In less than a month, around 1.9 billion Muslims from all over the world will be observing the holy month of Ramadan - a blessed month of fasting, prayer, reflection and community.
What's Ramadan all about?
Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, which begins with the appearance of the crescent moon. The purpose of this month isn’t to starve oneself from dawn to dusk. Similar to the Christian season of Lent, it is a month that symbolizes a human being's self-restraint and abstinence from wrong-doing. Refraining from food and drinks is just the surface level interpretation of Ramadan, as Muslims use this time to get in touch with their faith and set spiritual goals that they want to reach before the end of the month. Engaging in immoral behavior throughout this month is highly prohibited, as it results in the breakage of one’s fast.
A typical day in Ramadan starts with Suhoor [Suhūr/Sahrī], which is the meal eaten before dawn. Many recognize Suhoor as the most important element of a successful fast, as it is the perfect time to provide your body with a well-balanced meal that is packed with nutrients and energy to sustain you throughout your fast. All around the world, Muslim families gather around the kitchen for one last meal to nourish their bodies before beginning their fast. It’s a time of joy, as the thrill of putting together an impromptu breakfast under a countdown is what many recount as their favorite memories of the holy month. Some family members are eager to indulge in their last meal, whilst others are drowsily dozing off over their plate. The call to the Fajr prayer signifies the beginning of your fasting period, which means – no more eating and drinking. Depending on the timezone and country, an average fasting period lasts anywhere between 10 to 19 hours. Just because Muslims are abstaining from food or water doesn’t mean they can’t go on about their daily schedules. In fact, they are encouraged to as it is the true test of their self-restraint.
The end of one’s fast corresponds with the start of one’s fast – through the call to prayer. Out of the 5 obligatory prayers, Maghrib (the fourth), otherwise known as the sunset prayer – is the key signifier for Muslims all over the world to break their fast with Iftar (the evening meal). The community element is solidified during Iftar, as it is encouraged to break one’s fast with others. It is recommended to break one’s fast with a date. The beauty of Ramadan is that every culture has its own special foods that they choose to enjoy for Iftar. It isn’t a set menu enforced upon every person from around the world to follow.
How can companies be more mindful of their marketing strategies during this holy month?
First off, plastering a crescent moon on an advertisement is inauthentic and does the absolute bare minimum to make Muslims feel seen.
This holy month is the perfect time for businesses to fixate on areas beyond the food industry. Every aspect of one’s daily lifestyle can be tied back to Ramadan. Potential Ramadan marketing ideas could focus on financial planning (for Iftar), skincare (taking care of your skin while fasting), fitness (tips on staying fit during Ramadan), health (healthy meal ideas for suhoor & iftar).
With Ramadan quickly approaching, have you thought about how you’re going to talk about it? As a company, you most likely have Muslim employees who will be fasting during Ramadan. How can you go about making their work day easier? What flexibility can you offer them during this month? Perhaps you should organize a team iftar at a restaurant instead of going out for drinks. Think about how you can be inclusive and cater to the changing needs of Muslim employees during this month. And remember, genuine inclusivity is not lip service - it’s taking action.
Muslim representation and voices are integral for encapsulating the essence of Ramadan. The inclusion of real and lived Ramadan experiences is what can allow brands to develop a personal connection with their consumer base, through constant engagement and representation. In other words, utilize localized marketing. Localized marketing campaigns account for the buying habits in various cultures by considering local customs, taboos and audience preferences.
78% of Muslims say that they would be interested if brands did stock for Ramadan and Eid. Muslims in the UK are disappointed when it comes to engagement from brands during Ramadan. 62% say that they are not served well by brands. According to research from Ogilvy in their “The Great British Ramadan” report, Muslims in the UK spend an estimated £200m during the Ramadan season.
(Source: Campaign UK)
Don’t be afraid to mention Ramadan in your advertising. Many companies notably shy away from mentioning religious words or phrases in an attempt to be more ‘inclusive,’ but the only way to be inclusive is through ensuring every culture and religion feels seen and represented.
If companies take the same energy they use towards Christmas, and apply it to Ramadan – with the right strategy, they have the easiest two months to reach immeasurable sales growth.
Here are some of the best Ramadan campaigns we’ve seen:
McDonald’s Singapore – ‘My Happy Table’:
McDonald’s ‘My Happy Table’ campaign was an immersive experience that allowed Singaporean and Malaysian families to share the spirit of Ramadan with their loved ones. Through the use of technology and a camera setup, McDonald’s gave families the opportunity to break their fast together, even if they are miles apart.
Sports Direct - Fast Enough: Ramadan Running Podcast:
In 2022, Sports Direct launched a podcast called ‘Fast Enough: Ramadan Running,’ which was hosted by Olympian Lutalo Muhammad. Dropping 30-minutes before sunset on a weekly basis and set to 120 bpm, each episode was focused around the Health and Fitness industry by providing expert advice to optimize training during Ramadan.
Tesco – ‘Together this Ramadan’:
The perfect example of not being afraid to incorporate religion and culture, Tesco was praised for its inclusive billboard campaign last ramadan. The “Together this Ramadan” billboard campaign, in partnership with Bartle Bogle Hegarty, shares the significance of Iftar. As the sun sets, the billboard fills the once empty plates with food (the billboards also face eastwards to capture the sun setting behind them) – for around three hours before disappearing again.