How Brands Are Marketing To Muslim Women

Chris WrenMay 3, 20183853 min

Brands have been rapidly increasing their outreach to women in general. Whether in products, or portrayals in pop culture, the classic stereotype of the perfect housewife is being shed for something more real-world. Dove’s “Real Beauty” campaign is a great example. Even Mattel rolled out a new line of Barbie dolls in different skin tones and body shapes that aligned more with the expectations of modern audiences.

But, as Shelina Janmohamed observes in an article on Campaign, “Almost instantly [after Mattel released the new Barbies], a young Nigerian Muslim woman set up an Instagram account that shot to popularity with photographs of a fashion line she had created for Hijarbie. Teen Vogue dubbed her ‘the best doll that Barbie forgot to create’”.

According to Pew Research, over a quarter of the world’s population will be Muslim by the year 2050. The current Muslim lifestyle spend is at around $2.6 trillion, and the marketplace for halal products is expected to grow by 6 per cent in the next three years. Research into Muslim attitudes around the world conducted by Ogilvy Noor found the emergence of a segment they call ‘Muslim Futurists’. Defined as people who choose to live a life they feel is both faithful and modern, these ‘futurists’ want the best brands, products and services, but only when it meets the requirements of their faith.

This is especially true in southeast Asia, where a cohort of young, tech-savvy Muslim women is on the rise in countries like Indonesia and Malaysia. A JWT Intelligence trend report called The New Muslimah: Southeast Asia focus, takes a deep dive into this emerging sector. The report finds, “these young women are more cosmopolitan as consumers than older generations of female Muslims and are also more religiously observant. These two trends—more Islamic and more global—are playing out across sectors from food to beauty and fashion to banking to technology to travel, presenting opportunities and challenges to brands.”

Some brands are seeing more opportunity, even if their actions have been met with a backlash. Here’s a few examples from fashion/apparel categories:

  • Nike released a Pro Hijab after working with female athletes who highlighted difficulties of competing wearing a traditional hijab
  • Dolce & Gabbana announced a line of high-end abayas (long cloaks) and shaylas (scarves) for Muslim women in the Middle East.
  • H&M’s corporate social responsibility campaign is about sustainability featuring 60 “rule-breakers”, including a fashionable Muslim woman.
  • Uniqlo announced it was releasing a ‘Lifewear’ range in Malaysia aimed at Muslim women who choose to dress modestly.

Today’s successful brands are letting go of stereotypes. This means breaking with the played-out narrative of oppression so often found in western culture. Being a Muslim woman “is not a binary,” as poet and playwright Nabilah Said says. “there is no definitive choice between a religious life or a secular one. In fact, a lot of Muslim women live somewhere in the middle.”

Also, brands must increase their cultural knowledge if they are to reach this economically powerful audience. An absence of understanding here is creating major opportunities for start-ups and could pose a threat to established brands who haven’t quite come around. Because it is so easy to see through brands that are faking it, having someone from the culture shape the way a brand goes to market and communicate with consumers should be a requirement.

Power is shifting. Sources of value are either filling up or drying up. Be sure your brand is positioned to compete in this changing world.

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