Marketers Reaching Out to Muslims

Discussion
Apr 30, 2007

By George Anderson

A report by Louise Story in The New York Times says grocers and other marketers are seeking to find ways to reach American Muslims through culturally based advertising.

While hard numbers are not known, some organizations say there are up to 10 million Muslims living in the U.S. These consumers are estimated to spend $170 billion at retail.

A study of Muslim consumers by the advertising agency JWT found that many felt cut off from mainstream advertising. Marian Salzman, executive vice president and chief marketing officer of JWT, told The Times that interview subjects all sought assurances that the call was not coming from the U.S. government before responding.

“I think Muslims have had to draw into themselves. It puts an increased burden on a marketer post-9/11 to say, ‘Look, we understand,'” said Ms. Salzman. The agency includes Johnson & Johnson and Unilever among its clients.

Almas Abbasi, a radiologist in Long Island was among those interviewed by JWT. She said Muslims would welcome the attention of advertisers.
“If Ramadan starts, and you see an ad in the newspaper saying, ‘Happy Ramadan, here’s a special in our store,’ everyone will run to that store,” she told The Times.

Daisy Khan, executive director of the American Society for Muslim Advancement, agreed. “People would flock to it. They would say, ‘I can’t believe I’m being validated by Macy’s. I can’t believe I’m being validated by Whole Foods.'”

Companies in areas with large populations, such as Detroit, have been out front in catering to Muslim consumers. McDonald’s, for example, sells halal chicken. Walgreens, according to The Times, has Arabic signs in store aisles. IKEA, which recently opened in Canton, Mich., has plans to sell decorations for Ramadan and is adding halal meat to its restaurant’s menu.

Besides Detroit, there are a number of other areas around the country with large Muslim populations including New York and Long Island, northern Virginia, Houston, Orange County, Calif. and Georgia.

Discussion Questions: Is it time for marketers to develop messages targeted to American Muslims? Where, if it at all, do you see potential pitfalls following this path? If you see the potential for problems, what will it take to avoid them?

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11 Comments on "Marketers Reaching Out to Muslims"


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Odonna Mathews
Guest
Odonna Mathews
15 years 21 days ago

Yes there are opportunities to reach out to American Muslims. I’d suggest focus groups with consumers and meetings in the community to assess interests and marketing possibilities. And don’t forget to go to your own employees who are Muslim to solicit their ideas as well.

Without a good understanding of this community, mistakes can be easily made which can offend the very group of consumers you are trying to solicit.

Mary Baum
Guest
Mary Baum
15 years 21 days ago
I think targeting Muslim media is a good first step — particularly online and with direct mail, as well as television. There’s probably also satellite radio available. Another logical step: appropriate holiday displays in-store, in neighborhoods with a critical mass of Muslim shoppers, just as stores in neighborhoods with significant Jewish populations have Hanukkah and Passover displays. In fact, I can see many stores having some of those displays side by side at some times of the year — all the better for diversity! Finally, showing Muslims in mainstream advertising is a good idea too — especially showing Muslim women doing normal American things. We currently have a Muslim exchange student staying with us, and she does everything the girls in her class do. That includes singing and dancing in the spring musical — albeit with headscarf, and with modified costume in one of the production numbers — and she went to the prom. In my view, that’s the kind of thing the American public could stand to see more of; that could help defuse… Read more »
Craig Sundstrom
Guest
15 years 21 days ago

The article seems a bit confused: having signs in Arabic caters to people who speak Arabic, not necessarily Muslims (although obviously there is overlap…and underlap).

Anyway, back to the question: I suppose whether targeted marketing makes sense depends largely on what you sell. If you sell house paint, or brake pads, or….whatever… what would you do differently?

And I don’t find “as many as 10 million people” (aka “no more than 2-3% of the population”) to represent a very meaningful demographic.

Janet Dorenkott
Guest
Janet Dorenkott
15 years 21 days ago

Why not market to Muslims? They are a legitimate market and if there is product to be sold to them, let’s sell it. We target specific products to other religions (such as Christmas trees and ornaments to Christians). I think if the market exists and there is a demand, go for it. However, I don’t like the idea of putting ads in Arabic. We already have Spanish and English on most products. If we continue this trend, we will have to accommodate all nationalities and before you know it we’ll have to write “cereal” in English, Spanish, Arabic, Polish, Italian, German, etc. We are living in America and we speak English. If immigrants have no reason to learn our language, they won’t. Lables are already getting too busy to read quickly.

Bill Bishop
Guest
Bill Bishop
15 years 21 days ago

This can be tricky if marketers are using mass media, but it can make a lot of sense if the marketing is targeted. We’re seeing a number of alert marketers in the meat business begin to focus on the Muslim market with some success, which undoubtedly is just an early “straw in the wind.”

Sue Nicholls
Guest
Sue Nicholls
15 years 21 days ago

Understanding the different consumer demographics within different regions allows retailers (and suppliers) to market and merchandise accordingly. If there is a highly populated ethnic area, there is an opportunity to market towards this ethnic group. Retail stores within these ethnic areas should be given the flexibility to merchandise in-store, based on the the needs of these consumers. Overall, it’s a win-win for everyone.

Mark Lilien
Guest
15 years 21 days ago

At one time, marketing to Jews wouldn’t have been popular in America. More recently, marketing to gays and lesbians wouldn’t have been popular. In each of those cases, brands started marketing using ethnic media so that the messages wouldn’t offend the larger audience and to keep the spending cost-effective. Many grocery items are marked with kosher inspection symbols, for example. Coca-Cola, Best Foods, and other major nonethnic mainstream brands started this well before WW II. Broader use of U.S. Halal inspection is likely in the future. So is greater use of Muslim ethnic media, especially Muslim web sites.

Kenneth A. Grady
Guest
Kenneth A. Grady
15 years 21 days ago

Yes, marketers should find ways to reach Muslims but the answer isn’t isolated to Muslims. Muslims form a large and significant group who, like other groups, may present certain opportunities for retailers. However, retailers in general need to focus on presenting opportunities for groups beyond the historical approach to one demographic in America. As the demographics of America continue to evolve such that the former majority gives way to a plurality of populations, retailers should be more sensitive to the needs of all these groups. Within these large groups will be sub-groups lending themselves, eventually, to micro-marketing. To meet the needs of these groups, retailers must improve both their marketing sensitivity and awareness, and the efficiency of their supply chains. Smaller stock positions that turn more rapidly will be necessary.

Jerry Tutunjian
Guest
Jerry Tutunjian
15 years 21 days ago

Until there is peace between the West and the Muslim world (Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Iran, Palestine, etc.), the mass perception of Muslims in the U.S. will continue to be a negative one.

David Biernbaum
Guest
15 years 21 days ago

A The New York Times report says mass marketers are looking to find ways to reach up to an estimated 10 million American Muslims through culturally based advertising. The report estimates that this is a $170 billion market and therefore it makes sense to design and develop products and messages to reach out. That’s what capitalism is all about and it’s the American way. Products and advertisements should be developed in good taste, in a completely ethical manner, and no marketer or retail chain should attempt this project without experts and guidance from within the Muslim business community and the interconnected consumer environment.

Ben Ball
Guest
15 years 21 days ago

We are certainly not experts on marketing to the Muslim community in America. But there has been an increased interest in marketing Muslim brands in the U.S. lately. We have had a couple of inquiries in just the last few months of companies looking to launch here. And they are looking to leverage their traditional brands–not launch new ones. That would indicate that the Middle Eastern community believes there is a sufficient Muslim population to market to here to make it worthwhile.

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