A higher calling – growth opportunities in Islamic marketing
Head of Strategy
Islam is the fastest-growing religion in the world. But to connect with Muslim consumers, brands need to adopt an Islamic marketing approach shaped as much by local culture as it is by faith, as culture and religion combine to influence the attitudes and spending habits of Indonesian Muslim consumers.
The Indonesian consumer market is currently valued at a staggering US$2.1 trillion, and that’s growing by $500 billion a year. This has created a huge opportunity for global brands willing to adopt an Islamic marketing approach in this market.
Very simply, Islamic marketing is designed to be empathetic to Shariah law, which governs, or at least informs, every aspect of a Muslim’s life.
Indonesia is generally considered a liberal Muslim country. Muslims here are predominantly Sunni, except in Aceh, and other sects worship freely.
What’s clear is that consumers in Indonesia are becoming increasingly influenced by their faith.
Three trends stand out:
1. More people are choosing halal
The halal foods industry in Indonesia is valued at $500 billion and growing. Consumers are always on the lookout for the latest halal restaurants and eateries. Bloggers such as Halal Corner provide consumers with real-time updates about restaurants with halal certification.
In beauty care, Wardah, an Indonesian-based cosmetics company, has had great success with an “always-on” halal communication regarding premium beauty care. Wardah’s visuals always include hijab- and non-hijab wearers, emphasizing that the brand is for all Muslims – however strictly they observe – and everyone else, too.
This message of inclusivity is important in Indonesia, which reflects its collective culture. As MediaCom’s Cultural Connections study tells us, Indonesia is a “We” not “Me” country.
2. Islamic fashion has gone mainstream
Events like Jakarta Islamic Fashion Week are growing every year, while movies big on Islamic sentiment are increasingly popular. In 2016, the nation’s top three online search queries were: “Religion”, “Cantik-Islam” (being beautiful), and “fashion” (baju, busana).
Brands have reacted to the growing demand for Islamic fashion in different ways. Some digital platforms, like branded YouTube channels, now have special tabbed sections for hijab tutorials...
There’s also a demand for Islamic fashion online. HIJUP, launched in 2011, is known as the world’s preeminent e-commerce platform for Islamic modest fashion. It was one of the first Muslim lifestyle companies to receive funding from global investors.
3. More people are investing in Islamic finance
Global Islamic banking assets are currently valued at more than $1.1 trillion and growing at 18 percent year-on-year. But while Islamic finance was introduced in Indonesia more than two decades ago, it’s still only a small part of the overall banking system.
Indonesian Islamic banks hold roughly 5 percent of total banking assets, compared to more than 20 percent in neighboring Malaysia, and about a third of total banking assets in several Gulf countries.
In recent years, however, the Indonesian government has launched a national plan to develop its Islamic finance industry via two key initiatives: lending support to more charity projects, and offering interest-free savings options for people planning a Hajj pilgrimage.
Adopting an always-on approach
The surge in advertising that always accompanies Ramadan has gone digital. Many brands are using the new communication framework to generate social conversation around faith-related issue. Unilever’s 1001 Inspirasi Ramahan Hub portal and P&G’s #maafIbu music video are just a couple of examples.
But successful Islamic marketing needs to go beyond key calendar dates. Just as adherents practise their faith every day of the year, brands need to be “always on”. Brands doing this well include Persil, Pril and The Body Shop, which feature immediately identifiable Muslim consumers in their campaigns. Going one step further, haircare brand Sunsilk has launched a shampoo into Indonesia specifically targeted at hijab wearers. It now speaks credibly to Muslims all year round.
Lessons that work across borders
In Indonesia, making sure your products are acceptable to an Islamic audience isn’t just a “nice to do” any more; it’s a “must do”. The first step for brands embarking on this journey is to research current interests and conversations around faith. They also need to map out where their brand is missing opportunities, and where it might play a positive role.
While Shariah law isn’t enforced across the whole of Indonesia, the global brands that are growing here are those that have adapted their messages to conform in some way.
The most compliant brands are also giving themselves a chance to extend their messages beyond Indonesia into other predominantly Muslim territories. But to work elsewhere, of course, they will need to be sensitive to the specific beliefs and behaviours of Muslims in those target markets.
Thanks to Irsyad Iryenal, Senior Planner, MediaCom Indonesia, and Siska Agusriani, Planning Manager, MediaCom Indonesia, for additional input.