By Keram Mazouzi, client leadership, head of CPG vertical, Mindshare UAE
In the MENA region, a full third of marketing budgets is spent on Ramadan alone.
A month unlike any other for families, friends and communities is also a month unlike any other for brands.
This single period of greatest reach and spend is also the final frontier for collective attention. At no other time do we have this much cross-family and cross-community attention. What we do with it and how well, will leave us better equipped to harness not only attention but relevance and resonance for the other 11 months.
Interestingly, the same forces that disrupt attention the rest of the year – fragmentation, social media evolution and technology – can also make Ramadan even more valuable and a new frontier.
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Marketers know that the impact of a shared experience or event is profound. Higher ad recall and greater engagement, afterlife and word of mouth are all documented effects.
Ramadan is a powerful shared experience and driver of additional shared moments. Spending time with family and friends, watching TV together or sharing other types of content, engaging in community activities all create gold-mine opportunities for brands.
But this isn’t our parents’ Ramadan; nor that of five years ago. Ramadan 2022 showed that 65 per cent of shoppers or observers spend more time watching video content during Ramadan and Eid. Nearly 60 per cent said they felt more connected to a brand after seeing Ramadan or Eid content on Facebook and Instagram. More than 70 per cent said it is easier to complete their Ramadan shopping with personalised gift and product suggestions.
Those are only some of the changes. The popularity of self-curated content, emerging social platforms, the ability to better utilise influencers and digitally place brands post-production into TV shows, movies and other content, are all in play this Ramadan.
Brands are up for the challenge. In Ramadan 2022, the number of advertisers on traditional offline and digital platforms grew by 15 per cent each. Are agencies keeping up?
To succeed during Ramadan 2023 and beyond, brands must lean into audience and attention fragmentation, platform evolution and new tech and ask new questions of themselves and their agencies.
Today’s customers are experimenting even beyond TikTok. Are we ready for that? How good is our segmentation, the first cure for fragmentation? I hope this Ramadan will bring us more content that resonates with each demographic and appeals to their specific needs and preferences, plus content attuned to cultural and regional differences.
Do we account for the diversity of Ramadan experiences: the food experience, content consumption experience, spiritual experience and so on? Relevance is the second cure for fragmentation, and the new platforms and tech tools allow us to be more relevant. But do we use them? Post-production product integration is now possible in the region, for example.
Influencer management is a prime example. This Ramadan, we will certainly see increased investment in influencers, but what’s our response? Our clients are responding to Mindshare’s commitment to performance KPIs – that reach, engagement, content will achieve what we promise – to bring more clarity and transparency and improve impact. How many others are pursuing this vs. the one-size-fits-all approach of previous years?
Let’s not trip over ourselves in the race to the gold mine. During Ramadan, people want brands to be present in a way that enhances their spiritual and emotional experience. What they end up getting is often the opposite: More than half of consumers, according to 2022 global research, feel bombarded by advertising during Ramadan; more than 75 per cent feel brands do not connect emotionally with them; and more than half of Muslims wish brands targeted and understood them better.
According to TikTok, instead of following best practices and planning better, brands are 12 per cent less likely to create significant memorability for their ads during this marvellous season. For those who put in the work, however, ad recall was nearly 30 per cent higher.
Engage and entertain
In a sea of Ramadan content, this is how we will thrive: by being relevant, authentic and focused on the future. Let’s listen and respond to what our consumers and clients want and need, and get a head start on tomorrow.
Where TV has been a Ramadan staple for MENA audiences, for example, we can retain its power as a medium while leveraging its potential as a device. As Connected TV’s profile and popularity soars, this will undoubtedly be a rich new growth vein for both brands and advertisers – a platform reinvented to be more dynamic, more versatile and better suited for future collective attention.
Ramadan 2023 will tell us a lot about the what the future of Ramadan will look like in the region. What brands are doing now pre-Ramadan, their plans for across the four weeks and beyond reflect how much they have learned and are continuing to learn.
This will be the first winter/spring Ramadan post-Covid, which means many more outdoor options and consequently many more creative OOH activations. Let’s use this season as a time to pay attention, to our clients and our consumers, so that we can in turn reap continuous attention.