Are Brands Playing It Safe When It Comes To Advertising Around Ramadan?

Are Brands Playing It Safe When It Comes To Advertising Around Ramadan?

Islam is the second-largest religion in Australia with nearly one million people identifying as Muslim. For Muslims, Ramadan – the holy month of fasting – is the biggest religious event in the year.

Despite its importance, we can often see fewer campaigns from brands when we compare it to other religious holidays. B&T spoke to Lou Petrolo, managing partner at Etcom – a multicultural communications agency – to find out how brands can get it right when it comes to Ramadan.

B&T: Coke recently put out an animated video advert for Ramadan in which people could be seen celebrating the end of the fasting period. What did you think of this ad?

Lou Petrolo: Coke has a long history with Ramadan – it’s often the drink of choice that Islamic audiences consume to break the fast (for its caffeine/sugar hit). It is also commonly matched with food at the Iftar dinners, so the ad focusses on the part the brand plays in the most joyful time of day during Ramadan – the evening meal with family and friends. So, in this ad the brand is showing its understanding of its place in the cultural landscape and that it’s confident that it contributes to the celebratory moments followers have during Ramadan. The animation style means that it has broader appeal and talks to everyone that celebrates Ramadan. I think the ad is striking and delivers the message beautifully.

B&T: What are the main issues brands might face when advertising around Ramadan?

LP: Ramadan can be daunting for brands – it’s a holy period and not traditionally commercialised in Australia. Most brands that do engage with audiences during Ramadan tend to ‘play it safe’ by just acknowledging the period. Offers can be considered inappropriate and tailored messaging difficult to get right. The tone of communications has to be respectful and show a real understanding of the communities and how they act during the month.

Also, if brands are not communicating with these communities outside of Ramadan, just engaging during Ramadan can come across as tokenistic or opportunistic. Authenticity and consistency is critical for brands who choose to advertise around Ramadan.

B&T: How can you advertise goods around Ramadan in a way that is authentic and respectful?

LP: Brands need to understand the beliefs, rituals and traditions around Ramadan, so that they can identify the appropriate role they can play in the period. Then they’ll be ablt to make informed decisions to promote the right products and messages through the most effective channels. Understanding these cultural nuances shows respect and empathy which creates authentic connections between brands and audiences. Avoiding overused visual symbols and cliched creative is also essential.

A great example of a brand understanding this audience and reflecting their commitment to Ramadan in both the creative and media choices – Tesco:

And an example where the brand got it badly wrong – Pringles

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