She­lina Jan­mo­hamed, au­thor of a new book on young Mus­lim con­sumers, says faith and con­sumerism can work in har­mony if mar­keters drop the stereo­types

Campaign Middle East - - FRONT PAGE - She­lina Jan­mo­hamed is vice- pres­i­dent of Ogilvy Noor

She­lina Jan­mo­hamed’s book in­tro­duces Mus­lim youth mix­ing faith and con­sumerism.

Wel­come to Gen­er­a­tion M: the young Mus­lims who are chang­ing our world.

The num­bers are big. Huge, in fact. Sir Martin Sor­rell, CEO and founder of the WPP group, says this is “one of the 21st cen­tury’s most im­por­tant eco­nomic forces.”

Paul Pol­man, the CEO of Unilever, ex­plains they are “rapidly rep­re­sent­ing 25 per cent of the global pop­u­la­tion” and “de­serve all at­ten­tion and re­spect”.

They’re right. There’s a seg­ment within a global pop­u­la­tion of 1.6 bil­lion whose char­ac­ter­is­tics in­volve be­ing young, liv­ing in some of the fastest grow­ing economies, be­ing in­creas­ingly mid­dle class and be­ing very brand con­scious.

Brands need to pay at­ten­tion to Gen­er­a­tion M.

Gen­er­a­tion M be­lieve faith and moder­nity go hand in hand and that they de­serve the best of both. Con­sump­tion in line with their faith prin­ci­ples is a badge of their iden­tity. They are in­spired by their faith to live a fully en­gaged life with the world around them. They be­lieve to­day’s world can and should make their own faith stronger and bet­ter. They are proud of their faith and see it as a force for pos­i­tive good in their so­ci­eties and the world around them.

They refuse to ac­cept the stereo­types about them. They also refuse to ac­cept the con­straints placed upon them in the name of their re­li­gion. They are in­spired by their faith to ad­dress wider chal­lenges in the world, and they do this in many ways: through re­li­gious de­vo­tion, through char­i­ta­ble works, through the devel­op­ment of arts and cul­ture, through busi­ness and en­ter­prise.

Their youth should be par­tic­u­larly at­trac­tive to busi­nesses: about a third are un­der 15, and nearly two thirds are un­der 30. For Western brands in par­tic­u­lar, seek­ing growth against the back­drop of age­ing pop­u­la­tions and slow global eco­nomic growth, the Mus­lim con­sumer op­por­tu­nity of­fers a fresh space. More than that, Gen­er­a­tion M’s in­flu­ence will reach be­yond just Mus­lims to wider com­mu­ni­ties.

This is a huge cul­tural and so­cial shift at an epic global level, un­der­pinned by pol­i­tics and eco­nom­ics. The sta­tis­tics are cer­tainly eye open­ing – and that’s why it’s such a cru­cial busi­ness story that must be ad­dressed right now.

But for any­one in the cre­ative in­dus­tries look­ing to get to the heart of the shifts, it is about more than num­bers; it’s the hu­man sto­ries we seek, in or­der to build brands and to con­nect. And what a story Gen­er­a­tion M is telling us. There’s a whole new cul­ture in front of our eyes.

Too of­ten, this ris­ing cul­ture and con­sumer group was thought to have been served by putting a ha­lal la­bel on meat prod­ucts or send­ing out an Eid greet­ing.

That’s not even close. Com­mu­ni­cat­ing with this group ef­fec­tively is not as sim­ple as past­ing on a ha­lal la­bel, pho­to­shop­ping a bowl of dates and a pretty lantern onto Ra­madan ad­verts or adorn­ing a poster with cres­cent moons to cel­e­brate Eid. If only.

These young Mus­lims are ac­tively in­censed by both the stereo­types per­pet­u­ated in ad­ver­tis­ing and the lack of so­phis­ti­ca­tion and un­der­stand­ing of a whole new Mus­lim life­style. There’s more. Gen­er­a­tion M con­sumers want en­gage­ment all year round, not just dur­ing Ra­madan.

Their faith af­fects ev­ery­thing. In ear­lier re­search we found that more than 90 per cent of Mus­lims said that their faith af­fects their con­sump­tion in some way. It’s not about re­li­gios­ity or the­ol­ogy, but there is some­thing here that means this life­style is holis­tic across cat­e­gories. It’s what I call the four F’s: food and drink, fi­nance, phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals and health, and fun. Es­ti­mated at more than $2.6 tril­lion glob­ally, with an ad­di­tional $2.6 tril­lion for Is­lamic fi­nance, the ques­tion for brands is: why are they be­ing so slow to re­spond?

In Mus­lim mi­nor­ity coun­tries brands are only just be­gin­ning to re­alise the op­por­tu­nity, but it’s early days. In the UK, L’Oreal this month fea­tured a Mus­lim wo­man as part of a cam­paign. In the US, the iconic New York City street carts The Ha­lal Guys have been taken up for fran­chis­ing across the coun­try. One of Ap­ple’s ad­verts opens with a shot of a wo­man in hi­jab run­ning wear­ing her Ap­ple head­phones. An­droid, Jeep and Coca-Cola have all show­cased Mus­lim women in their ad­verts.

Turn your at­ten­tion to South Asia, and In­done­sia has one of the most vi­brant mar­kets aim­ing at Gen­er­a­tion M Mus­lims. War­dah Cos­met­ics is a lead­ing name in In­done­sia in ha­lal beauty. Ha­lal beer, re­named ‘malt’, is a thing. And Gen­er­a­tion M women like Malaysia’s Yuna, In­done­sia’s hi­jab-wear­ing X-Fac­tor win­ner Fatin Shidqia and fash­ion de­signer Dian Pe­langi, who show­cased in Lon­don and has 4 mil­lion In­sta­gram fol­low­ers, are paving the way for young Mus­lim women to put their case in pub­lic for a change in their terms of en­gage­ment.

Even in the Mid­dle East, where it can be easy to slip into as­sump­tions that the Mus­lim au­di­ence is generic and ho­moge­nous, we can see busi­nesses re­spond­ing. From high fash­ion to ha­lal in­ter­net dat­ing, from eco-mosques to crowd­fund­ing and so­cial en­ter­prises, this seg­ment is alive. Most no­tably, the Dubai gov­ern­ment has an­nounced its

in­ten­tion to be­come the global cap­i­tal of the Is­lamic econ­omy and is nur­tur­ing small busi­nesses to of­fer this in­no­va­tion and so­phis­ti­ca­tion.

Yet de­spite such ex­am­ples of grow­ing suc­cess, some brands ini­tially find it hard to wrap their heads around mar­ket­ing to Gen­er­a­tion M Mus­lims in Mus­lim ma­jor­ity coun­tries.

Un­will­ing to wait or be treated as sec­ond best, these con­sumers are set­ting up their own new busi­nesses, to grow­ing suc­cess. They un­der­stand the tar­get con­sumer and are de­vel­op­ing prod­ucts and com­mu­ni­ca­tions to suit their needs. That’s be­cause not all Mus­lims are Gen­er­a­tion M, and be­cause mar­ket­ing to Gen­er­a­tion M re­quires that deep knowl­edge and ex­e­cu­tion. And this is par­tic­u­larly true for Western brands where sub­tlety and so­phis­ti­ca­tion are par­tic­u­larly re­quired to show to Gen­er­a­tion M that this is about be­com­ing a brand ally and not about ex­ploita­tion.

The dig­i­tal space is their home, of­fer­ing any­thing from high fash­ion to in­ter­net dat­ing to or­ganic cos­met­ics. The in­ter­net has given them ac­cess to wide au­di­ences and the eco­nom­ics of on­line has al­lowed their busi­nesses to flour­ish. And, equally, hav­ing ac­cess in cy­berspace to a vast ar­ray of prod­ucts and ser­vices specif­i­cally tai­lored to their hope to live a full Mus­lim life­style has al­lowed Gen­er­a­tion M to pur­chase these prod­ucts and re­in­force their shared Mus­lim iden­tity.

Gen­er­a­tion M is cre­at­ing a whole new vis­ual look. A new sound­track. A new lan­guage. They are play­ful and hu­mor­ous and aren’t afraid to poke fun at them­selves. This is the case par­tic­u­larly among women.

In fact, if we were go­ing to pick one face of our global fu­ture, she would be a wo­man, ur­ban and dig­i­tally con­nected, and she would be Mus­lim. She is de­ter­min­ing her own life and is busy set­ting her own agenda. Brands need to start re­flect­ing a shift in her life­style in both prod­ucts and com­mu­ni­ca­tions.

There are some in­cred­i­bly in­ter­est­ing ten­sions within Gen­er­a­tion M that brands can use­fully en­gage with, sup­port­ing these new heroes and en­sur­ing they act as a friend and sup­port in liv­ing their cho­sen life­style.

How should they bal­ance the ques­tion of en­joy­ing the good things in life through con­sump­tion, while avoid­ing the pit­falls of con­sumerism? How should they set up busi­nesses, or seek re­sponses from brands while hold­ing back from com­mer­cial­i­sa­tion and ex­ploita­tion? How do you drive pur­chase and pre­mium prod­ucts while avoid­ing ex­trav­a­gance? Or, think­ing specif­i­cally about fash­ion, how do you as­sert the right to self-ex­pres­sion with­out veer­ing into os­ten­ta­tious­ness or im­mod­esty?

These ques­tions be­come in­creas­ingly im­por­tant when we look at their con­ver­gence – and of­ten lead­er­ship of – global trends. Con­sumers more gen­er­ally are seek­ing greater ac­count­abil­ity and trans­parency from brands. They are look­ing for prod­ucts more specif­i­cally tai­lored to their pref­er­ences. And they are think­ing holis­ti­cally about the sup­ply chain – from whether work­ers have been paid fairly to whether com­mu­ni­ca­tions are eth­i­cal to how prod­ucts are re­cy­cled. This cross­over ap­peal is built on the lan­guage of val­ues to cut across dif­fer­ences.

What brands need to do next is to es­ca­late the Mus­lim con­sumer op­por­tu­nity up their list of pri­or­i­ties – but only if they can com­mit to un­der­stand­ing Gen­er­a­tion M and of­fer­ing a so­phis­ti­cated re­sponse. The pay­back will be a seg­ment of con­sumers that is in­creas­ingly af­flu­ent, young and – most im­por­tantly of all – is wait­ing for brands to whom they can of­fer their loy­alty.

“Gen­er­a­tion M is cre­at­ing a whole new vis­ual look. A new sound­track. A new lan­guage. They are play­ful and hu­mor­ous and aren’t afraid to poke fun at them­selves. This is the case par­tic­u­larly among women.”

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