Lisa Mabe is the Founder and Principal of Hewar Social Communications, a consultancy focusing on Muslim and Middle Eastern consumer markets. Follow Lisa on Twitter @LisofArabia or go to www.hewarcommunications.com.
As we’re about to enter America’s largest annual shopping season, Muslim Americans just finished one of their biggest gift-giving seasons themselves – Eid al Adha. Most Americans are accustomed to seeing “Merry Christmas” and “Happy Hanukah” in store windows during this time of year, but what would they think if they saw “Eid Mubarak” in their favorite store? It’s not that far off, and some companies are already reaching out to Muslim consumers around Islamic holidays where gift-giving is prevalent.
From a business perspective, there is money to be made – to the tune of around $200 billion according to several expert analysts. When examined from a sociocultural lens, there also exists a strong yet nuanced benefit. Especially for mainstream brands, creating tailored marketing campaigns to reach Muslim American consumers send a larger, more important message not only to that particular brands’ Muslim consumer segment, but to the general public as well. Moreover is the created belief reinforcing their consumers’ preexisting notion of their acceptance as part of modern American culture and society. Marketing to Muslims has the potential to effectively move the needle both from a sales standpoint and in increasing social awareness and acceptance of Muslim Americans.
By simply acknowledging Muslim Americans, brands begin to immediately forge a relationship – one that is based in part on their implicit embrace of Muslims’ various lifestyles. Earlier this year, Whole Foods acknowledged the opportunity of tapping into the Muslim consumer market when it began stocking the Saffron Road brand, a new set of products that offers the first certified halal, all-natural, 100% vegetable-fed, antibiotic-free and hormone-free frozen Indian entrees. While certainly not limited to those who prefer a halal diet, the product targets the Muslim consumer – and Whole Foods wants to tap into that consumer base as well.
Just a few decades ago, the Jewish American population was in many ways in a very similar position to that of Muslim Americans today. While anti-Semitism remains a reality in the U.S. and around the world, its prevalence was even greater thirty years ago. The rise in popularity of Jewish owned brands and products (i.e. Levi’s Jeans, Calvin Klein, Ralph Lauren, bagels, Hebrew National Hotdogs, etc) was a part of the societal shift that led to an increased acceptance of American Jews. In today’s environment, companies actively targeting the Muslim community may create the potential in positively affecting societal attitudes towards Muslims, just as Jewish products did throughout the Twentieth Century.
Muslim Americans, estimated to be between six and eight million people in the U.S., are a consumer group hungry for brands to acknowledge them and provide products and services that fit into their lifestyle. From food to fashion to finance, “buying Muslim,” a term often used in the marketing industry, is big business. Shopping and consumerism, love it or hate it, are part of America’s cultural fabric, and with an increasing Muslim population in the U.S. it’s about time brands start to recognize this diverse and growing group.
Have you started to see products specifically marketed at Muslim consumers in your own local stores? Will more Muslim products available in mainstream American markets facilitate acceptance of Muslims as genuinely American?