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Not your ‘normal’ Ramadan

This weekend, in addition to lockdown, Muslims will be embarking on Ramadan. Shelina Janmohamed, Vice President of Islamic Marketing at Ogilvy Consulting believes that brands that step up during this time will be remembered the most.

Shelina Janmohamed, Ogilvy

Vice President, Islamic Marketing

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When it comes to the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown, we might all be weathering the same storm, but our experiences vary greatly. This is about to be particularly true for Muslim audiences who this weekend, in addition to lockdown, will be embarking on Ramadan.

For an entire month, those adults who are fit and able will be fasting during daylight hours, which means no food, no drink, no smoking. The philosophy of Ramadan is about reduction and deprivation of the physical and empathy with those who have less than we do. So, in some ways, lockdown and the climate of withholding from our normal lives synchs entirely with Ramadan.

But in any ‘normal’ year, the month’s deprivation is counterbalanced with a flourishing of sociability, togetherness, community, and spirituality that far outweigh the physical challenges of fasting. This year the social aspects will be absent.

The tension that faces Muslim audiences will be to recreate a ‘normal’ Ramadan while creating a Ramadan that speaks to the challenges of the global pandemic.

Shelina Janmohamed

Not your ‘normal’ Ramadan

The tension that faces Muslim audiences will be to recreate a ‘normal’ Ramadan while creating a Ramadan that speaks to the challenges of the global pandemic. This is not just a challenge for individuals and households, but one in which businesses, charities and organisations of all stripes must play an important role. After all, Ramadan effects upwards of 2.8 million Muslims in the UK, 1.8 billion Muslims globally, as well as wider society.

The inclusive nature of Ramadan and eid beyond Muslims must not be forgotten because our communities do not live in silos. And this feels especially true where we speak of living apart but being closer together. Consumers pre-COVID were already speaking about how brands that tackled social division and brought people together were preferred. By stepping up to Ramadan and eid at a time of anxiety, this will be even more true.

Everyone feels in need of an occasion to share in, especially of the kind that has the energy and positivity of Ramada and eid. And in these current times it feels like no-one would want the loss of these occasions.

Brands that step up will be remembered

In the years preceding this one, the month of Ramadan, followed by the festival of Eid, has slowly been coming to the attention of UK marketers, as it should. With a Ramadan economy of over £200 million, it is the third largest occasion of the year after Christmas and Easter.

For any brand that is taking inclusivity seriously, engaging with the UK’s Muslim consumers, officially noted at 2.8 million in the most recent 2011 census, but now potentially up to 4 million people, ought by now to be firmly on its agenda in terms of consumer outreach alongside care for its own Muslim employees. But this year for any brand that isn’t already in motion with a Ramadan and eid strategy, I’d suggest that getting it rapidly onto the agenda is an imperative.

The point is that the brands that step up during this period will be the ones that consumers remember. And brands that genuinely mean it will be remembered the most.

For Muslims, this Ramadan will be hard. It is a month of togetherness and spiritual congregation. Meals are shared, and the long nights are about gathering with friends and family in a transformative way. But with the evening iftar meal now in lockdown, and mosques closed, this will be a Ramadan like no other.

Engaging with Muslim audiences is now an imperative part of any organisation’s diversity and inclusion strategy.

Shelina Janmohamed

Creating a sense of community

The whole month is about community, but when you can’t be together, how do you create a sense of community? This is a question that brands can step up to, offering solutions to a question which leaves many puzzled.

Technology and social media will play an even more important role than ever. It already rises during Ramadan, especially in the late-night hours post iftar. Typically, people are more positive during Ramadan towards brands anyway. So, this is a great time to build on that.

In 2018, Ogilvy commissioned The Great British Ramadan study, the first known study of its kind looking at the UK Muslim experience of Ramadan. We identified six key trends underpinning Ramadan: spirituality, charity, community, health and wellness, food and drink and celebration. This year, these will still hold, however the weighting of each of these will change as will the manifestation of each trend.

There’s already been a rise in charitable initiatives above and beyond the spike typically seen, from donations to food deliveries. Discussions around spirituality talk of finding the ‘true meaning’ of Ramadan. But of course, there are worries when it comes to finances, anxieties about giving children a Ramadan experience, not to mention, nerves can already be on edge when fasting and close proximity at home could exacerbate that. What will food and drink be like when everyone is at home with no respite from children? And will duties be shared equally between men and women? Perhaps the biggest challenge is how celebration will take place for eid, a similar challenge to that already discussed about creating community when you can’t be together.

Demonstrate brand commitment

Brands must therefore think carefully about where they can be of most benefit and support Muslim audiences. To think about delivering the ‘normal’ elements of Ramadan can be one way, relieving the anxieties of the new situation, or finding meaning and new ways to make the most of the current Ramadan.

It is worth adding that engaging with Muslim audiences is now an imperative part of any organisation’s diversity and inclusion strategy, in particular ensuring the organisation is preparing for when lockdown eases so it is in good shape. To demonstrate its commitment and to be in the best possible shape, engaging with Muslim audiences during Ramadan is a key strategic pillar. It’s the opportunity for your brand to make its mark, in a way and at a time that consumers, Muslim and beyond, will always remember.

Guest Author

Shelina Janmohamed, Ogilvy

Vice President, Islamic Marketing,

About

Shelina Janmohamed is the Vice President of Islamic Marketing at Ogilvy. She is the author of Generation M: Young Muslims Changing the World. She has been named as one of the UK’s 100 most powerful Muslim women, and AdAge named her one of Europe’s Twenty Women to Watch.

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