The modest fashion industry today is worth $283 billion globally. Meanwhile, the global Islamic clothing market is estimated to rise to $361 billion by 2023.
The growing competition in the modest fashion industry is starting to become a challenge for businesses to stay relevant in the market. Established fashion houses like Dolce & Gabanna, Burberry, Mango, Tommy Hilfiger, and DKNY have also stepped into the modest fashion market. Although they have not perfected their approach towards the Muslim audience, the impact can still be felt.
It is therefore vital for marketers to create a differentiation in their brands to attract more Muslim modest fashion customers. The ultimate way to create this differentiation is by establishing a brand personality. Brand personality does not only differentiate your product from that of your competitors. It is commonly used as a strategy to create a competitive advantage.
Halal Brand Personality Research
Modest fashion mostly caters to Muslim consumers, it is important to include the halal element into Aaker’s (1997) brand personality concepts because Muslim consumers keep religion and life as dependent on one another and will not disintegrate them.
As we mentioned in a previous article about Muslim purchase intention, perception and attitude towards a brand are heavily conditioned by social norms, culture, lifestyle, but most definitely in the case of the Muslim consumer their belief and religious laws.
Although brand personality has been studied on various product brands, limited research has been done on Muslim products, especially modest fashion apparel. Modest fashion is considered to be a Muslim product and in August 2019 the Journal of Islamic Marketing published a research paper with the title: Halal brand personality and brand loyalty among millennial modest fashion consumers in Malaysia.
The research examined the relationship between halal brand personality and brand loyalty with the aim of providing a better understanding of the Islamic marketing concept.
Researchers measured consumer behavior, attitude, and perception within a specific period. A total of 400 respondents took part in the study.
Brand Loyalty Relevance
Brand loyalty reflects a consumer’s deep-rooted commitment to make repeat purchases of a product from a particular brand. It is basically the degree of your consumer’s attachment to your brand.
Attitudinal Brand Loyalty
Generally, attitudinal brand loyalty refers to the consumer’s commitment to your brand. This is due to a positive experience with your brand. For example, it fulfills the key functional and/or emotional needs of that customer. It may also be that your customer has an emotional affiliation with your brand.
Behavioral Brand Loyalty
This refers to consumer’s repurchasing behavior based on attitudinal brand loyalty.
Brand loyalty has proven to be the basis of long-term relationships between customers and brands and thus the predictor of a successful business. It reduces marketing costs and attracts new consumers through word-of-mouth promotion.
Millennials and the Modest Fashion Industry
It is no surprise that Muslim millennial consumers (ages 23 to 38 in 2019) agree that fashion consumption and religious belief should not be separated and instead should be celebrated. This was highlighted in the Journal of Emerging Economies and Islamic Research.
This goes hand-in-hand with the fact that the Muslim population – which is very young – is becoming more conscious of their Islamic identity.
Out of the 1.6 billion Muslims around the world, about 66% are under the age of 30 says Shelina Janmohamed, author of Generation M. This is a segment of the Muslim population that is looking for brands that understand their values and look to fulfill their aspirations as Muslims. They are looking for brands that offer them a space to express themselves beyond the stereotypes.Source:6 Reasons Why Businesses Targeting Muslims Will Thrive in 2020 and Beyond
The younger generation of Muslim consumers is perceived as tech-savvy, positive, brand-conscious, and loyal to their brand.
It is therefore paramount for modest fashion business’ success that they understand the young Muslim audience because millennials are perceived to be loyal to their brand. They love to be actively involved as partners to the brand. They love and prefer two-way communication between them and the brand.
Creating a Halal Brand Personality
The concept of Halal brand personality was first proposed by Muhamad Fazil Ahmad in the article Antecedents of Halal brand personality published by the Journal of Islamic Marketing. The author defined five elements of Halal brand personality. They consist of three new elements: purity, safety, and righteousness and two of Aaker’s existing dimensions which are excitement and sophistication.
We take a look at all five in theory before exposing the results of the research that put them to the test.
All humans are born in a state of purity (natural inclination to worship Allah). Therefore, going back to their nature (fitrah), Muslims are encouraged to choose products that are permissible by Allah s.w.t (halal). It is a must for the Muslim brands to ensure the products that they sell are free from forbidden (haram) materials.
Abu Huraira reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace, and blessings be upon him, said, “O people, Allah is pure and He accepts only what is pure…”Source: Sahih Muslim, 1015
Shaari and Arifin (2010) stated that It is important for the producers to ensure the resources and the distribution channels are pure. The concept of purity is important because it provides assurance to the Muslim consumers that the products they are using are not questionable (shubhah).Source: Dimension of halal purchase intention: a preliminary study
Purity in halal brand personality is the sincerity that your brand provides to Muslim consumers. According to Walker, author of The Ideal of Sincerity, sincerity relies on the concept of morality. Sincere brands are considered pure and will create brand loyalty among consumers according to Maehle, author of Consumers’ perceptions of the dimensions of brand personality.
1.a Relationship between purity and brand loyalty
Purity in halal brand personality is connected to sincerity, as we mentioned earlier. The Muslim consumer will exhibit loyalty to your brand if it shows sincerity. Muslim consumers will stay loyal to your brand because through sincerity they experience fairness, trustworthiness, high moral values, and dedication from your brand.
Excitement is linked with your customer’s emotional response. When your brand makes Muslim consumers excited, it will increase their engagement and commitment. An exciting brand portrays the elements of being in sync with modern trends.
This eventually creates a positive influence on your consumers’ attitude and potentially creates brand loyalty among your Muslim target audience.
Excitement contributes to consumer satisfaction and develops brand loyalty among consumers.Source: Marketing of halal products: the way forward, The Halal Journal
2.a Relationship between excitement and brand loyalty
An exciting brand offers a chance for its customers to feel excited and enhances consumer engagement and commitment to your brand.
According to Tong and Su, authors of Exploring the Personality of Sportswear Brands, excitement is related to the characteristics of fashion and reflects a consumer’s increasing demand for fashion clothing.
Ahmad mentions that the excitement element of halal brand personality consists of exciting, cool, awesome, imaginative, unique, up-to-date, independent, and contemporary characteristics. It contributes to consumer satisfaction and develops brand loyalty among consumers.
Creating a unique personality for your brand will encourage stronger brand loyalty among Muslim consumers.
It is very important for you to understand your targeted Muslim audience’s true needs and ensure safety in their consumption of your halal product.
Safety is consumer freedom from danger, injury, and damage from the consumption of products from certain brands. The concept of safety must comply with Shari’ah law and good judgment. This dimension also determines consumer loyalty intention.Source: Journal of Islamic Marketing
We may also define safety as the concept of a consumer’s assurance and dependability on your brand to fulfill their needs. If Muslim consumers feel safe with your products they are more likely to develop a high-value relationship and a positive purchasing behavior towards your brand.
Both behavioral and attitudinal loyalty among consumers and brands will be created once Muslim consumers feel safe while consuming your products.Source: The chain of effects from brand trust and brand affect to brand performance: the role of brand loyalty, Journal of Marketing
3.a Relationship between safety and brand loyalty
The concept of safety is highly related to the amount of trust that Muslim consumers put into your brand. Trust is a consumer’s assurance on the safety of using your products or believing in your brand. This definition is in sync with the concept of safety suggested for halal brand personality by Ahmad.
One of the dimensions of trust is reliability. Reliability is the ability of your brand to fulfill your consumer’s needs. It also implies that your brand promises to solve future problems. Therefore, it is necessary to manage the concept of trust in brand loyalty as it represents safety.
Product safety leads to a long-term relationship with your brand. When Muslim consumers feel safe with your products, they are more likely to develop a high-value relationship and a positive purchasing behavior with your brand.
Brands that make consumers feel safe will experience both behavioral and attitudinal loyalty.Source: Journal of Brand Management
Your modest fashion brand needs to communicate a certain level of sophistication with Muslim millennial consumers. With modest fashion, sophistication provides an understanding between your brand and the Muslim consumers in terms of the style, choices of color, and design of
the apparel as long as it complies with Islamic law (Shari’ah).
Sophistication for modest fashion enhances a Muslim user’s personality and insinuates her social status as well. This improves your brand’s perceived quality and will lead to positive attitude formation towards brand extension.
Sophistication has a positive effect on both attitudinal and behavioral loyalty.
4.a Relationship between sophistication and brand loyalty
Ahmad stated that one of the definitions of brand reputation refers to the excellent performance provided by your brand which is related to the concept of sophistication in halal brand personality.
Brand reputation helps Muslim consumers in the decision-making process and your brand to create differentiation in the market, thus, attracting brand loyalty and customer retention. It also helps to build higher market values and protects a brand in a time of crisis according to the International Journal of Business and Management.
Righteousness is the virtue or morality from an Islamic perspective. Righteousness plays an important role in providing comfort to modest fashion consumers. They get the feeling that they have chosen the right brand and product.
Righteousness, therefore, impacts behavior and loyalty intention towards your brand.
According to Halstead, author of An Islamic concept of education stated that Muslims relate the
concept of righteousness to submission, surrender, and obedience to Islam.
Religion is the central life value that was developed at a young age and plays a vital role in consumer’s consumption.
Source: Religious contrasts in consumer decision behaviour patterns: their dimensions and marketing implications
The heart of religion is loyalty and righteousness is a multidimensional construct that can encourage brand loyalty among consumers. Righteousness might be an indicator of a great relationship between the brand and consumers.Source: The influence of changes of Islam and politics relations in 20th century on the strategy of belt and road
5.a Relationship between righteousness and brand loyalty
According to Dalmoro, consumers will make a decision of brand preference based on their cultural experiences. Since religiosity is defined as the integration of religion in an individual’s life, it influences the cultural experience of the consumer. Religiosity is a central life value developed at an early age and plays a vital role in Muslim consumer’s behavior. According to Minton, religiosity is a multidimensional construct that can encourage brand loyalty among consumers.
Regardless of the stereotype of the strong believer, the quality of loyalty can be extended beyond the concept of religion itself. This type of consumer appeared to be loyal and their loyalty is not limited to their beliefs and behaviors, instead, they might extend their loyalty to the brand that they prefer. In other words, righteousness or religiosity might be an indicator of a great relationship between the brand and the consumer. Djupe and Gilbert (2002) characterized religiosity as a form of brand loyalty.Source: Journal of Islamic Marketing
When we bring everything together we get the following model:
The Research and its Outcomes
At the start of this article, we mentioned that the Journal of Islamic Marketing published a research paper with the title: Halal brand personality and brand loyalty among millennial modest fashion consumers in Malaysia.
This article is inspired by this research paper and now we take a look at how the study was conducted and the results thereof.
The study involved 400 female Muslim millennial modest fashion consumers in Malaysia. Data was collected over a period of four months.
Researchers conducted face validity and it was confirmed that the research had high validity and recommended for further examination on internal consistency using reliability analysis.
- Respondents who spent at least once a month on modest fashion apparel 37.3%
- Respondents who spent on modest fashion apparel when needed 33.8%
- Respondents who spent on modest fashion apparel once a week 15.0%
- Respondents who spent on modest fashion apparel once a year 14.0%
The data also determined that most of the millennials were aware of modest fashion clothing and wanted to incorporate religion into their daily wear.
From the findings, it was determined that purity and safety had a low correlation with brand loyalty. The rest of the halal brand personality elements show a significant correlation with brand loyalty. Therefore it can be concluded that there is a potential influence of halal brand personality on brand loyalty concept.
The results also showed that three elements of halal brand loyalty, excitement, sophistication, and righteousness were especially influential and could potentially lead to millennial modest fashion consumers’ brand loyalty.
Start Creating Brand Loyalty for Your Modest Fashion Brand
Make sure your brand connects with your target audience on an emotional level. Emotionally involving the millennial Muslim modest fashion user with your product will make them more likely to exhibit loyalty towards your brand.
Add Charisma to Your Brand
A charismatic person draws attention to him or herself. In the same way, your brand must have an effective branding strategy that draws Muslim modest fashion consumers toward a loftier ideal expressed by way of your products.
Express What Your Brand is About
Express your brand mission in a way that is easy to understand. Make sure you spend time perfecting your ultimate all-encompassing message. This should inform all of your advertising efforts.
The second halal brand personality trait that will help you create brand loyalty is
sophistication. In order for your modest fashion brand to create sophistication, your brand must create its own unique persona through excellent products.
Previous research suggested brands to highlight quality aspects of their product to enhance consumers’ brand loyalty (Diamantopoulos et al., 2005). Marketers need to understand the balance between modern design and fulfilling the characteristics of modest fashion as proposed by Nestorovic (2016).Source: Journal of Islamic Marketing
A brand with a sophisticated brand personality trait is one that is dynamic; meaning it is in line with the latest fashion trends and buzz. For your modest fashion brand, of course, there needs to be a balance between being dynamic and being Shari’ah compliant.
Righteousness is the religious personality of the brand. Halal brand personality should include the religious aspect of human personality (Ahmad, 2015) especially when assessing the personality of religious products. Modest fashion brands also need to make sure that they understand and protect their consumers’ beliefs.Source: Journal of Islamic Marketing
Make sure that your product line, promotional stunts, and messaging does not offend Muslim consumers. So keep the Shari’ah principles in-mind at all times. This is to make sure that Muslim consumers feel religiously protected when they are using your modest fashion brand.
This is important in making sure the consumers easily find a focal congruity point for them to relate themselves to the brands, thus helping them to develop a sense of loyalty to the brands. As a result, if modest fashion brands are able to fulfill their consumers’ religious needs it will be a great indicator of a good relationship between the brand and its consumers.Source: Journal of Islamic Marketing
One way of making sure that your modest fashion brand does not offend Muslim consumers is by getting feedback or asking the opinions of your Muslim target group before proceeding with any action.
Under Armour revealed its first sports hijab, in August 2020. It took them three years to launch this hijab after Nike’s Pro Hijab was launched in 2017. During this time they conducted extensive research. They interviewed several Muslim female athletes and health & wellness influencers. This made sure that both the product and the messaging did not repel the Muslim consumer.
You may conduct a survey among your Muslim target audience too. This will not only give you great feedback; it will also increase consumer engagement with your modest fashion brand. As we discussed earlier, involving millennials with brand decisions enhances the brand relationship quality because they value brands that include them in their marketing strategy.
Your modest fashion brand should be active in organizing corporate social responsibility events and activities and invite Muslim consumers to join in.
Righteousness emphasizes morality concepts and Islam encourages believers to help those in need. Organizing corporate social responsibility events will create a positive image by fulfilling the righteousness element of brand personality.
Once again, you may use this event to engage with their consumers and strengthen the consumer-brand relationship.
In this article, we highlighted recommendations to cover the knowledge gap of the brand personality model introduced by Aaker (1997). We zoomed into Islamic brand personality traits and tested their relevance to Muslim millennial modest fashion users.
The result shows that three out of the five halal brand personality elements have a significant relationship with brand loyalty. The three significant elements are excitement, sophistication, and righteousness. It can be concluded that modest fashion brands need to include all of the three dimensions in their branding strategy.
Modest fashion brands can use this article and the related research as a guideline when strategizing halal brand management efforts.
The study used for this article focuses on examining a particular audience: the modest fashion Muslim millennial consumer in Malaysia. Although Muslim millennials across the world share the same Islamic values, they still have diverse cultures. The framework therefore should be replicated on diverse halal products and services for different audiences.
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