The Value Benefits of Transparency

Value of Transparency





An oft used word in today’s corporate world with limited or practically no delivery in terms of action. This could sound like a pretty strong judgemental statement. It probably is. It’s based on a decade long experience across industries, professional dealings and employee-company relationship. Out in my part of the woods, the experiential learning seems to lean towards the above (so far. And I’m still looking out to be proved wrong!)

Whilst developing a ‘brand identity’, the marketing team, the consultants, advisors et all use this particular word quite often. Finally, it goes into the documentation and at times also into the processes developed. But that’s where the DROP occurs! When it comes to putting the process to practice ie having free flowing two-way information between the employee and his/her superior, between the senior management and the mid, and junior management levels, somewhere some of the ‘information’ is “not communicated” in its full form. Resulting in assumptions, presumptions, and individual interpretations and finally producing a ‘pot-pouri’ where the brand experience is concerned.


So the question is, can such DROP’s be avoided or a back-up plan developed in case it does occur (during a strategic plan implementation stage)? YES, it can be avoided.

The way to do this is:
1. Role clarity: Right from the start of any project/activity, the team leader should ensure that each individual of the team involved understands his/her role in terms of how the communication would flow, who is responsible for what, and the timelines of the same.
2. Reviews: in the implementation process, productive reviews should be factored in. Productive reviews are team meetings which are aimed at bringing up to date the team members on each specific area of the project as well as each team member using that review session to clarify queries, flag issues and agree to the next deliverable.

Transparency can’t be simply spoken about. As a work cultural value it needs to be demonstrated or shown. And the best way to show is by practicing it.

If an organisation, in its daily operations, follows the above two steps of basic project management, they will automatically be creating a ‘transparent culture’ ie a culture where failure is not penalised as the occurrence of failure will be diminished due to the teams having role clarity and frequently meeting and clarifying all issues.

This in turn would form part of the ‘brand experience’ that the employees in turn will make the stakeholders experience. Simply put, the employees would behave (with the stakeholders) exactly as they do in their interactions internally as it would be a habit for them. As a result, the stakeholders would be getting full information on their brand through their interactions and this would enable them to trust the brand more and more thereby leading to becoming the external brand champions.

Marketing 101





Islamic branding, halal marketing, Islamic finance, the global Muslim community are topics much written about and discussed today.

The justification for the same is apparent—at 23% of the global population (1.57 billion Muslims of all ages living in the world today, representing 23% of an estimated 2009 world population of 6.8 billion) the entire Muslim community is turning out to be a very important consumer segment.

But what exactly is this community’s DNA?The “bonding factor’ that has made this consumer segment the single largest consumer market today valued at over USD2 trillion?

Is it one homogeneous group of people, across the globe, bound together by virtue of their faith?

Or a series of socio-cultural clusters that have evolved over time, each with its distinct social and cultural nuances highly influenced by the environment it’s in?

Such questions can be quite confusing for marketers who are looking at the segment, both from the outside as well as inside, in order to establish brand relationships in this segment.

The answers lie in, first, understanding the trends within the community then, secondly, delving into each subset of the trends to identify emotional triggers that would provide a platform for the brand to establish itself with its target segment and lastly, basing or developing the brand’s business strategy on the ethical values of Islam.

The following macro and socio-cultural trends are just highlights given in two significant research studies (done between 2007 & 2009) by JWT– across North Africa, GCC, Levant, Central & South East Asia and by Pew Research Centre– Mapping the Global Muslim Population.

1. One key factor of this global segment is its young, median, age. 52% of the Muslim community are under 24 years old with an increasing awareness on Islamic values. These youth of today are the potential consumers and key influencers and decision makers of the future. They will be wielding an enormous cultural influence in the years to come.

2. It is tempting to view younger Muslims through the Generation-Y prism so favoured by us marketers. But there is an inherent difference in the ‘New Muslim Consumer’ and the older generation. That is—fundamentally, the new Muslim is different because of a strong reliance on faith and on the ethical values of Islam as their individual identity.

3. Modern or new Muslims are undergoing a major reassessment of their relationships with religious structures, cultural assumptions, authority, consumption and technology. This has an huge impact as Young Muslims are already starting to stamp their influence on the consumption habits of the wider global Muslim community.

Socio-Cultural Trends amongst the youth in the global Muslim community

1. A high proportion (62%) of the young Muslim consumers is proud to be a Muslim first and foremost. This sense of pride is driven by a desire for inclusion. Rather than distance themselves from religion in order to progress and succeed, the youth of the community say that Islam is what ‘gives life purpose and direction’.

2. 45% of this new generation believe that ‘religion should be adapted to suit individual lifestyles’ but crucially, they’re finding their own ways of doing so, with 27% agreeing that ‘protecting Islamic values from Western lifestyle and media influence’ is important to them.

3. They feel that Muslims have been misrepresented by the global media, by politicians and by educators, and they are keen to redress that balance.

4. The move towards conservatism should not be mistaken for a rejection of high-tech lifestyle products. Instead, New Muslim Consumers are often highly technically literate. At the same time they do not believe in an automatic acceptance of technology particularly if they reject the underlying ideas and values.

5. They believe in crafting ways forward out of their own faith, believing that religion and progress, far from being mutually exclusive, are practically inseparable.

6. The New Muslim Consumer is particularly wary of the kind of tokenism that continues to masquerade as an effective engagement strategy. Stamping products as halal or Shariah-compliant is not enough.

7. They ask more questions, and aren’t satisfied with glib answers. They are more educated, more questioning, more challenging and more discerning.’ ‘We need to look at the halal logo, yes, but also at the ingredients’. ‘And we need to know where the profits go’.

8. Research shows that despite the millions invested in Sharia compliant banking the, financial services, category is least trusted by Muslim consumers. Instead the New Muslim Consumer is highly interested in the authority and provenance of brands and the companies behind them.

This is just a tip of the iceberg in terms of the market research data and professional marketing expertise available globally, both, in multi-national and individual management consulting organisations who are in the overall Halal Marketing category.

Organisations (across industry categories) who are seriously looking at the global Muslim community as the next “growth driver” need to realise that they need the specialised expertise of such organisations in order to ensure achievement of business objectives.

Attempting to market, in this community, based on marketing techniques of the past would be akin to wearing a blindfold and trying to pin the tail on the back of the donkey.


Relationship Building in Islamic Business

Relationship marketing has been around (in brand marketing) for quite some time. Technology has aided in enabling huge progress in developing customised brand offers and providing rewarding brand experiences. Is there a lesson in this for the individual as well as the organisation?

As a marketeer, and as a Muslim, I often look at the Islamic financial products that are offered. And as the agent/sales person/product developer (you name it!!) speaks, I wonder in amazement why is it that they are not asking me what I need?And why are they not clarifying what I ask them. Maybe I’m not a Hi Net Worth (HNW) customer. I’m just one of the, average, many potential customers. And yet, time and again, I’ve not found explanations or details answering my queries. Infact I’ve never even been entertained as to what I want. Just “here’s a fabulous product. Oh! it’s sharia compliant and you should look at it!”

To cut a long story short, I’ve always left (these types of insurance, Islamic Finance investment product discussions/meet ups) feeling that:

A) The guy doesn’t know what he’s talking about.
B) They are still charging “interest”- just ‘disguising’ it with jargon
C) What am I getting out of it?

It’s the last query that’s intrigued me! So to check, I went around my friends, family, associates, colleagues… Muslims and non-Muslims. To my surprise, the majority response I got was–” hey they are all the same. Just want your money and then they forget you”! And this response made me sit up and wonder…

Why is it that there is no focus on the customer benefit?

Consider this scenario:
1. A sales person, knowledgeable and understanding the philosophy of his brand and the intention (objective), starts a dialogue with a potential client. In time he understands his client’s financial needs and advises (just like financial planners do for HNW individuals) accordingly and then “pushes” the products.

2. Through this period, the sales person provides information on the customer’s financial status and needs to product developers. This would enable the product developers to develop, customised products for that customer. Which then the sales person would have no problem in “selling” as it would answer the needs of the customer.

3. Additionally through this period, “trust” has been established between the sales person and the customer. Based on this trust and a customised solution, the customer makes the first value contribution to the brand (and the organisation) ie:transaction takes place.

Once the first transaction has taken place, its a matter of time before that trust delivers more and more value to the brand (and in turn to the organisation). Resulting in a profitable and respected brand. A brand with whom the customer wants to continue having a strong relationship as he finds “value” (of the advise and of customised products).

Now, imagine just 10 (for simplicity and example purposes) such strong relationships! The monetary and emotional value would be of huge benefit to an organisation. Not to mention the referrals that such customers would give which would add to the organisation having good, quality customer base.