By Tahaab Rais
Ramadan matters because it embodies values that help make people better versions of themselves, such as generosity, togetherness, empathy, kindness, giving, food and family-time, among others. Christmas matters too because it too embodies those great values too. Both occasions should be famous around the world and should be celebrated by everyone.
Christmas has more searches than Ramadan and more social media mentions than Ramadan. I get more people, from abroad, wishing me “Merry Christmas” than I observe people wishing me “Ramadan Mubarak”. And a considerable factor behind this success and word-of-mouth around the occasion of Christmas is the communication, the content, the marketing and advertising around that occasion of Christmas over the years.
So, Ramadan has a lot to learn about marketing and advertising from Christmas. But, watching advertising around and during Ramadan every year, I can’t help but feel we are not doing enough for Ramadan, as the communications community in the Middle East – a region that should be the flag-bearer for Ramadan.
From Christmas Trees to Santa Claus to Rudolph to Greeting Cards and Christmas Gifts to some of the most quintessential Christmas decorations, marketing and business has shaped how we experience Christmas. While people are often all too eager to blame corporations for ruining Christmas, the truth is that they didn’t – they made Christmas. Looking at the history and the timeline of Christmas in America reveals just how much marketing and advertising can impact our culture.
The story that Montgomery Ward told about Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer, as well as the stories Coca-Cola told us about Santa Claus, have touched people’s hearts in dramatic and lasting ways. And more subtle forms of brand building, such as the merchandising and displays in department stores, helped shape the archetype of Christmas that Americans from the Victorian Era told themselves as they redefined today’s version of the holiday. This continues today in the most popular Christmas ads and marketing efforts. Opportunities to tell Christmas stories persist. Even non-Christians can understand and apply the principles of hope, love, forgiveness and goodwill to all mankind.
We need to wake the world up to Ramadan.
Ramadan needs our creative brilliance (beyond what we do in or for our respective markets). I love the songs and meaningful messages we send out in our markets. But, it should not be enough to tell stories about our brands in Ramadan or in our markets. We need to tell stories about Ramadan to the world. To us, it should not just be about marketing better in Ramadan. We should think about marketing Ramadan better to the world.
So, when we worked with Almosafer, a leading omni-channel travel brand from Saudi Arabia on its latest Ramadan campaign, we wanted to send a message about Ramadan, during Ramadan, like never before. In highlighting its inclusiveness by taking Ramadan – that Ramadan was for everyone – to an unexpected place and person, we wanted to send a message carrying the values and the true spirit of Ramadan from the Middle East to the world,
The film starts with the child planning her journey to meet someone very specific, setting off post Iftar (the breaking of the fast) at night, starting her Suhour (the opening of the fast pre-dawn) with a meal and dates on a flight, travelling across continents and finally, reaching her destination in a surprising reveal. The original soundtrack, released in English and Arabic, has been composed by teams of different faiths too, living up to the spirit of the core creative idea.
Strategically launched during the last 10 days of Ramadan to not just avoid the clutter of Ramadan but to also demonstrate that the spirit of Ramadan should last beyond, even if the month itself comes to an end, the film has been ranked #1 on The Drum worldwide, it has been touted as one of the best Ramadan ads of all time across social media, and in several countries around the world Importantly, it has been very positively received across our region too.
So, here’s to more meaningful stories about Ramadan that we can feel proud to share with the world.
The English film “As far as we go”:
Tahaab Rais is the Regional Head of Strategy & Truth Central, FP7 McCann MENAT.
Opinions expressed in this article belong to the author.