W. Sky Downing
(with special thanks to Dina Sami)
December 05, 2023
What Ramadan Can Teach Us About Acceptance And Brands About Inclusivity
In my early childhood years, I grew up in a household with what I would describe as ‘the perfect mix of religious and cultural’ exposure that I still carry with me today. I was taught the importance of resilience, cultural humility, faith behind action, and most importantly, kindness. As a result, I honestly was given the best of both worlds to make informed choices of who I want to be and how I wish to proceed throughout the world.
When given the opportunity to move to the Middle East, I was excited the most about the exposure to a culture and religion I only knew on a surface level. And although I am still by no means an expert, I left my four years in Dubai with a deeper understanding of Islam that I am genuinely grateful for.
For many looking from the outside, the perception of Ramadan is that those of Muslim descent are simply fasting for a 30-day period, not far off what some may do for Lent. However, there is more to it than just fasting. The observance of Ramadan has the ability to teach us love, humility, and patience.
And in turn, I learned that there was so much to learn and celebrate, even for those who may not be Muslim or observe this moment each year.
So, as we face a cultural evolution of inclusivity, I can’t help but think about how U.S. brands (as well as consumers) can lean into these sentiments and create a genuine engagement experience that is reflective of the 1.9 billion Muslims globally (with 8.1 million projected to be from the U.S. by the year 2050). In addition to embracing its enlightened values in the same way Christmas and Hanukkah are.
Where’s The Start:
Firstly, understand the habits and needs during the holy month and what are the artistic and cultural nuances that make this time special. Influencers and creators such as Yara Elmjouie and Mai’s Vault have often tackled challenges and popular misperceptions about the holy month of Ramadan and the celebration of Eid in edutaining ways for those who may not be as familiar with the Muslim community.
Secondly, it’s important for brands to sway away from the commercialization of Ramadan and instead align with the month’s recognition of gratitude. Brands such as Ikea have tapped into a sense of community with product lines built around togetherness and keeping in mind moments such as Iftar, where families come together to break their fast and eat.
Thirdly, brands have an excellent opportunity to keep in mind the altruistic side of the observance with campaigns that acknowledge the importance of giving back, one of the critical values during this time. In recent years, brands such as Etihad airlines have created community fridges for those in need. Which also built upon UAE traditions that focused on the spirit of sharing and working with Etihad’s global network.
Fourthly, focusing on quality over quantity, brands such as Tesco, a UK supermarket chain, created an OOH campaign that utilized tech on digital billboards that filled the plates with food as the sun set, noting the importance of sustenance during Iftar and Suhour.
Fifthly, find meaningful ways to be part of the conversation (even beyond the time). Brands such as Jawwy uncovered a way to authentically remind people to live the Ramadan spirit all year long by ensuring that doing good deeds and helping others becomes an everyday habit.
Lastly, remember, no matter what route you choose; it’s never wrong to acknowledge and celebrate the contributions others make globally because we are all the better for it.
And most importantly, Ramadan Mubarak!