Tapping The Growing Muslim-American Market
When it comes to wooing Muslim Americans, U.S. marketers are pretty oblivious, leaving potential customers to scramble for product information on their own. Are Halal meals at Kentucky Fried Chicken Halal enough? How about Oreos? What's new at Forever 21 that is hot and modest? Is that mutual fund compliant with Shariah investment principles?
But while the universe of advertisers reaching out to these estimated 6 to 8 million Americans has remained pretty small, there are signs of new awareness of this growing demographic. National marketers like Ann Taylor, ESPN, Verizon and U.S. Healthcare are popping up on Web sites like hijabtrendz.com or chillyoislamyou.com, as well as in niche publications. And Hallmark sells Eid cards, to help celebrate the holiday marking the end of Ramadan.
"Best Buy even included the phrase 'Happy Eid' in a holiday flyer that also mentioned Christmas and Hanukkah last year," S. Saad Ahmed, director of sales and strategy for the Los Angeles-based Muslim Ad Network, tells Marketing Daily, "which was definitely a kind of olive branch to Muslim Americans."
"Companies like Staples and HSBC are also reaching out to this market, which is worth about $200 billion," Lisa Mabe, principal of Hewar Social Communications, a digital marketing agency in Washington D.C., tells Marketing Daily. And any effort to connect with them -- not even with overt Islamic messaging, but just little touches like including people who look like they might be Muslim -- is appreciated, she says.
"When companies target the Muslim community in their marketing communications, we see them flock to engage with that brand -- not only to purchase its products, but to become loyal brand advocates."
But marketing to such a diverse group can be tricky, she concedes. While many are recent immigrants and of Middle Eastern descent, others are natives of cities like Washington, D.C.; Dearborn, Mich.; Houston; Los Angeles; Columbus, Ohio; and Boston; many are African-Americans. Some are religious and traditional, others are secular.
And a Muslim's decision-making process is often different. Research shows that Muslims are less influenced by price and value when compared to other American consumer groups, and are also keener on brand names. Their shopping behavior is more gender-specific; over one-third of Muslim men say their wives buy their clothes, compared with just 18% of the general population."
Ahmed agrees that details are important. "For a communications company, for example, someone offering calling plans that are specific to Egypt would want to use Egyptian Arabic," he says, "but in a more general sense, it might mention Eid -- that holiday means it's time to call back home to Muslims of any nationality."
For now, Ahmed says, the Muslim Ad Network is focused on reaching out to as many Muslim-owned companies as it can -- encouraging them to advertise in publications and sites it represents, which currently generate about 100 million page views per month. Then, he says, it plans to start selling more extensively to non-Muslim companies, which are less aware of how valuable their brands might be to a Muslim audience.
Food is a major example, he says. "While the Halal market is roughly equivalent to the $200 billion Kosher market, there are no big brands reaching out to them," he says. ConAgra's LaChoy products -- which are soy- rather than alcohol-based -- or Tom's of Maine alcohol-free mouthwash, are examples of products that are prime for a Muslim ad effort. "These brands are already kosher and Halal, so it's just about letting people know."