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Understanding the muslim diaspora: a look at VMLY&R's Muslim Intel Lab


By Amit Bapna | Editor-at-large

July 21, 2021 | 5 min read

WPP-owned VML-YR recently launched a lab with a difference for Muslim consumers in Indonesia and Malaysia. Called Muslim Intel Lab, it has been launched to craft targeted solutions for the sizable Muslim population here. The Drum gets behind the Lab and its workings

Diaspora marketing has been growing, as marketers realise that the same cookie-cutter approach cannot work for all consumer categories and even geographies. Each has different needs that are dependent on their market composition and the respective stage of evolution of the consuming class – and marketing strategies must be crafted keeping those realities in mind. This is true across categories, whether personal shopping habits, media channel consumption or social and entertainment preferences.

Statistically, Muslims represent around 85% of Indonesia and 60% of Malaysia’s total population and thus need to be offered customised solutions by brands. According to Kenni Loh, VMLY&R Commerce chief executive officer, Malaysia and Indonesia, “Muslim consumer habits are vast and diverse, due to differing cultures, geography, income and urban/rural living."

The Muslim Intel Lab is a new data and insights hub, with the idea of helping brands to explore and understand the needs, aspirations, and behaviours of Muslim consumers. The Lab will focus on Malaysia and Indonesia Initially, markets that have a sizable Muslim population, and help brands with a stronger understanding of the countries’ 250m strong Islamic communities, across all market segments and Halal product categories.

The time is right to launch Muslim Intel Lab

Muslims in Malaysia and Indonesia are at an interesting stage of change: combining ancient traditions and rituals along with the adoption of new technologies and the digital transformation caused by Covid-19.

Filipe Lampreia, chief strategic officer, VMLY&R Commerce, Malaysia and Indonesia, says, “the merging of these two different forces is forging new ambitions, behaviours and needs. Adding to this, Muslim buying power is significantly increasing gaining the attention of many companies.”

For brands to be relevant to this community, they need to understand these changes, he adds.

With the Muslim community representing 25% of the world population and being present in every continent, there is an opportunity to expand the Lab to other regions, shares Kenni Loh, chief executive officer, VMLY&R Commerce (Malaysia and Indonesia). The goal is to make brands and people connect in ways that are more authentic and meaningful, he adds.

The relevance of community-based marketing

In a fast-changing world, brands need to shift from trying to fit in a market by force, by deploying huge budgets, to a more efficient and natural strategy of fitting the culture, the needs and values of the people. That is where the community-based marketing with its targeted approach becomes relevant, says Filipe.

Gone are the days when a global campaign could be translated into a local language or just changing the image of the key visual to a local physiognomy would be sufficient.

“For global brands to work locally cultural insights need to be understood and applied from the beginning,” adds Filipe. Many major companies are starting to create multicultural departments, that can help global brands, regional brands, or even local brands to understand, engage and connect with people.

Outcome: a better, sharper, creative product

The USP of the Muslim Intel Lab approach, shares Filipe, would be that instead of taking a brand-centric approach, it will take a human-centred approach, based on data and insights around Muslim beliefs, values, lifestyle and shopping across offline and online platforms.

With the Lab, brands will be able to have quality data that lead to unique insights, and opportunities for brands to better connect their messaging across their connected commerce channels, he adds.

How Muslim Intel Lab helped create Carsome’s Hari Raya campaign

Muslim Intel Lab recently launched the ‘Setelus Raya Carsome’ (Make it a transparent/honest Raya with Carsome) campaign for Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand. Carsome is Southeast Asia’s largest integrated car e-commerce platform.

The campaign was created keeping in mind the needs, aspirations, and behaviours of Muslim consumers, while reinforcing Carsome’s brand promises of being ‘hassle free’, providing a service based on ‘honesty,’ ‘trust’ and ‘transparency’.

“A central theme that emerged was around the importance of transparency. That was the connection with Carsome’s purpose of transforming the used car industry, an industry traditionally marred by distrust. Add in a little dose of good old Raya family rivalry, and we have Setelus Raya Carsome!” said Chan Woei Hern, VMLY&R executive creative director, Malaysia and Southeast Asia about the campaign.

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