The Muslim market is carrying with it some unique sets of challenges. How then do one penetrate a market as diverse and as distinctive as Halal without getting burned in the process? Raja Abdul Rahim of the LA Times has the story.
Leafing through a Best Buy flier over the holiday season, Celena Khatib spotted a small greeting near the bottom of the page: “Happy Eid al-Adha.”
The good wishes for the important religious holiday celebrated by Muslims seemed a milestone in U.S. marketing. “I finally felt that they are recognizing Muslims like we are a part of this community,” said Khatib, 31, a suburban Detroit mother of two. “We live here, we spend our money here.”
But on Best Buy’s website, people around the country posted contrasting views. “You insult all of the heroes and innocent who died 9/11 by celebrating a holiday of the religion that said to destroy them!” wrote one. Many others said they would no longer shop at Best Buy.
Even an advertising-industry study three years ago that urged companies to cash in on what was then the community’s estimated $170-billion purchasing power got little traction.
Best Buy is believed to be the first major retailer to market to Muslims nationwide, and only a few are even dipping their toes into direct ethnic local advertising.
Rather than pave the way for more national advertising, the Best Buy ad seems to have reinforced the pariah status that Muslims have in mainstream marketing and to serve as an example of why “Happy Eid” won’t join “Merry Christmas” and “Happy Hanukkah” as a mainstay in holiday advertising any time soon.
“Obviously the Muslim market has some unique sets of challenges. That’s not something to be glossed over,” said Rafi-uddin Shikoh, founder of DinarStandard, a consulting firm specializing in the Muslim market.
Other immigrant and minority groups have faced similar treatment from advertisers, but the U.S. Muslim community carries heavier baggage.
Since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and with more recent incidents, such as the Ft. Hood shooting and attempted Christmas Day plane bombing, the word “Muslim” for some Americans is synonymous with terrorism. And that’s an image that corporations don’t want attached to their brand names.
A recent study by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life found that 35% of Americans have a negative view of Muslims and 45% believe Islam is more likely than other religions to encourage violence.
Even those championing marketing to Muslim consumers — like Shikoh — advise Western companies not to do what Best Buy did. Instead, in a move that seems both practical and defeatist, they recommend directing advertising in ethnic and religious media and away from the mainstream.
“At this point, I don’t know if there’s a real need for a national campaign,” Shikoh said. “They are curious to see if there is a way to tap into this market without risking their reputation or it backfiring in any way.”
Raja Abdul Rahim of the LA Times.