Connect with authenticity this Ramadan – by Assembly’s Bryony Carpenter

By Bryony Carpenter, Planning and Strategy Lead at Assembly MENA

The Holy month of Ramadan is one of the most significant religious moments for the MENA region, and not to mention globally for 1.9 billion Muslim observers of the holiday. While people focus on their faith and embody the spirit of Ramadan, it’s also a key period for brands to make their mark on consumers.  Assembly MENA’s Strategy Lead Bryony Carpenter breaks down the latest trends in the region.

After an excess of lantern-themed promotions over the years and sometimes the over commercialisation of the holy month, we’re now coming back full circle to the core of what this month means to so many; a time to connect with loved ones, to look inwards in strengthening faith and giving back. But how can brands ensure they don’t miss the mark to connect more authentically with consumers this Ramadan?

We’ve got four core emerging themes for Ramadan 2023 that brands should focus on to maintain this connection with consumers.

#1 Timing is everything: Understanding consumer behaviour during these 4 weeks

Ramadan has multiple phases, so it’s important to consider each of these phases and tailor your messaging based on the topics of interests. For example, the first half of Ramadan tends to be more spiritual, with prayers and charity at the forefront of many people’s minds. This is where brands can connect with their audiences in a less commercial way. Whereas in the latter half of the month, people begin to think about Eid and celebrating, therefore there is usually more consumption and gift-buying in preparation for Eid. Understanding the consumer journey throughout the month will allow for more concise planning of when to ensure that your creative is in the right place, at the right time.

Brands can tap into their audience insights by launching campaigns ahead of competitors to collect audiences that can be used at a later stage, an example would be to use the same audience in an Eid campaign following Ramadan. To take it even further, campaigns from the previous Ramadan should be cross-checked and audiences re-used, this works especially well when product-specific retail brands can leverage previous best-sellers.

#2 A mobile first strategy with focus on video + creator collabs

In parts of MENA and most of the GCC, working hours are amended to support fasting during the holy month, this naturally makes way for more screen time. Which brings us to our second theme.

It’s no secret that to get people’s attention in today’s digital landscape, being present on mobile is key. With 75 per cent of MENA internet users being on a smartphone, optimising for mobile cannot be ignored! Brands should look to create ads and content with a mobile-first approach, keeping in mind peoples modified daily routines during Ramadan and striking when most relevant.

Given that people are seeking more authenticity and connection than ever, one of the most promising ways to achieve this is through video content. In MENA, people typically spend 63 per cent more time watching videos than any other time during the year. This more digestible form of content is well-received in the region, especially during Ramadan and as a way for people to connect with one another through sharing relevant ads or tapping into key cultural moments throughout a typical day for many in this month.

As an extension of video content, live streaming and gaming content has seen a massive uptick in viewership. Brands are live streaming behind the scenes of their Ramadan campaigns and product reveals as an additional way to connect with their audiences. And yes, gamers are a community brands will want to tap into as MENA is on track to outgrow Europe’s 386 million strong community in it’s estimated players: currently at 377 million.

Finally, creators are making core connections with their audiences. 83 per cent of Gen Z in Saudi Arabia, 61 per cent in the UAE and 86 per cent in Egypt are following celebrities and content creators on YouTube alone. Brands in MENA already leverage this throughout the year, so Ramadan is certainly no different and is the perfect time to use content creators to boost your campaigns.

#3 It’s time to tap into tech: AI/VR’s role in Ramadan

Thanks to brands like Snap, virtual reality has made a splash in the region after last year’s entry to the virtual mall experience, allowing consumers to bridge the gap between the digital and physical world. For many retailers in MENA, this is yet another opportunity to connect with consumers during Ramadan and leverage the extra mobile-use. We expect to see a resurgence in this tech for Ramadan 2023.

Tech is there to be leveraged, Assembly’s official POV still stands; brands should use generative AI along with human assistance in order to generate the best output. This will help brands create highly personalized content and experiences for consumers during Ramadan and take the load off teams. Know your target audience better and tailor your messages to what resonates with them.

#4 Community + connection

Ramadan has and always will be centred around family. With more content highlighting the importance of familial bonds and traditions, themes such as gathering generations to the same iftar table are still prevalent. Content that embodies these prominent moments in an authentic way are likely to beat through the noise.

Charity is also incredibly important, Ramadan is about giving back and with more audiences, such as Gen Z looking to make a difference now more than ever, highlighting this aspect of the holiday is sure to resonate. With so much change happening in the world, people crave stability and familiarity, leading to a return to tradition. So, content that celebrates traditional values and customs is a hit.

These are some trends to keep in mind for Ramadan advertising in 2023. By understanding what audiences are looking for and creating content that resonates, brands can connect with Ramadan audiences in new and meaningful ways.