Muslims, who number about 1.6 billion, are about 20% of the world's population. The population will hit 2.2 billion by 2030, and that doesn't just mean the Middle East, South Asia and Southeast Asia but also in Western nations, where they are growing in numbers.
While many Westerners are perhaps acculturated to thinking of this trend as a threat, it might be better -- at least if one is a marketer -- to consider Muslims as a global consumer base hungry for Western goods and services.
Paul Temporal, an associate fellow at Saïd Business School's Executive Education Centre, University of Oxford, who directs a research and education project, "Islamic Branding and Marketing," said in a report that the global demographic of Islamic consumers offers the potential for growth with relatively little competition. "While many companies are rushing into high-profile regions such as China, India and Brazil, the single biggest market in the world has been largely overlooked."
Temporal, who has just published Islamic Branding and Marketing: Creating a Global Islamic Business, says Muslim consumers have been underserved, and that while Western brands have cachet, many of them are not compliant with Shariah law and are not considered to be Halal.
Pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, comestible goods, beverages and financial products are especially sensitive, but with a strong upside for those who are willing to navigate the cultural/religious labyrinth, he says.
"It is clear that Islam as a religion influences the needs and wants of its followers," he says. "There is the opportunity, therefore, to develop brands that appeal to this global population." He said the global Halal food market is estimated to be worth around $650 billion annually. "Companies like Nestle have been manufacturing many of its brands using Halal processes and securing Halal accreditation to fast-track its growth in Muslim markets."
In 2008, Nestle garnered $5.2 billion in revenue from sales of Halal products and companies like L'Oreal have successfully done the same in personal care and cosmetics directed at the growing middle-class Islamic population, he noted.
Temporal warns, however, that marketing to Muslims doesn't mean ignoring their disparate cultures.
"The Muslim market is not homogenous. Within the Muslim market there are many different forms of consumer behavior that are dependent on a wide range of cultural and religious factors," he says. "Different countries also have different requirements in terms of Halal accreditation -- which complicates things, but despite these differences, successful Islamic products all conform to common Islamic principles and values and Western brands can successfully build upon an understanding of these to grow in these markets.'
Some subsegments that Temporal spotlights: by 2050, over 60% of the world's under-18-year-olds will be Muslim, and the research suggests that while they will want to adhere to Islamic values, they will also be attracted to lifestyle products like fast food, personal care, fashion, cosmetics, media products including social media and digital products.
Also, the double-digit expansion of Islamic finance means more players, "including the big High Street names in consumer finance from around the world. HSBC and Standard Chartered are already developing products for these markets but there is plenty of room for more entrants and for further product innovation. Halal medicines and vaccines are also likely to grow rapidly," he said.