Now that Ramadan has come to a conclusion, we want to use it as a springboard towards a better you and me. This is true for both our personal life and the way we run our business.
Over the course of the COVID-19 lockdown and Ramadan, we created several blog posts ranging from how to close your business during the lockdown to how to reopen your business after the lockdown ends, and everything in between.
As an entity that helps Muslim businesses grow, we would not be doing you justice if we did not remind you that your business is also part of worship. Therefore, in order to reap the rewards and get the blessings from your creator, your business needs to be in line with what He prescribed for us.
After the lockdown, you will be eager to start attracting customers to your business. Hopefully, that eagerness does not become desperation (business might be slow after the lockdown). To avoid that, you can use this article as guidance on how you can do your marketing while adhering to the Islamic ethical framework for doing business.
The basis for the list of 7 things to remember comes from a research paper: “Islamic Marketing and Muslim Consumers’ Behavior” published on the Asian Journal of Social Science Studies where Islamic marketing is defined as:
“The process of identification and implementation of value maximization strategies for the welfare of the stakeholders in particular and the society in general governed by the guidelines given in the Quran and the Sunnah. Adherence to such marketing practices will not only benefit us in this world but in the world after hence value-maximization is based on equity and justice for the buyer, sellers, and society at large.”
Disclaimer: We find value in the research conducted and the methodology used (descriptive-analytical approach). However, we are not experts in the Quran and Sunnah. Therefore, by no means does our reference to the study equal an endorsement of the accuracy of the use of the Quran and Hadith in the research paper.
1. Marketing for Needs versus Marketing for Wants
Islamic marketing focuses on two basic needs: the physiological needs of food, water, clothing, etc. and the need for safety. While conventional marketing, for the most part, is based on wants and desires
Lesson: Don’t use marketing to deceive your audience to consume more than what is beneficial to them. This does not mean consuming for fun or pleasure is prohibited (when done in moderation). Just don’t tell your audience that they need something when they actually don’t.
2. Not all Muslim Consumers are the Same
This one you might already know. Muslim consumers are not homogeneous as they speak different languages, have different cultures, and so on. On top of that, some are more conservative than others. What may attract one Muslim may repel the other.
Lesson: Know who you are targeting and translate this into your marketing language and media assets. Also, if you have been targeting mostly Muslims of the same ethnicity, let’s say you are a Moroccan targeting Moroccan Muslims, you are missing out on a huge opportunity. Especially after the lockdown when businesses may struggle, it is perhaps a good time to broaden your targeting.
3. Muslim Advertising
Islamic marketing framework is governed by Sharia principles in all sectors. This means that when advertising, the tone of language, the products being advertised, the product promise, the benefits that are being presented, and everything else needs to be in line with the Quran and Sunnah.
Lesson: Make sure that what you are advertising and how you are advertising it is within the framework of Islamic marketing. For example, you cannot advertise cigarettes because they are considered impermissible (Haram). But you cannot also advertise coffee, which is permissible (Halal) while highlighting the benefits as giving the consumer the ability to stay up all night to go clubbing.
4. Ethical Advertising
Do not use manipulative language or psychological tricks that may trick the consumer into thinking they are buying one thing but actually end up buying something else.
Lessons: Do not deceive in quality or quantity. An example of quality deceit is when you add bogus quality labels or certifications to a product page on your website. An example of quantity deceit is when your product image shows a set of five when the product is a set of three hoping that the customer will not read the description carefully.
5. Apply Good Conduct
With good conduct, we mean ethical behavior, as this is core in the Islamic religion. Islam is not a religion of rituals alone, but the way we carry ourselves and treat others is a big part of being a Muslim.
Lesson: When advertising, avoid images and videos of people behaving in ways that are not in line with what is considered acceptable in Islam. Using a video that glamorizes someone who is driving over the speed limit is an example.
6. Mutual Consent
This point is quite straightforward. There should be fair and free will of buyer and seller and it should be clear that there is no coercion.
Lesson: An example of coercion or rather a hidden type of coercion is when you know there is a huge demand for your product but it can only be purchased in combination with a complementary product that no one needs but you want to clear out.
7. The Concept of Falah
Falah is a superior word to “success” for those seeking good in this world and in the hereafter.
“Success in Islam is more closely related to spiritual solace and pleasure that can be shared among those who are in need (well-being).” – Azaddin Salem Khalifa
Lesson: Whereas today many firms have special departments for corporate responsibility, in Islamic business corporate good is part and parcel of business. For example, a manufacturing company must only take and use natural resources that it needs to manufacture products. A company must not lay off its workers just for the sake of maximizing profits. The Zakat on wealth to help the most vulnerable people in the community must be paid promptly.
A business must serve stakeholders, employees, and the community. Keep this in mind when you are revisiting your marketing plan (which you should after the lockdown).
Start working with experts in the field of targeting Muslim audiences through online advertising.