By Souheil Arabi, group chief operating officer, BPG Group
The Holy Month of Ramadan is almost upon us. Families across the region and across the world are busy preparing for a month of praying, fasting, feasting and festivity – and so are marketers, adding frenzied finishing touches to their ad campaigns and blockbuster promotions.
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But in the rush to grab a slice of the massive Ramadan spending surge, many marketing managers and business directors lose sight of a fundamental tenet, perfectly articulated by Peter Drucker: “The purpose of business is to create and keep a customer”. The intense competition in the market forces marketers to prioritise sales above all else, focusing on promotions to win share of wallet in the short run. But are they creating and keeping customers for the long term?
We all know consumer loyalty is not built on pricing and promotion alone, but rather because a brand has successfully created a connection that has resonated with the consumer and nurtured a relationship with them. These connections and relationships are built on beliefs – the consumer believes the story a brand tells about itself, they identify with the image the brand creates around it and they feel that the brand empathises with them and their values.
Ramadan is a perfect reflection of the power of belief, uniting more than a billion Muslims worldwide in a community of faith. For marketers, it should be an opportunity to make an emotional connection with their audiences to build consumer belief in their brand, which can create sustainable, long-term value.
FORCE FOR GOOD
Ramadan is a time of piety and reflection, when community spirit and harmony are heightened. By connecting with these cultural values, brands can create opportunities to forge close connections and change perceptions. International brands are increasingly striving to be ‘glocal’ in their communication and marketing by allying their global appeal with local cultures.
We had worked on the Sharing Fridges initiative, a group of volunteers who put up fridges outside their homes stocked with food and water that labourers could access during Ramadan. It went viral with thousands of volunteers signing up – a classic case for marketing being a force for good.
Too often, brands opt for easy wins during Ramadan with short-term boosts to sales that tactical communication and offers can bring. However, the Holy Month is the time for brands to communicate their higher purpose. After all, consumers remember how a brand made them feel far longer than how much they saved on a purchase.
It takes approximately 21 days to build habits that last a lifetime. Over the 29 to 30 days of Ramadan, brands get a golden opportunity to create new consumer habits and lead change. When done well, special edition Ramadan products and designs can succeed in establishing new seasonal habits and behaviours, not limited to consumption. Increasingly, brands are having to get comfortable with taking a stand and championing causes, to reflect and support their customers’values.
‘US’ NOT ‘THEM’
In keeping up with societal tranformations, marketing during Ramadan is changing not just in its manner but in its audience as well. Our region is incredibly diverse, typified by the multicultural UAE. Cultures, nationalities and ethnicities create a diversity that can often be seen as a hurdle to overcome in mass marketing. But diversity is a strength, not a challenge; an opportunity not adversity.
Traditionally, Ramadan advertising campaigns were targeted solely at the region’s Muslims. But as a marketer, why would you exclude potential customers? Regardless of race, nationality or religion, all residents in the region participate in the Ramadan experience, albeit to different degrees. Many non-Muslims have spent much of their lives immersed in Arab culture and share in the joy of Ramadan. The Holy Month is universally respected and adhered to in the region, so it is a time to target ‘us’ not ‘them’.
Without disregarding audience segmentation, brands need to convey messages that are relevant to their specific targeted segments, allowing them to feel a part of the whole and part of a larger community. Therein lies the challenge.
Ramadan is a time to tell your brand story and not merely a time to sell. Ignoring the emotional resonance of the Holy Month is a surefire way to kill brand value in the long run. By investing in brand storytelling, showing commitment to customer values and being more inclusive during Ramadan, brands will be rewarded by creating and keeping customers for life.