBRATION
Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar. But preparations and celebrations last for around eight weeks. There are four distinct phases:
Shaban is the month before Ramadan. This is when spiritual and practical preparations start in earnest. Think home furnishings, furniture, electricals, fashion and food, as people prepare to feed the fasting – and to socialize.
- Searches for prayer timetables, cooking videos and interior decoration content surge.
- Small kitchen appliances see a peak of 164% on YouTube.
- Ramadan fashion videos see an increase of 72% – a growing trend in recent years.
THE FIRST TWO WEEKS
The flurry of ‘Ramadan Kareem’ greetings is followed by a big lifestyle shift. Worldwide, 93% of Muslims take part in the fast. In Muslim-majority countries, working hours are reduced substantially. After the main meal at sunset, people go to the mosque or out to socialize. In the long days of May, many may stay up until the pre-dawn meal and then sleep in the following morning.
What does this mean for brands? People will be online later than usual, mostly from 1–2 hours before sunset until dawn. Paid adverts should take this into account. Many businesses also change their opening and customer support hours.
- Mobile is king. Viewers spend an average of 147 mins on their phones, compared to 113 for TV.
- Ramadan soap operas remain popular, showing a complete storyline in thirty daily episodes. Viewing figures increased by 151% in 2019.
- Online viewing peaks at 3 am.
THE LAST TWO WEEKS
Focus shifts to Eid preparation. In many countries, all family members will buy new clothes and shoes. Other forms of gifting are also increasingly popular. For example, online searches for kitchen appliances as gifts see an astonishing 2,782% spike in the MENA region. Interest in beauty and men’s grooming products also peaks.
- Ramadan is a key month for charitable giving. In the UK, this has amounted to £100 million per year.
- Health and wellbeing take centre stage, including information on weight loss and quitting smoking.
The number of public holidays varies widely by country – from none at all to 20+. The emphasis is on visiting as many family and friends in person as possible. Eating out is also popular. In fact, fast food consumption spikes as people return to old habits.
Travel searches are another theme. In the UK, this period is sometimes called the ‘Ramadan rush’, as wealthy travellers from the Middle East return for some retail therapy. Chinese consumers make up 24% of tax-free sales in the UK. By comparison, Kuwait and the UAE make up 11% – even though their combined population is less than 1% of China’s.
- Footfall for UK retailers can increase by 47% on the day of Eid.
- UK supermarkets generate £100m in revenue during the entire Ramadan and Eid period.
MEET THE MUSLIMS
To plan an effective Ramadan marketing campaign, you’ll need to carefully research your audience.
That doesn’t mean you need to understand the religious concepts (although it doesn’t hurt). After all, you’re not advertising religion or creating religious ads. You’re selling a product or service that’s useful to a particular audience.
One size doesn’t fit all though – age, location, gender, nationality, education and ethnicity all make a difference.
Take Tesco’s typical Ramadan marketing, for example. Aside from the occasional blunder (like trying to sell bacon-flavoured crisps), their approach is fairly basic. The designs are ‘safe’ – geometric patterns, green backgrounds, no pictures. And the products (chickpeas, rice, tomatoes, etc.) are aimed firmly at South Asian cuisines.
But this approach fails to take into account the nuances of the Muslim population in London. True, South Asians are the largest ethnic group in the Muslim UK community. But in the capital (home to 1.24 million Muslims) African and Mediterranean countries are well-represented too. Not to mention Millennials and Gen Z, who may wish for something beyond tinned tomatoes and 10kg bags of rice. It may be the thought that counts, but it’s a missed opportunity.
Ramadan is celebrated by hundreds of millions of potential customers, who are looking to buy. One report found that conversion rates went up by 30% and use of shopping apps by 35%. But safe, broad-brush campaigns will not get you far – there is too much competition for consumers’ attention. Getting to grips with multicultural marketing can be daunting. But it’s part of business in the modern world.
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