Risks and Rewards
In the United States, Islamic consumers are called ‘the new Hispanics’ in terms of their potential as a market. This is because there are 1.6 billion Muslims globally, half of whom are under 25 so they have earning potential and disposable income. By 2050 those identifying as ‘Islamic’ will be more than 50% of the planet’s population. Whether viewed as a target, a segment, or a force to be reckoned with, the Islamic population will impact how brands operate in many ways.
Not Arabs, but global citizens
The staggering fact is that only 20% of Muslims live in the traditional Arab world. The rest can be found largely in South and East Asia but also widely spread across the whole globe. Whether marketers and business consultants recognise it or not, their areas of operation are already, in part, informed by Islamic values.
Who is ‘Islamic Branding’ aimed at?
Predominantly young (under 25) and willing to travel for education and experience, or older and well established in traditional Muslim locations, the Islamic community is a diaspora that currently only makes up 5% of global GDP. The potential for growth is staggering but the market, if that’s what you choose to call it, is largely untapped.
And that’s where the complexities begin. Islamic values are difficult to identify and pin to a Westernised marketing construct. The very idea of segmentation makes little sense to a group that considers itself Ummah (which means a community guided by shared lawful beliefs). It simply doesn’t make sense to ‘segment’ a ‘market’ that has wholly shared values regardless of gender, ethnicity or age.
Halal and Haram
The lawful behaviour of halal has become a powerful marketing tool. But unlike Western ideas where ‘haram’ behaviour is often used appeal to the young (just think of the way advertising to under 25s uses slang like wicked, sick, insane – words which older generations view with suspicion and fear) there is no space between belief in halal and investment in halal as a consumer choice. Ideas of community and welfare lead business ethics in the same way they lead family decision-making.
Sharia and Imagery
Sharia, the body of Islamic law, regulates human conduct and as there is a clear proscription of the creation of images of sentient beings, and an absolute law against depicting God. As a result, Islamic art has traditionally been non-representational, based calligraphy and geometric images. Equally symbolic shapes and colours, such as the white worn by pilgrims entering Mecca, have strong significance and carry underlying messages to an Islamic audience. Islamic graphic designers draw upon this body of knowledge and the agreed acceptable concepts to create imagery that has a potent effect on the key audience whilst providing visual appeal to non-Islamic viewers.
As a result of a long tradition of halal behaviour, Sharia guidance on every area of life, and a powerful focus on the need to maintain purity in action and intention, Islamic branding can draw on unique and persuasive concepts to deliver better brand relationships. The growth of halal food and toiletry brands is evidence of the appeal of Islamic values outside a strictly Islamic Ummah.
Risks or Rewards?
The risks of a superficial approach to this vast, complex and rapidly growing market are clear. Centuries of development, powerful community structures and a clear division of behaviour into obligatory, recommended, permitted, disliked or forbidden actions have led to a sense of common welfare which cannot be played with lightly. On the other hand, for a brand with strong values the concept of Ummah offers a wonderful opportunity to communicate how the brand fits within Ummah and can contribute to the growth of respect and community welfare.
Developing strong relationships with brand consultants who can base a brand’s offering within Ummah, with either halal status or a claim to being recommended or permitted in terms of Sharia, will help any brand negotiate a place in this fast growing global market. Damask offers its clients a chance to locate themselves at the heart of Islamic branding, why not call us today to explore how we can help you?