Sales data from a variety of consumer goods businesses have consistently shown a predictable and sharp increase in the days leading up to and during the month of Ramadan – the month of fasting Muslims around the world. The trend is consistent between ‘Muslim’ countries like Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Egypt and Malaysia and in western countries with Muslim minorities like US, UK, France and Canada. Savvy marketers from small mom & pop businesses to large corporations in Middle East and Asia have capitalized on this trend for decades. More recently many western multinational companies have taken notice and have launched products and promotions specifically to attract mind and wallet share of Muslim consumers. While market forces have adopted and contributed to this trend, there is uneasiness in many Muslims’ minds about the increasing consumerism associated with an act of worship that holds abstinence as its central tenet.
But the increase in consumption is not all that bad at all and in fact natural and helps observing Muslims in their fasting. Ramadan makes food and meal time almost sacred. Breaking fast is considered a special time that many people make a point of enjoying together as a family and/or community. Whereas on normal days, especially in the west, Muslims like rest of people would eat on the go, as a necessity to fuel their bodies. But during Ramadan meal time becomes a sacred time to spend together and share with their family, friends and community members. Sales, and prices, of basic food items have always increased during Ramadan as people plan and prepare for these meals. Where there is demand for consumption, businesses would see the opportunity to satisfy those needs and earn a legitimate profit.
Corporations in US and UK are now seeing the same potential as they try to use their own sophisticated ways to market products to Muslims during this time. In fact this is the intended consequence of years of public awareness campaigns and outreach efforts of Muslim organizations in the west of trying to educate the general populace of Islamic values and traditions. Economic and market forces have simply forced these corporations to learn about Ramadan and now amplify the message about Ramadan. These marketing messages and promotions will do their job in reinforcing the ‘specialness’ of Ramadan. It is the job of parents, community leaders and individuals to reinforce the spiritual values of Ramadan within them to make sure the mundane and outwardly consumption doesn’t render the spirit hollow.