Did you know that Asia is home to the largest Muslim population? Around 62% of the world’s Muslims live in Asia, with Indonesia, Pakistan, India and Bangladesh having the world’s four largest Muslim populations.
Like Christmas in the West, nearly every company in predominantly Muslim countries tries to create campaigns for major Islamic observances like Ramadan. Some brands get it spot on while others miss the mark.
Because nothing says Ramadan quite like bacon-flavored chips. Wait…what?! What were they thinking?!
Here’s a look back at some of the best and worst Ramadan marketing campaigns over the past couple years.
Selling Bacon To Muslims. What Could Go Wrong?
Our first Ramadan blunder comes to us via CampaignAsia. The publication shares the story of a Tesco store in London in 2015 that placed an aisle display featuring Smokey Bacon Flavor chips with the message Ramadan Mubarak (Blessed Ramadan).
Think it couldn’t get any worse? You’d be wrong! The store is near East London Mosque, which serves the country’s largest Muslim community.
According to the article, Muslim shoppers who saw the display immediately Tweeted about it but probably not in the way the brand wanted.
So what do you do when you commit such a blatant cultural faux pas?
There’s only one thing to do! Issue a corporate, robotic response or as Tesco put it: “We are proud to offer a wide range of meals and products to meet the needs of our customers during Ramadan. We recognize these Pringles weren’t in the most suitable place and our store colleagues have now moved them.”
“Not in the most suitable place”?! How about the offensive messaging!
Maybe I’m too harsh so I asked Indonesian Muslim, Mela Anwar, what she thought after seeing the photo of the aisle display: “Is this serious?? It’s insulting to Muslims – just like trying to sell meat to vegetarians,” says Anwar.
Let’s move away from that blunder and look at another example in Malaysia.
Never Go Blackface!
In the article, they quote diversity champion, Cindy Gallop, as saying the pharmacy’s 15-minute online video for Hari Raya is an “appallingly badly judged piece of promotion in many respects.”
The ad is based on the Malay folklore, Dayang Senandong who features a woman who is “cursed” with black skin and a beautiful voice. The video ends with the quote, “Only at Watson’s you’ll be beautiful.”
The brand then issued a half-hearted apology: “We stand firm on the belief that unity and fairness plays an important role, and we respect people from all nationalities.
The video was shot to highlight the Legend and its moral values of inner beauty and that true love exists. We are sorry that some of our fans feel offended by the video which was not our intention.”
“The moral values of inner beauty?” This coming from a brand that makes tons of money selling cosmetics.
Once again, let’s hear from Singaporean Muslim Muhammad Nazzer on what he thinks of the video: “That was just a bad video, literally. It has zero relevance to Ramadan.”
Let’s look at one last example of advertising during Ramadan.
The Snicker’s Hunger Games
In this story by Marketing Interactive, they share the Ramadan campaign from Snickers, the brand who you brought you the slogan “You’re not you when you’re hungry.” How would their Ramadan marketing campaign perform?
In their Snickers Memahami (Snickers Understands) campaign, the brand aims to get non-Muslims to understand what Muslims go through when fasting during Ramadan.
The video ad chronicles the lives of two non-Muslims who try fasting for the first time, as a show of support for their Muslim “brothers and sisters.”
What has been the results of this campaign? Over 800,000 views and an outpouring of support from the online community.
Well done, Snickers Malaysia!
The Last Word
Look, I get it. People make mistakes. But it makes you think whether these big brands are testing their ads on both their target audience, in this case, Muslims and the public before it goes live.
Remember marketers, it doesn’t matter what you think is right, it only matters what your audience thinks.
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