By Puja Pannum, managing director, Blis MENA
Around May 26, Muslims across the world will begin observing Ramadan. During this month, observers will refrain from eating and drinking during the fast in the spirit abstinence and remaining humble.
Ramadan is also seen as a time for people to reconnect with their loved ones. Families will gather before sunrise and after sunset for the morning suhur and the evening meal of iftar. The evening banquet festivals are a time to gather together in a celebration of amity.
During this time, brands marketing in the Middle East & North Africa (MENA) region must think carefully about how to cater to those observing this religious festival. Whether people are buying gifts, shopping for evening meals, or donating to charity in Ramadan’s spirit of giving, it’s a time of changing consumer behaviour and increased advertising spend.
As consumers spend more time at home and on their mobiles, brands would be wise to adopt and tailor campaigns to the values in keeping with the spirit of the season; those of giving, reflection and fellowship.
Recent research from Effective Measure shows that up to 93 percent of Muslims in the MENA region observe Ramadan. But what’s crucial for marketers is understanding what this means for their spending habits. There’s little doubt that spending in the region increases, with 33 percent of men and 20 percent of women agreeing that they tend to spend more money during Ramadan.
Unsurprisingly, the bulk of this additional spending, 54 percent in fact, goes on food and beverages, indicating that people aren’t buying gifts for themselves, but instead generously buying in the hope of putting on delicious feasts for their loved ones. Coupled with this is the fact that people also tend to stay put during the season, with a massive 79 percent saying they won’t be traveling during the the month of Ramadan.
People will be spending their time at home with 33 percent watching live TV as opposed to just 13 percent online suggesting they’ll be exposed to more advertisements than usual. Consumers will also be spending far more time online, with people of all ages saying they’ll be spending more time on social media, using apps such as Facebook and WhatsApp, to connect with their friends and family.
This gives brands the opportunity to craft personalized and localized advertisements in keeping with this consumer behavior and the tone of the season. Advertisers can then deliver these ads with increased mobile activity and TV exposure in mind.
Encouraging consumers to engage in the spirit of the season need not stop with providing for their families. Fundamentally, Ramadan is a time of giving – whether it’s giving up food, giving to those closest to you, or giving back to the community. During the month of Ramadan, Muslims are encouraged to give generously by charities, and marketers should be expected to do the same.
For example, during Ramadan last year, OMO/Comfort conducted their “Share a Touch of Love” campaign to encourage people to donate clothes during Ramadan for a good cause across the UAE. Using location technology and proximity targeting, shoppers were served ads from OMO/Comfort to users when they were at home or close to one of the donation boxes.
Audiences seen in and around malls, residential areas, supermarkets, iftar and suhoor tents were then used to overlay content data to ensure those targeted were in the best frame of mind. Through this, users were encouraged to donate their old clothes to help clothe those less fortunate.
This is just one example of the types of ventures brands can undertake to help inspire the giving spirit during Ramadan.
Ramadan is about abstinence and humility as much as it is about celebration. It’s a time to reconnect and spend time with your family and the wider community, while also giving back to it.
While brands should certainly tailor their marketing campaigns to the needs of those partaking in the annual observance, they should also look beyond this to those who are perhaps unable to buy their goods.
By encouraging people to also give generously, they can help to ensure that more than just their customers have a peaceful Ramadan.