New York: Ogilvy & Mather has released in the United States the first-ever study that benchmarks the appeal of specific brands to Muslim consumers, giving highest marks to food, beverage and personal care brands such as Lipton, Nestle and Nescafe. At the same time, the research shows the financial services industry, as represented by brands including Citibank and HSBC, ranks most poorly in terms of being “Muslim-friendly.”
The Ogilvy Noor Brand Index sheds light on how Shariah values and the practice of their compliance (halal) are closely aligned with the ideals of authenticity and transparency. Important to the global “green” movement, the Index also draws parallels between sustainability and the values of Shariah compliance.
In compiling the Index of global brands, the researchers first measured the five categories of most importance to Muslim consumers according to halal status and Shariah compliance. They then tested 35 global brands to create the Index. The five most relevant industries are Beverages, Food and Dairy, Personal Care, Financial Services and Aviation. The Index can be taken as indicative of how appealing these brands are to Muslim consumers relative to each other.
“A market of almost 1.8 billion people that has scarcely been tapped, Muslim consumers offer enormous potential to businesses around the world, but only if their values are fully understood,” said Miles Young, CEO, Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide. “This Index identifies behavioral trends and insights that will be valuable to marketers in developing meaningful relationships with this emerging global community.”
The Ogilvy Noor Brand Index uncovered three key learnings:
Origin matters less than sincerity. In consumers’ eyes, an Islamic brand does not have to originate in a Muslim country, as evidenced by the number one and two ranking of Lipton and Nestle, respectively, and the low rankings of Emirates and Etihad, two brands originating in Muslim countries. Genuine empathy and understanding, demonstrated through all aspects of a brand’s behavior, are much more important than place of origin to today’s Muslim consumers.
Physical, everyday usage makes halal non-negotiable. The closer a category is to the human body, and the more regular its consumption, the more it must be completely Shariah-compliant. This is particularly evident for food brands, followed closely by beverage and personal care brands. The food category is one in which Shariah-compliant standards are the most developed, through the practice of halal, which clearly prescribes how a food product must be sourced and handled at all manufacturing stages.
Islamic branding efforts must be holistic. Consumer skepticism accounts for one of the reasons that financial services brands rank relatively poorly in the Ogilvy Noor Brand Index, despite the large sums invested by global brands into their Islamic banking arms. Consumers expressed a desire to feel that the brand genuinely understands and empathizes with Islamic values in all aspects of its operations and is not simply making a token play for them.
“Despite the evident economic potential, Muslims are often overlooked by global brands for fear of getting it wrong,” said Nazia Hussain, Director of Cultural Strategy, Ogilvy & Mather worldwide and Head of Strategy of Ogilvy Noor. “Today’s young Muslim consumers in particular are open to positive change and innovation just like consumers everywhere, as long as that change is aligned with their values from the start.”
The Index was researched by Ogilvy Noor, a multidisciplinary practice focused on Islamic branding within the Ogilvy & Mather global network, and research company, TNS. The Ogilvy Noor Brand Index averages the composite scores of consumers in the majority-Muslim markets of Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Pakistan and Malaysia. The results are considered a representative demographic sample of the nearly 1.8 billion Muslims living in 57 countries in the world. The scores are based on a 100-point index, with the final number representing the average percentage agreement with the statement, “this brand is completely halal or Shariah-compliant.”
The Index is part of a larger report entitled, “Brands, Islam and the New Muslim Consumer,” by Ogilvy Noor and research firm TNS. The two-year study reveals what drives Muslims as consumers against the backdrop of ethnic, economic, political and religious diversity of the Muslim world. The study further analyses the factors that drive beneficial relationships with Muslim consumers, distilling the findings into an eight-step toolkit.