The rama-dos and rama-don'ts of understanding Muslims

In the last few days of Ramadan, businesses in UK Muslim communities will have seen their biggest sales of the year as customers stock up on new outfits, food and gifts before Eid-ul-Fitr - the celebration that marks the end of a month of fasting that took place earlier this week after the moon sighting.

‘Mipsters’ are filling the gap in the market left by large retailers, argues Asad Dhunna
‘Mipsters’ are filling the gap in the market left by large retailers, argues Asad Dhunna

But saris and jewellery flying off the shelves won’t be down to flashy PR campaigns or influencer partnerships – these businesses are trusted by the community because they’re part of the community.

The question on our nil-by-mouth lips: is this seasonal spike in sales something that brands know how to get in on themselves?

Recent estimates indicate the Muslim market in this country is worth £20.5bn a year to retailers, with the Muslim population continuing to be one of the fastest-growing consumer bases in the UK.

But the reality is that most major brands are not only failing to attract the ‘brown pound’, they’re failing to embrace diversity in the first place.

When I looked into this recently, one of the major trends I discovered was how younger Muslims in the UK are increasingly shifting towards more traditional views - while older Muslims are in fact more liberal.

Unlike the mainstream expectations of the younger demographic, it is millennials and Generation Z who seem to be more fastidious than their older counterparts in their daily fasting during Ramadan, their avoidance of alcohol and their opinions on the hijab.

But, perhaps unexpectedly, a significant proportion of Muslims say they don’t drink because they don’t like the taste of alcohol, rather than on religious grounds.

More importantly for brands, the vast majority of those who have tried non-alcoholic alternatives say they like the taste – and herein lies a good example of how brands are missing their chance to engage with Muslim teetotalers.

Many feel that non-alcoholic drinks have too much sugar and need to be tastier. Surely this points to the potential market for healthier, tastier, alcohol-free options?

There’s no point putting a brown family in your advert if everyone behind the campaign is white.

Asad Dhunna, founder of the Unmistakables

Understandably, the majority of Muslims in Britain feel major food and retail brands aren’t providing enough options for them.

While most major brands are trailing behind when it comes to engaging with the Muslim community, we’re seeing ‘Mipsters’ – Muslim millennials – increasingly stepping in to fill the gap in the market.

Good examples of young Muslim entrepreneurship include the recent surge in popularity of dessert cafés as alcohol-free social spaces, and Muslim-owned brands being stocked at major supermarkets.

So why do brands need to pay attention to this?

One reason is that Generation Z is starting to enter the workforce. Alongside Millennials, that’s another cohort of ‘woke’ young people who have grown up fed with cultural empowerment through their mobile phone and are about to gain serious spending power.

Embracing diversity effectively is an art and a science.

To engage with certain communities you need to have the right voices at the table who can point out the nuances for each group.

This is why it’s key for companies to be diverse both inside and out – there’s no point putting a brown family in your advert if everyone behind the campaign is white.

Asad Dhunna is the founder of the Unmistakables

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