A month ago we were asked about how MNCs are seeking a more effective dialogue with Muslim consumers, the motivation from clients for seeking such specialist advice, and the challenges brands face in communicating positively with this huge market. Here is what we had to say.
What are the biggest challenges facing brands when interacting with Muslim consumers?
Edelman is very interested in developing how we approach authentic and respectful messaging and dialogue with Muslim consumers, not just through our operations in the Middle East but also to Muslim audiences in our key markets such as India, Malaysia and Indonesia. The rise of middle-class disposable income in these countries, and a greater articulated pride in Islam over the last 40 years, has brought a determination on the part of Muslim consumers to assert their wish for halal products. In the past, many may have accepted that convenience foods, for instance, may not be halal, but now they expect to shop with fidelity to their faith. And this is more than just the ingredients in food: halal also refers to actions and relates to packaging and promotional approach.
What do they need from PR agencies in this area (several PR agencies for example have launched dedicated Muslim divisions)?
Outreach to key stakeholders is essential. For as much as governments in the region are increasingly looking at regulation to ensure halal compliance in all processed food manufacturing and QSRs, it is also the consumer who wants reassurance that the products they buy are halal. Halal, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. Just because a manufacturer says their product is halal, does not make it so. Social media, therefore, has a hugely powerful role to play: both to listen to what the consumer wants and also to engage with them to gain acceptance of new products and the way they are marketed.
Is there really a big gap in this area? Should a more solid understanding of the Islamic market be built across PR agencies as standard?
Across our markets with a strong Muslim heritage we are seeing a real sustained growth in demand for Sharia-compliant financial services. This may not be a dedicated division, however, because true halal is not hermetically sealed from other forms of PR: it is holistic and all encompassing. Our Muslim staff in Indonesia for example – many of whom are young and tech-savvy – don’t say “this is the Muslim part of my life, this is the western part.” They have found a route to reconciling and entwining the two together. PR agencies need to make halal a part of their DNA.
The Islamic market in many geographies is part of a multi-cultural mix. As a global firm, Edelman’s focus is on ensuring that we appreciate these nuances in all of our markets. Our clients want support on navigating multi-cultural and multi-faith markets, and we feel we are getting to a point where we can confidently talk about these nuanced approaches across our network.