MLE Connect - the Muslim Lifestyle Sector

The Muslim lifestyle sector
The Muslim lifestyle sector

Today’s MLE Connect event for business professionals focusing on the Global Muslim Lifestyle sectors brought together some of the leading speakers from across the business spectrum...

9.00 - The New Muslim Cool – Shelina Janmohamed, VP Ogilvy Noor

Shelina Janmohamed kicked things off with a look at the ‘New Muslim Cool’. There is a huge opportunity being missed by many companies that are not looking to serve the Muslim community, and there are a variety of ways to tap into it:

• Apple, Android, and Jeep have all featured Muslim women prominently in their ad campaigns, and this alone can have a significant effect

• D&G, UniQlo and Marks and Spencer have all launched fashion lines specifically for Muslim women

• Tesco Nokia and MasterCard have all promoted Ramadan on their products. 

There are 1.6 billion Muslims in the world, and this community has an incredible purchasing power. Interestingly, 2/3 of this community are under 30, making this group disproportionately younger than any other demographic. In fact, 14% of the world is a Muslim under 30 – businesses cannot afford to ignore them.

Wider trends

More than 90% of Muslims say their faith effects their consumption. Businesses should aim to build brands that empathise with the Muslim community and Sharia values – this means either being Sharia friendly, or fully Sharia compliant.

Businesses should decide where they want to be on this scale, but the key point is not to overstate your compliance. Janmohamed introduced the concept of a ‘Muslim Futurist’ – a group that believes in faith and modernity coming together. As a group, they are brand conscious, loyal, tech savvy, and active on social media. They see their faith as a way of improving the community around them – they have a desire to lead a good life, seek out Halal products, which they then consume and believe it is good for purity of body, mind and spirit.

All Halal products should in a sense be contributing towards helping the consumer to lead a better life. There is a sort of hierarchy when it comes to Halal products – Halal food is non-negotiable for most Muslims, it must be fully compliant. Beauty products should also be compliant, but traditionally the view has been that this is harder to achieve/find. Airlines/hotels and travel services have also been typically viewed as a tricky are – but increasingly there is a trend towards providing these Halal services. The size of the opportunity is enormous, and brands are starting to take notice.


• Muslims have a right to consumption – but if businesses cater to that they must be careful about where this could become viewed as exploitation

• Muslim fashion lines need to be conscious of modesty vs. self-expression

• Muslims are likely to be sustainability conscious, so it becomes a matter of consumerism vs. sustainability

• There is a huge diversity of opinion and expression among the Muslim community

10.00 - Tabish Hasan, VEO Muslim Ad Network

Next up to speak was Tabish Hasan, exploring marketing and advertising to Muslims in the digital age.

Digital marketing allows people to maintain connections with larges amounts of people, and there are loads of channels to do this – think social media, SEO, email – and realistically, MEs should be using all of them.

The new digital school of marketing can be very targeted – if you are targeting single, female Muslims, there is the technology that allows you to be this granular. However, you also need to be aware of the pitfalls; Hasan reminded the audience of Tesco’s Ramadan campaign fiasco, which featured smoky bacon flavour crisps, which is now famous thanks to Twitter.

Benefits of online advertising benefits:

  • Speed and access to market
  • Accurate targeting
  • Greater control
  • Customisation
  • Levels the field – smaller budgets can be enough
  • Trackable/measurable
  • Attribution
  • ROI

The 8 golden rules of advertising…

Hasan concluded by saying that the formula for success in the digital age is to focus on strategic goals, know your audience, and find out where they spend their time. From there you can choose a platform and engage with them, but you must never be afraid to make tweaks and modify your strategy as you go.

10.35 – Introducing the world of Global Urban Muslims – Navid Akhtar, CEO Alchemiya

Akhtar began his talk by explaining that Islam is about universal values of goodness and morality – it is not tied to a particular country or culture.

The way Muslims have sometimes been portrayed in recent years, and the subsequent rise in Islamophobia, does not reflect the reality of Islam, or how Muslims see themselves. Content without context is a huge danger of the Information Age, and Akhtar tried to explain the Muslim demographic a little more clearly.

Global Urban Muslims are:

  • Hyper-driven
  • Spiritual
  • Trans-national
  • Early adopters
  • Professionals
  • Young families
  • Educated
  • Middle disposable income
  • Considerate consumers
  • English speakers

The 32-40 bracket of this demographic is largely interested in leisure, holidays, education, arts and crafts, family and community. As they get older, have teenage kids of their own, and enter the 40-55 bracket, they become more interested in health, charity, heritage, and living the ‘dream’.

It is worthwhile noting that this is a community that does not drink alcohol, so in terms of activities there is no call for a separate place for adults and children.

11.30 – Branding and cross-media marketing – PANEL

The panel consisted of Chair Shelina Janmohamed, VP Ogilvy Noor; Tabish Hasan, CEO Muslim Ad Network; Mohammed Ali Harrath, CEO Islam Channel; and Hassan Imtaizi, specialist media manager Human Appeal.

Hasan reminded the audience of the granular nature of online marketing, and said that in America in particular Muslims are typically educated professionals on a middle income. They respond to brands that cater to them, whether that’s in their communications or with targeted products, and are brand loyal and likely to spread the word about their experiences with companies.

Mohammed Ali Harrath highlighted that, since the 90s, the Muslim community has spread more globally. As such, brands should be aware of their global interests.

Ali Harrath also highlighted the trust that the Muslim community place in his particular brand – by targeting the Muslim demographic there is the sense that he has a responsibility to it.

Janmohamed raised the issue of humbleness: Muslims are taught to be humble, but how is it possible to do this is business? While this may be different for charities, it is a necessary burden for most companies.

Concluding the panel, Hasan said that (for the US in particular) to ignore the Muslim sector now is like ignoring the Hispanic sector in the 80s. It’s a growing demographic, and it’s gathering steam.

13.30 – Growing in the competitive Muslim Marketplace

This segment was sponsored by Human Appeal and hosted by its fundraising director, Na’eem Raza.

If you go into business with the sole intention of making money, pack your bags and go home, said Raza. If you’re in it to serve people, then you will also be serving yourself. Ethical trading is a huge part of what Muslim business should be about.

Understanding your audience:

Understanding your marketplace:

Raza’s take home message was about understanding your audience. If you are targeting the Muslim community, it is crucial to realise that not all Muslims are the same. Islam will mean something different to all people, and to treat them as one and categorise them as one lump will be detrimental to your business.