Muslim Futurism and Islamic Branding
Speech by Miles Young at the Inaugural Oxford Global Islamic Branding and Marketing Forum
The world is re-balancing, but it might be fair to say that the business of marketing and branding is only just beginning to acknowledge this, and catch up.
But, numbers talk; and big numbers talk loudly. In fact, it was when we sent out a mailer recently, describing Muslim consumers conservatively as the ‘third one billion’ that the bells started finally to ring in the global HQs of some of our clients. Yes, this is a market bigger than India or China is, and yet it receives a tiny fraction of the attention. And it is not just that the numbers are there, but the value is also. The GDP of the five large Middle Eastern countries is the same size as India, but on a population which is one-third of it. Most global enterprises, whether from the West or the East, have a BRIC strategy, and many are starting to look at N-11 in the same way. 53% of the population of the N-11 are Muslim. Finally, Muslim countries are some of the youngest in the world. There are more than 750 million Muslims under the age of 25, representing 43% of the global Muslim population, and 11% of the world’s.
But the numbers alone do not tell the whole story. From the 1970s on we have witnessed an Islamic Renaissance, perhaps as profound as its European counterpart of the 16th century. The reassertion of thought and culture which this has produced, at a time of technological change, means that this is an active, creative and innovative constituency, and one which is on the move. It is also one which we in the West can learn from.
There are two challenges which Western marketers face when contemplating this opportunity.
The first is that global enterprises still operate within matrix structures in which the primary axis is geographic. However, the Islamic world is a powerful vertical segment which unifies attitudes and behaviours, but not always by geography. This causes significant issues of sponsorship within organisations. Where does the Islamic conscience rest? If I may venture an answer, I suspect it will increasingly be with global product management, another vertical function; whereas, if at all, it lies currently within local markets in product management. In other words, the big transition needs to be from a local/ tactical function to a global/ strategic one.
And the second is the tendency of the marketing and advertising industry to see it as just another interesting segment. In this mindset, it becomes equated with ‘greys’, or the ‘Pink Dollar; or Latinos in the US. Of course, all these are very valid targets for segmentation strategies, but the Islamic opportunity surely differs qualitatively. We are not looking here at a segment which is qualified by one primary difference, be it age, orientation, language or skin colour, and then whether attitudes and behaviour vary from a norm in accordance with that. Rather, we are looking at an alternative norm, one where the starting point is Islamic identity, and everything else fits into it. An American Muslim is a Muslim first and an American second. An American grey is an American first, and grey is a qualifier. In other words, much of the conventional marketing canon, the textbook thinking of Kotler and others, does not really cope intellectually with the Islamic opportunity.
About the Author
Miles Young is global CEO of Ogilvy
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