Ramadan Marketing: Harnessing Festive Spirit For Brand Success

March 25, 2024


This article first appeared in March’s print edition of Business Monthly.

Festive buying gives marketers an unprecedented opportunity to strengthen their brand footprint by tapping into customers’ festive spirit, creating an emotional connection. According to ObjectSol Technologies, a software development company, “Festive seasons present a golden opportunity for businesses to boost sales and enhance brand visibility.”

There is no more festive event than the holy month of Ramadan, which starts this year on March 10 and ends on April 9. It is a season that witnesses changes in marketing strategies to adapt to significantly more consumption. “Ramadan retail sales were projected to reach $66 billion in 2023, despite the impact of inflation,” said Lynn Mazloum, principal strategy and insights manager at Google Dubai, on the Think with Google website in December. She forecasts that Ramadan sales would exceed the value reported in 2024.

During Ramadan, consumers shop for various products, including food, decorations, and clothing. George Maktabi, CEO of Webedia Group MENA, a media and technology company, told Arab News in 2023 that MENA countries have “one of the highest numbers of paying users in the world.”

Additionally, understanding the digital market and social media trends should help businesses engage better with those audiences, maximizing sales. During Ramadan, people spend more time online, with 74% of people spending that extra time on social media, said TGM 2023 Global Ramadan Survey.

Changing spending

Businesses should be mindful of the changing nature of their customers’ needs and priorities during Ramadan by connecting consumers with what they care about. According to a February report titled “2024 Ramadan Strategy; Illuminating Pathways for Unforgettable Marketing Moments” by marketing company Assembly, “38% of MENA shoppers prepare three weeks before Ramadan or earlier.”

The season usually witnesses fierce competition among brands. However, this year will see significantly tougher competition as consumers weigh their options against a backdrop of increasing prices. “Amid rising inflationary pressure and global uncertainty, prices are seeing growing scrutiny across markets and categories in MENA,” said Mazloum. She added that 86% of regional consumers think Ramadan is the ideal time to find the best deals.

Meanwhile, higher consumption during Ramadan means consumers are more open to trying new products from different producers. Therefore, a brand’s reach should be inclusive and offer higher incentives than competitors. Mazloum pointed out that three of 10 MENA consumers said they purchased from a new brand or retailer in 2023 because they were cheaper. “This is especially the case for food and groceries, with price searches related to this category seeing 75% year-on-year growth in Egypt,” she added.

Timothée Desormeaux, co-founder and managing partner of Acquisit, a marketing company, said their research foundthat 77% of consumers are more open to trying new products during Ramadan. Therefore, brands should focus on attracting both new customers and retaining existing ones. “The same purchase with the same nominal value but coming from a new client is worth twice as much for me than the purchase coming from an existing client,” he said.

Ramadan is also marked by giving and charity. The Assembly report shows that “30% of MENA shoppers buy gifts relating to the importance of generosity and giving during this holy month.”

Online Ramadan

In the ever-changing landscape of marketing trends leading up to Ramadan 2024, businesses should embrace strategic digital marketing tools to connect with Muslims. Heba Al Nabulsi, director of solution consultants at Emplifi, a customer engagement platform, noted in May 2023 that Ramadan presents “a great opportunity for brands and businesses to be inclusive.”

Social media platforms play a pivotal role in brands’ interaction with consumers. “Social media is ingrained in today’s world,” said Nablusi. “It’s how brands interact with the modern consumer.”

Video content dominates marketing trends on social media and has proved a boon for businesses looking to stand out in the market. “Video content has been regarded as a game changer for increasing brand awareness,” according to Vidzy, an advertising company, in a November LinkedIn post,

In December, Giannis Kollias, creative strategist at Google, highlighted that “regional consumers consider YouTube, a Google subsidiary, their main window to the world during Ramadan. In fact, 53% say the platform enables them to find the exact content they want at any moment, ranking significantly higher than TV.”

Meanwhile, Aref Yehia, head of business partnerships for retail and e-commerce, global business solutions at MENA TikTok, said people spend more time on TikTok during Ramadan, averaging 91 minutes per day, 24% longer than usual.

Despite the significant growth in online video viewing during Ramadan, there is still a growing demand for TV. Regional research firms Dubai International Content Marketing and E-Ramadan Content Market’s Ramadan report published in June 2023 said, “More than 50% of yearly acquisition budgets are spent on Ramadan grids as broadcasters and platforms scramble to gain a competitive advantage.”

Tailored content

Content during Ramadan takes on a distinct character as it caters to the cultural and religious spirit of the holy month. Kollias emphasized the importance of brands aligning their advertisements with either traditional or emerging Ramadan values that appeal to their target audience.

Unlike “traditional values” that involve spiritual inspiration that people relate to, he noted that “emerging values” like well-being and sustainability may bring new opportunities for brands to utilize advertising space that is still new and unclaimed.

However, brands cannot accurately predict how audiences will react. Kollias advised that if a brand opts for an “emerging value,” it must ensure a strong brand connection to make a lasting impact.

One way to achieve marketing goals is by collaborating with social media influencers. According to Meta’s Ramadan 2024 Marketing Guide, “59% of shoppers or observers are more likely to trust a brand that partners with a trustworthy creator.”

It also noted that Ramadan is a crucial moment for brand storytelling, primarily through creator partnerships, given higher video consumption during Ramadan.

The timing of posting content plays a crucial role in reaching audiences across social media platforms. According to Muslim Ad Network, an online advertising platform, “Prime time during Ramadan is the rush hour between Iftar and Suhoor.”

However, with the profound role of entertainment platforms, Yehia stressed that Ramadan’s prime time is now happening during the course of the day. Therefore, brands can go beyond traditional advertising by “crafting authentic narratives,” he said. “This approach allows for a more profound and lasting connection with consumers, making the brand an integral part of their lives.”

Tight-belt budgets

In 2024, rising prices due to the high demand may hurt Ramadan celebrations in Egypt. In February, the Egyptian State Information Service said, “Market experts attribute the continuous increase in commodity prices to the devaluation of the Egyptian pound against the US dollar in the parallel market, as the country faces a foreign currency shortage.” At press time, inflation was 29.8%, breaking the 30% mark for the first time since February 2023.

According to data aggregator Trading Economies, food prices increased by no less than 47.9%

in January compared to the same month in 2023. Those inflation figures prompted the government in February to announce a 50% rise in the minimum wage reaching EGP 6,000 per month for state workers, effective in March.

The mix of high prices and potentially higher disposable incomes requires businesses to plan Ramadan deals and discounts effectively by using a strategic approach that not only attracts customers but ensures profitability in the long run.

While discounts in the holy month are always attractive, Desormeaux of Acquisit noted his company plans to utilize a new mechanism in Ramadan 2024 to attract customers using discounts and gathering a larger amount of data.

That new approach will enable users on the website to “unlock an additional level of discount in exchange for declarative data that can be used to enrich CRM (customer relationship management) data,” said Desormeaux in a breakfast briefing by Campaign Middle East magazine in February.

Changing advertising

Personalized ads make customers’ shopping experience more seamless and convenient. According to the Assembly report, “71% of shoppers agree it’s easier to complete Ramadan shopping with personalized product recommendations.”

Employing AI personalization tools and chatbots can help brands effectively reach their customers. “AI has opened up unforeseen and immense potential for digital marketers. This technology makes everything faster and more available. Still, it also requires a greater degree of thoughtfulness,” said Edina Baur, director of growth marketing for Europe, the Middle East, and Africa at Google, in November.

Implementing real-time engagement through AI chatbots on brands’ social media messaging systems can make audiences feel more connected to businesses, especially during the busy period of Ramadan. That makes it easier for customers to get instant responses to inquiries. The Meta guide said, “66% of Ramadan shoppers and observers feel more connected to a business or brand through instant messaging.”

Mazloum noted on Think with Google in December that AI will not replace human input. Instead, marketers will still need to be in the driver’s seat. However, AI can assist marketers in “expanding on more complex and ambitious creative ideas.”

As a consequence of leveraging AI, Mazloum said brands also can bring ads and other content to life faster and with a higher production value. That allows for more efficient optimization of ads and rapid scaling across platforms.