I just returned from the American Muslim Conference in New Jersey. It’s the first one and so I must commend them on an excellent job. Like many market segments such as African Americans, gay/lesbians or Hispanic marketing they started out small and fragmented but grew strong and profitable. The American Muslim community is beginning that process. First they must define who they are.
Did you know that Hispanics are the fastest growing part of American Muslim population? It is so diverse from an ethnic point of view and yet we think of Muslims as being from Middle Eastern countries.
From a religious angle I strongly identified with the balance between living your beliefs and fitting into society. It’s interesting and inspiring to see the passion and strong desire in many to live their faith in everyday life. It’s certainly much more challenging for them than it is for me! It was nice to not be the only one who does not drink. I also liked the emphasis on healthy eating (great food).
According to the Pew Foundation, the more someone gets to know Muslims the more they view them favorably (from Rafi Shikoh of Dinar Standard). I felt many times I needed a guide to the sayings and culture (or even how to pronounce unfamiliar names) and that I needed to get to know Muslims better myself. There is not a strong community of Muslims in Utah (that I know of) or anywhere I’ve lived.
Is this faith-based marketing? Cultural marketing? Socially responsible marketing? All of the above? I’m not sure.
How can you advertise to Muslims? There is an ad network: www.muslimadnetwork.com and a social network called Muxlim that is based in Finland and is doing deals with big brands around the globe. Interestingly they got VC funding from investors in Sweden. They plan to expand into other niche content on mobile phones, television, etc.
Issues facing advertisers:
- The market is fragmented, non centralized
- There is a lack of major nationwide brands (still a very entrepreneurial community)
- Some brands may not fit — some Muslims are very selective about the products they are open to. For example, some are not open to highly processed foods or soft drinks.
- Their dietary laws are very specific and different from mainstream society.
- I enjoyed the parallels with socially responsible business practices where many dimensions are considered. For example, there is common ground with vegetarians, those concerned about high food prep standards, the environmental movement, healthy eating, etc. I thought that a business like Niman Ranch natural beef could easily reach this community (they have a gluten-free line and could have a Halal line also). Then they could advertise on a site like this site about Halal food that gets 1 million hits/month & yet no ads.
- To pitch Muslims online, target specific Muslim terms (Halal, holiday names, wudu, financial terms, etc) in content (news, ads, press releases).
- There is quite a large presence of Muslims on social networking sites like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. This makes a strong test market where marketers can engage with the community, ask questions and build trust. So for example, if Niman Ranch decided to release that new line, they could tell Facebook Groups such as I [heart] Allah a group with over 800,000 members. They could partner with brands like Cresent Foods that concentrates on Halal chicken but wants to get into beef products. Both want restaurants to carry their lines.
- The community is open to marketing messages and engagement and this to me is the most interesting. Why do Muslims welcome advertising targeted at them? Because to be marketed to is a form of acceptance, marketing is part of the fabric of our society. So when we specifically market to Muslims it’s a signal that they are part of the mainstream rather than feared, misunderstood, marginalized, etc.
Please forgive and correct me in the comments if I got any of these facts wrong. Most of the time I was taking in the scene and not reporting on it and this is a market that I knew almost nothing about. Thank you for inviting me to be your guest today.