Marketing to Muslims: Islamic Marketing basics

The global halal market, also known as the global Islamic market is said to be worth USD 2.2 trillion in 2019, based on the State of the Global Islamic Economy Report by Dinar Standard. While it’s more than just the national consumption of the many Muslim countries, as the report covers Muslim consumption in Muslim-minority countries, one thing is clear. Marketing to Muslims is now significant enough in terms of size and value to warrant brands, marketers, and marketing academics to have a whole new discipline called Islamic Marketing.

Covering the basics of Islamic Marketing:

What is Islamic Marketing

In a secular culture where religion is treated like as if it is a superstition and should be kept at bay restricted in your personal life. It must not set foot on the shore of public life.  So religion has no say in marketing or science.

However, Islam is a complete way of life, it covers every facet of life including marketing. There are 1.9 billion Muslims around the world, with 50 countries that have Muslim-majority population. That accounts for a quarter of the global population and a quarter of all countries in the world. There are many more Muslims living as minorities in non-Muslim countries, whether as significant minorities or small minorities.

With an abundant number of Muslims around the world, it would be reckless to band together one large group of people into one marketing segment. Differences in languages, culture, practices, level of understanding and practicing the faith are significant enough at the national level let alone at the social demographics and individual levels.

Yet, they do have ONE common theme Halal. They all want a halal lifestyle, halal products and services. Alright this is from the consumers or buyers point of view. But the obligations does not rest of the consumer to seek halal.

The seller also has obligations on themselves to keep to the same standard. If you are a marketer, or seller what is your obligation? How do you ensure that the product you are providing, your marketing method is in line with Islamic principles.

Right now, there is a dire need to re-evaluate, how Muslim marketer markets their product and services. Lets, take the simple example of Forex trading, and day trading marketed as halal investments. The CDS account may be shariah-compliant, but is the act of speculation and trading currency in the futures market halal?

This is not a trivial issue, we are feeding our next generation with income that is obtained from uncertain sources. And we wonder why our children have terrible Adab? Marriages has been broken because of this issue.

ply put, Islamic marketing is marketing to Muslims that are based on the principles of Islamic values. The principles of Islam are derived from firstly, the Quran, and followed by the Sunnah, where Islam encompass every aspect of a believer’s life. Islamic Marketing therefore follows the guidelines of the Shari’ah (Islamic rulings and ethics).

As consumers, Muslims consumer choices are then guided by the Islamic principles. As a way of life, Islam teaches God-consciousness, spirituality, and governs the conducts of individual believers from what’s permissible to eat and drink, clothing restrictions, family values, right up to to the conducts of society for social responsibility and social justice.

In Islam, the basic concept of Halal (permissible) and Haram (forbidden) forms the core of consumption, and the basis of marketing of goods and services, beyond food and drinks.

One does not need to be a Muslim to market to Muslims, and anyone can implement Islamic Marketing regardless of one’s faith. What they need is however to observe the principles of Islamic Marketing.

To market to Muslims, marketers need to be aware of whether their target markets are Islamic markets (typically in Muslim-majority countries), or minority-Muslim markets, and as with international marketing, marketers need to be aware of cultural differences.

What is Halal marketing?

Halal marketing would be a subset of Islamic marketing, as Islamic marketing is the wider, all-encompassing aspect of marketing to Muslims. Halal marketing typically includes marketing in aspects of food and beverage, food outlets, pharmaceuticals, and personal care products where the ingredients make a difference in whether the product is permissible (Halal) or forbidden (Haram).

Halal marketing also includes the certification for Halal where relevant Islamic authorities would certify the product is halal, prepared in accordance with the Shari’ah and does not contain any Haram ingredients (such as pork or alcohol).

Principles of Islamic Marketing

According to Professor Baker Ahmad Alserhan who was the first academic leader in the field of Islamic Marketing, and the first editor of Journal of Islamic Marketing JIMA) and International Journal of Islamic Marketing and Branding has publishedhis framework of theIslamic marketing principles which are also based on the 4 Ps of marketing mix:

Much like any marketing practices, marketing to Muslim customers must also be done in accordance to the 4 Ps of marketing.

  • Product must be Tayyibat (inherently good and brings good after the consumption)
  • Pricing must be just (not exorbitant or too discriminatory)
  • Promotion must be in line with the Shari’ah (Islamic laws).
  • For example, advertisements must not include scantily-dressed women.
  • Place must be that halal goods must not be mixed together with non-halal goods.

Profressor Alserhan, who is based in the Middle East, at the Sumaya University for Technology in Joran, along with other Islamic marketing scholars, have acknowledged that a more comprehensive framework needs to be put forward in the context of Islamic marketing.

The Islamic Marketing Mix

To complete the framework, we suggest to look closer to home of Halalop (Malaysia), where Johari bin Abdullah, a lecturer at University Teknology Mara (UiTM), has published several papers that related the critical factors of Islamic marketing, coined as the 5Cs. His research findings suggest that Muslim customers consider five factors that are critical in conducting the Islamic marketing mix.

These are:

  • commitment – instilling assurance in business dealings via trustworthy marketing activities
  • characteristic – distinctive product design in line with Islamic values
  • conformity – compliance in terms of process involved in creating and delivering the product
  • conscience – ethical dimensions of Islamic marketing
  • customer-centrism – self-explanatory

Unfortunately, the Journal article did not elaborate on the 5 Cs with clear explanation that can be understood in layman’s term. Maybe to them it is self-explanatory but to somebody who owns, a small business regardless whether it is, thriving, growing or just thriving, they may need more explanation.

So to help ordinary people to benefit from their papers, we decided to give the 5 Cs more meat. Bear mind the 5 headings below are not from the academic paper but it is my personal assumptions as a Muslim of what the 5 Cs mean.

The 5 Cs of Islamic or Marketing Mix.

Commitment

Commitment in the Muslim Marketing Mix really means the Seller is reliable and committed in his business dealings. This is demonstrated in their marketing activities which do not overpromised and under deliver. There is so many, businesses that market not their identity, they tend to portray themselves as what they aspire to be. This posed a problem despite their intention is good, they do not yet have the capacity to deliver. So, businesses must market their identity and capacity not what they wish or aspire to be.

Characteristic

Characteristic – It helps if the product design has, distinctive Muslim identity that reassure customer that the product is in line with Islamic principles. This element is so powerful that it can increase your sale exponentially. Simply by highlighting a halal certification can increase your business up to 400%

One example is the Buy Muslim First movement in Malaysia was triggered because this element was manipulated. If you are not a Muslim and want to market to Muslim, make that clear, don’t try to camouflage as Muslim own business. Similarly, if you are Muslim brand, and marketing your product mostly to Muslim you need to accentuate that fact.

Conformity

Conformity – this is where the whole process from farm to fork or raw material to rack is abiding by Islamic principle. In fact there many business and start-up just thrive on this principle alone. Companies like OneAgrix and Verumcode cater to this element.

Non-conformity, which is a standard practice for many businesses, after they were penalised by the consumer even for global brands. It is a top priority even for people who are not Muslims. As for Muslims, whole industry is created because of this element alone. Businesses like the Malakat Mall was fuel by this element of conformity.

Conscience

Conscience, this is the ethical dimension of marketing mix. Conscience the tool use by many charity organisations to collect funds. So much so they can buy advertising space that was only the privilege of MNC. Makes you wonder, where you money goes if you donate to pay for billboards , airplanes tickets for volunteers or buy food for the poor.

Conscience is also the motivations and the success behind many social enterprises. The social impact always, turn buyers and consumers into loyal followers.

Costumer Centric

Customer Centric- In a recent international virtual conference, on of the CEO of a Saudi Company said that halal is no longer enough to secure customer loyalty. Ten years ago simply being halal and having a halal certification is enough to ensure business growth. Today consumers, look for halal and businesses that understand their needs

To put things into perspective of how these bring together, we’d suggest the follow diagram:

The framework provides businesses to conduct their Islamic marketing mix in line with Islamic principles when marketing to Muslims. The more a business is able to satisfy these five elements (the 5Cs), the more likely the Muslim consumers are to have higher customer satisfaction.

Needless to say, every individual differs in their level of faith, and practising of the faith. By segmenting the groups into the different soci0-demographics, AND COMBINE that with their levels of commitment to Islam, businesses would be able to determine how many of the critical factors (the 5Cs) they would need to achieve. Muslim consumers who are openly committed to Islam are to have higher customer satisfaction when businesses complete the 5Cs compared to someone who is less inclined to be committed to Islam.

Islamic Marketing and Branding

When marketing to Muslims, there are many international brands, as well as home-grown Muslim brands that focus on the Muslim consumers.

For example, Kellogg’s Cornflakes would be in the Halal marketing category, where they require a Halal certification that their food product is Halal to Muslim consumers. Yet, in addition to that, they also have Ramadan and Eid seasonal marketing to cater for the food preparations by Muslims in the respective celebratory months and days. A simple recipe series on the back of their cornflakes boxes are sufficiently targeting Muslim consumers.

However, in terms of the 5Cs, they lack the characteristic factor of Islamic marketing.

In contrast, the Islamic marketing by a Muslim company espousing Islamic values via its content for children scores a 5 (of the 5Cs), given that their product is specifically created for the Muslim audience. Omar and Hana, an Islamic-themed children’s animated series, that focuses on instilling Islamic values via its cartoon is scoring high on its customer satisfaction. Currently, with over a billion views on Youtube, its available in Malay, English, and a limited series in Arabic and Urdu, with more requests by parents to be dubbed into Turkish, French, and German.

In addition to these, there are also Muslim-focused marketing and ad agencies that help brands reach their Muslim audience: Muslim Ad Network and Muslim Influencer Network.

In summary, Islamic marketing has grown into its own marketing discipline and should be looked into with further depth.

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