The increasing demand for lifestyle products and services by the global Muslim community is not surprising given the purchasing power (of the community) and its young age. Is this an opportunity for entreprenuers as well as global brands?. Whilst there are some well known brands ‘communicating’ and customising the brands’ message and physical attributes for the Muslim consumer segment, by an large, such brand “avtaar’s” are not yet in mainstream marketing (at least not in the high-ticket items).
So in this final post (of looking at how CSR based planning can help a business) can Islamic ethics and governance aid a brand to develop loyalty and involvement?
The opportunity for a brand to use Islamic ethics and governance in brand marketing to project a socially beneficial identity is there. I’m talking about a business operation which conducts itself on the platform of Islamic ethics and as a result its image through its brand, in any activity, internally and externally, is always with the intention of benefitting the society, and both involved parties.
(Note: The organisation does not need to be a Muslim one. Personally speaking,Islamic ethics are ethical values, that I belive, are common in terms of needs of commercial interaction between two parties i.e. in any commercial transaction each party is always looking to benefit. Thus if transparency, committment and a ‘best-intent’ is already manifested within the offer, automatically, the transaction will benefit both concerned.)
For e.g: a Islamic banking institution can project the ethics to establish itself head and shoulders above its competitors in its category as a corporate brand. ( Based on the ethical approach the financial instiutitions’ process vs another’s can be totally different. This, in effect, can become the competitive advantage for that financial instituition and infact be the key reason why consumers would want to associate with that corporate brand.
Strategically, the financial instituition, (for its retail banking arm, or its customer service, or even a basic CSR program), can also do a “blue ocean” and approach the entire financial services business from the perspective of ‘being beneficial to the society” by virtue of enabling the citizen to be debt-free and/ or generate the habit of savings or prudent spending.
The question is “why not”?
It has its risks.
- Risks of not having immediate customer conversion,
- Not having immediate sales and therefore profit
Risks that are the way we know risks today.
Similarly in the consumables category, a brand can be profitable (and thats not a sin) from utilising a transparent, honest and ethical approach in building “trust” with its target group.
In fact such a brand would generate a loyal base of customers which would be evergrowing and the WOM (word of mouth through the customers own social media network) would lead to the brand expanding geographically.
But the issue is, “is this possible?”
This is a totally different perspective in marketing thinking (vis a vis what has been historically done).
It’s the beginings of CHANGE.
One has to be convinced and brand owners and managers have to beleive in the change and in its social benefit, in order, for change to manifest. In time, manifest it will as awareness, understanding and knowledge seep into the consumers. Into society as a whole.
This is when the brand that initiated the change, that provided the knowledge, that came across (and established itself) as having no “hidden agendas” would rule the hearts and heads of its community groups.
This is part II (of a three-part) article on the how a CSR based planning can develop a sustainable business strategy. Part I can be viewed here.
In part I (of this series) we looked into the effectiveness of a CSR based business strategy. In this article, we’re looking at how a CSR based business strategy can bring about a strong brand identity.
In today’s changed economic scenario and social media connected world, more and more businesses are getting aware of the enormous power of “connected consumers”. The growth and high usage of various social media platforms (professional and personal) have given rise to, interest based, on-line communities. Communities that hold a strong ‘recommendation/influencer’ power over its members. Trust in the recommendations of a fellow group member goes a long, long way than the advertising and traditional marketing communications of a brand.
Is this an opportunity?
For organisations and entreprenuers looking at the global Muslim segment as the primary consumer group does this consumer trend provide an opportunity?
The global Muslim segment is huge, numerically. But when the income and purchasing power filter is used, the concentration comes into perspective across certain markets. But the beauty of it is that these “able-to-afford” the price groups are talking amongst themselves on various brands, recommending, spreading through word-of mouth, the reputation of the brand or killing it.
Have brands, targeted to the Muslim consumer segment, used a CSR approach to grow themselves?
Or is it foolhardy to do so, as the returns would not be visible in day 1 but possibly in day 10.
Across categories globally, brands targeting the Muslim community segment, can benefit from using a CSR based strategic approach in order:
- To protect brand value and deliver brand promise.
- And to obtain engagement.
But the catch lies in identifying the CSR platform that would allow to clearly portray benefits both to the consumer and to the society (as a whole) and not appear as a “lip-service”.
A McKinsey article titled “Making the most of Corporate Social Responsibility” highlights how many companies are now seeing CSR as an opportunity to strengthen their business.
In crafting a CSR based strategic direction its critical to ensure that the social program is a clearly visible (and felt) beneficial one. One of the important component of a viable CSR plan is the implementation plan. The on-ground plan has to be robust, with clearly identified ‘quick-wins’ (in order to allow communications to take place in a planned manner) that delivers on the program objectives.
A brand that truly does develop and implement this, in the long run will, undoubtedly reap the benefits of committed engagement. In turn this would bring about a strong, trusted relationship between the brand and its customers.
For capitalising on the growth opportunity that the global Muslim segment presents, businesses operating in it, and evaluating to come in, using a CSR based business strategy planning would enable sustainability. scalability and competitiveness in the long run.
- The evolution of CSR (impact.webershandwick.com)
- Can Corporate Social Responsibility Really Matter? Really? (businessinsider.com)
CSR Based Sustainable Business Strategy Development
Most companies undertake CSR (corporate social responsibility) programs as having to fulfill a corporate duty i.e. giving back to society. Often development of such a program is the onus of the corporate marketing team and is tied back to ensuring the brand is seen in good light.
On the practical side investments allocated to CSR programs used to be at the minimalistic. But times have changed and whilst corporate philanthropy maybe on the wane (or is it making a comeback due to the clamour for “transparency’?) There are, undoubtedly, strong advantages in aligning an organisations’ profitability objective with community development.
The question, that arises, is would such community development objectives become a primary driver in developing the business strategy for an organisation?
The example that comes to mind is that of Body Shop. A clearly defined set of values aimed at improving the community both, economically and in terms of quality of life, has given this brand a loyal customer base globally. A consumer group that relates to the corporate cause and commitment of the brand and is willing to aid that mission through their support (of the brand) in terms of preference, recommendation and product usage.
So is there learning in this for businesses that want to operate in the global Muslim segment?
Today, aside from the Islamic Finance and Halal (food) sectors, the need for mainstream brands (of other product categories) is enormous. Even within Islamic Finance–the retail sector–leaves a lot to be desired in terms of consumer marketing. But there seems to be light at the end of the tunnel as we are seeing slowly the evolving travel & tourism, healthcare/pharma and fashion products coming about.
The population numbers and purchasing power of the Muslim community justify a business case in having brand offerings for this vast segment. Coupled with that when you add the ever increasing numbers of the community of South East Asia and the growing youth segment (of this global community), with the increasing demand for lifestyle products , it’s amazing as to why such brand offerings (to this segment) has not yet come about. (There are some, but by and large their presence is, primarily, well known only in their specific geographical markets only.)
Is it an issue of approaching this segment based on classical (“Stakeholders’ profit maximisation”) business formulae or is it lack of understanding of the differing needs of this segment?
Whichever be the case, approaching this segment, strategically, based on a “community development” objective can provide a very strong platform for having a sustainable business strategy.
- A business strategy that would be competitive, sustainable and with very clear benefits all round thus ensuring long term engagement (amongst all stakeholders).
- Developing a commercial enterprise whose objective is to uplift a section of the Muslim community economically would resonate very strongly with the global Muslim community.
In essence, it would provide a cause for the Muslim consumer to ‘contribute’ his/her bit (for the community) as well as enable them to relate to the brand and thus have engagement and involvement.
- Integrating Winning Strategy: Business Strategy v. Brand Strategy (distility.com)
- Social Media Strategies: Is Social Media Adoption The New Quality Standard Of Successful Company? (smcitizens.com)
- Is CSR A Helpful Tool?
- Islamic Ethics based CSR Program