Marketing to young Muslims: how brands are waking up to this change-making consumer group

Orly and MuslimGirl.com collaborated on the recent #HalalNails campaign

The Halal cosmetics market is forecast to be worth $58.4bn by 2025, and it is younger Muslim consumers driving this growth, according to new research published by Credence.

This will come as no surprise to Shelina Janmohamed, vice-president of Islamic branding agency Ogilvy Noor, who describes this savvy, affluent, demographic of Muslim millennials as ‘Generation M’ in her recent book. The latest issue of The Drum investigated this change-making group which is all too often overlooked by the world’s biggest brands.

“Generation M is a particular segment within the wider global Muslim population. One key defining characteristic is that they believe faith and modernity go hand in hand. They don’t see any contradiction between the two, in fact they’re complementary; their faith makes the world a better place,” Janmohamed told The Drum.

According to research conducted by Ogilvy Noor, over 90% of Muslims said that their religion affects their consumption habits. However, many feel shortchanged by the quality of marketing and products aimed at them in comparison with other consumer groups.

“Muslim consumers actually want to see themselves reflected on the high street, on shop floors and in supermarket aisles. It’s actually a wider question about how we can include and involve different kinds of audiences. The fact it’s a faith audience that spans across different ethnicities makes it quite an interesting challenge for a business to engage with,” Janmohamed explained.

Although many global brands have been slow to enter the Islamic market, some are making significant strides, particularly in the realm of modest fashion. A notable example is UK retailer Marks and Spencer’s line of burkinis, that launched in 2016 which quickly sold out, despite sparking criticism in the press and on social media.

Meanwhile, Nike Middle East worked with Wieden + Kennedy on its recent 'What will they say about you?' campaign featuring five successful female athletes cherry picked by the sportswear giant from a range of fields. The bold creative aims to challenge stereotypes about Middle Eastern women and sport. A subtitled version of the colourful film was shared by the brand on Twitter, with women from a range of fields including Parkour trainer Amal Mourad, boxer Arifa Bseiso, singer Balqees Fathi and boxer Arifa Bseiso showcasing their skills.

Although this is positive progress, according to blogger Nabiilabee, it’s crucial that these companies “have an authentic conversation with the modest fashion consumer and more importantly they need to work in partnership with the communities who know exactly what the needs are for young Muslim women.”

Indeed, authenticity is key. Nabiilabee recalled her excitement at seeing mainstream brands such as Mango and DKNY launch Ramadan collections but noticed the dresses and skirts had large slits in them and the arms were short sleeved or sheer: “I found this disappointing. Something that has been clearly marketed towards the Muslim consumer is not fit for purpose. There has to be an authentic engagement with the needs of the consumer. A one size fits all approach and marketed towards modest dressing Muslims unfortunately will fall short of the mark.”

According to the State of the Global Islamic Economy Report, a study from Thomson Reuters, ‘the global Islamic economy has a potential bigger than every country in the world except China and the United States.’ The question lies in how global brands can reflect faith and modernity in their proposition. But so long as powerful brands perpetuate Islamic invisibility both internally and externally, the rest of the world risks losing out on being a part of this pioneering population.

The cover of The Drum's August issue

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Robyn Darbyshire

Robyn Darbyshire is a content editor at The Drum, writing and editing across print and digital editions as well as helping to manage production processes. She looks after Creative Works, Trending and Shelf Life in the magazine.

All by Robyn