Islamic audiences have long felt ignored by brands in the western world, with perspectives no doubt inflamed by media and politics. There are opportunities for brands that choose to engage with Muslim audiences.

Read the full research paper here.

Eid is just around the corner, Muslim cash is ready to be spent, yet there’s a feeling that marketers in the UK and wider western world have failed to prepare for the celebrations. Marketing to specific religions is a contentious topic for most brands. And most mainstream media outlets often paint Islam in an unfavourable light. So it’s not surprising that so many marketers would rather settle for the easy life.

In the UK, where Muslim consumers spent a cool £20.5bn in 2011 alone (measured at the last census, a value most likely to have vastly grown since), that’s a fairly big problem to willingly ignore.

Islam is the world’s fastest-growing religion, with Pew Research forecasting it to grow from 1.9 billion followers today, to over three billion by 2060.

And with volume comes spending power.

Even during the pandemic, Muslims globally spent a collective US$2.2tn in 2021, which is set to grow an additional 9.1% in 2022, and potentially reach over US$2.8tn by 2025. In the UK alone, a phenomenal 5.2% of UK spending comes from just 3% of the UK population, and Muslims remain the fastest-growing demographic.

A snapshot of younger western Muslims shows that they’re ambitious and career-focused, tech-savvy, self-empowered and youthful. Like others their age, they respond better to those who represent them, specifically by the values they choose to live by.

As such, we’ve seen a rise of celebrities and influencers – from Bella and Gigi Hadid, to Riz Ahmed and Hasan Minhaj, and even shows such as Marvel’s “Ms. Marvel” on Disney+ – all becoming more vocal about the role Islam plays in their lives. Every communication they make is considered and designed for their audiences, building a stronger following in doing so.

Addressing their needs

One of the key factors in driving that consumer spend comes from the subcategories that have evolved to meet the needs of Islamic living. Halal food, modest fashion, Muslim-friendly travel, beauty and cosmetics, financial services and dating apps are all relatively new in servicing the needs of this audience. Yet here too, western brands are failing to address the needs of Muslim customers properly.

But there are opportunities for brands to take the lead. Take the non-alcoholic beers and spirits category, for example. Where brands like H&M and ASOS stepped in to make modest fashion mainstream, imagine a brand like Diageo’s Seedlip started seeking out and sponsoring a Muslim mixologist to host Muslim-focused events and tastings.

A little curation, some drinks know-how and flavour blending can go a long way in helping bring the Halal experience home – and win the minds of a youthful segment who thrive in status and novelty.

Change the approach, not the brand

From a media perspective, there’s an easy solution: understand trending topics and their relationship to Islamic culture, build audience profiles around interests, contexts and channels, and use data to understand intent.

Looking at our own studies into how Muslim audiences absorb and respond to physical and digital spaces and media, we see an interesting story develop.

According to TGI data, while Muslims consume media on par with the wider UK public, particular channels – outdoor, cinema, radio and online – are far more persuasive in influencing purchase behaviour, with out-of-home in particular just under three times more persuasive among Muslim audiences than the general population. By breaking down those channels, we can establish a clear role for advertising.

Taking those channels into account, we can chase a high-volume, richer-quality reach.

Capturing attention online

The biggest area of interest is undoubtedly online, where Muslims index higher in time spent across multiple activities than the UK’s general population. Audio in particular shows Muslim audiences spend 1.5 times more listening to podcasts and music streaming than the general population in the UK. Likewise, Muslims tend to use Instagram more than non-Muslim audiences, at 63% to 35%, respectively.

Muslim influencers have rushed to embrace the visual platforms – Instagram, TikTok, Snapchat, YouTube – knowing that there’s an audience who’s looking to find voices like theirs.

But it’s not just about following influencers. Digging even further into our data, we see Muslim audiences over-reach into almost every aspect of modern culture – looking for inspiration and ways to stand out among their contemporaries.

For marketers, rather than building an online approach from the ground up, teaming with a media partner who specialises in reaching Muslim audiences can benefit brands wanting to be present to those spaces. You’ll already recognise news brands leading the conversations, such as Al Jazeera, The Independent, Metro and the Evening Standard. There are also more focused platforms, such as 5 Pillars and The Muslim Network.

Another such partner, Amaliah, which focuses on amplifying the voices of Muslim women, acts as both an online publication and consultancy that advices brands on how to bridge the gap – and has successfully worked with brands such as Dove, Uber Eats, Lloyds Bank and Next.

Is it too late to join the conversation?

Despite major commercial moments for Muslims having passed for 2022, there are plenty of advantages for brands to start approaching this audience now. If anything, brands should use the time between now and next Ramadan to build salience and familiarity among Muslim audiences, readying themselves to capture demand when necessity strikes.

By laying the foundations of communications throughout the year, placing products or brands as solutions to the changes and challenges Muslims want to overcome, it becomes hard to lose in the long-term – specifically when Ramadan and the two Eids return next year.

And when, according to Ogilvy’s ‘Great British Ramadan Report 2021’, UK Muslims spent an estimated £200m on goods in one month of Ramadan alone, top of mind brands win first and most.

My advice? Maybe it’s time to say ‘Bismillah’, and make a start from there.