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Marketing in Ramadan and Muslim Fashion


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Dr Jonathan A.J. Wilson’s August column in the Marketeers Magazine
on: Ramadan, how marketing comms is like a game of squash or volleyball, DKNY and Uniqlo Muslim fashion, KIN Global, and ISIS.

Published in: Marketing
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Marketing in Ramadan and Muslim Fashion

  1. 1. A E S T R O Market 115 Jonathan (Bilal) A.J. Wilson Academic Programme Director, Postgraduate suite in Marketing University of Greenwich, London UK Editor: Journal of Islamic Marketing Ramadan Reflections 01 02 I write this piece as we’re into the last ten days of Ramadan. It’s a time for reflection, and reorientation. Ramadan does that to you. Nineteen hour a day fasts in London, with no food or drink during these hours, really do make you focus on the bigger picture. You feel connected with people around the world; and it’s amazing how no matter how old or young you are, or even how religious you think you are, for this month there’s a sense of “we can all do this, and we’re one big happy family”. It’s also the halfway stage in the year and that al- ways makes me think about what I’ve done, and what else I have to pack into this year to make it a suc- cess. I’m also writing this off the back of a lot of trips abroad. I made it there and back to Chicago, Doha, Dubai, Istanbul, Kuala Lumpur, and Manila. One thing that seems to be trending lies at the in- tersection between Branding, Public Relations, Social Media, Reputation and Image Management. Every- one is communicating more than ever before. A smart phone, smart thumbs, smart mind, and smart mouth can do a lot to make or break your marketing activi- ties. Challenges that we face are: how much do we actually say and share; and how important is that per- sonal touch within all of this? These are pulling every- one towards the age of personal branding. The old style of Marketing and Communications was very much about broadcasting and staying ‘on topic’. Now it’s about sharing information and insight, in any field, and claiming that space. Brand building is very much now about storytell- ing, associating and linking your identity within net- works and communities; and then allowing people to respond. Think of it like this: before marketers were archers, firing arrows towards targets; or in even more competitive markets, hunters. Now it’s more like a game of volleyball or squash. It takes several moves, deflections, and willing opponents if you want to win
  2. 2. A E S T R O Market 116 DKNY Donna Karan has recently stepped down as designer of her namesake company. DKNY, also founded by Karan, launched a Ramadan 2014 Summer collection; which was styled by Yada Golsharifi, fashion editor of Styles Magazine, and Dubai fashion designer Ta- mara Al Gabbani [shown in the photo]. This grabbed worldwide headlines and was well received. But hang on - the collection was only available in the Middle East. I raised this point when I was sat next to world champion Ibtihaj Muhammad, Member, of the U.S. National Fencing Team, and Founder of the fashion label Louella; when we were on a panel session at the American Muslim Consumer Conference, held in New Jersey last Fall. Ibtihaj commented on how her and New Yorker friends loved the clothes, but were frustrated by the fact that they couldn’t get hold of them on home soil. So I asked whether her and the audience thought that this was a case of ‘not in my back yard’? Are companies still afraid about showing open support for Muslims in non-Muslim countries? Uniqlo Well this year welcome Japanese company Uniqlo and their July launch of the exclusive Hana Tajima LifeWear collection in Kuala Lumpur. Hana Tajima is a UK-born fashion designer and vlogger of Japanese heritage, who converted to Islam. This is maybe the first collection hosted by a mainstream brand that goes all out to celebrate Muslim dress. Where DNKY went as far as offering loose clothes and designs that cov- ered arms and legs, Hana’s collection delivers all of this and more. Other labels produce what they market as dresses. Here Uniqlo have been brave enough to also stick with Muslim cultural terms such as kebaya. Even bolder still is the move to sell hijabs. They have innovated on the classical design of the hijab scarf, producing unique inner hood-type items, headbands, turbans – points, and hopefully the game, set and match. These reactions, deflections, hits and rallies are important. If we stick with the squash and volleyball analo- gies, think about how much more fun and engaging the game is when there is a rally. Sure, you sweat more, but you learn more, grow stronger, and it draws in the crowds. People remember those rallies and they become the theatre where people get to show their personalities and emotions more. Brands have to be immersive and experience-driven. They need to ooze charisma, cool, and grace under pressure. So who’s doing it for me at the moment? 03
  3. 3. A E S T R O Market 117 all with Uniqlo’s AIRism breathable, quick-drying, heat-releasing, and odor-minimising fabric. Uniqlo are smart and I am a big fan. As brand guru David Aaker has also pointed out: 2013 Uniqlo be- came the exclusive, multi-year sponsor of the New York Museum of Modern Art’s Friday night program, which offers free admission in the evenings. Almost a year later in March of 2014, Uniqlo launched SPRZ NY (Surprise New York) in partnership with MoMA. Under SPRZ NY, Uniqlo puts artwork inspired by top contemporary artists such as Andy Warhol, Jean-Mi- chel Basquiat, and Keith Haring on some 200 items that will sell from $6 to $50. Some of the artists, in- cluding Ryan McGinness, will personally design clothing items based on their works hanging in the museum. It’s “the place where art and clothing meet.” Hana Tajima is an obvious fit, and she’s been bol- stered by the appearance of Malaysian singer/song- writer Yuna, singer/songwriter Elizabeth Tan, and model Yaya. This is a big step forward. It’s definitely a movement away from the ‘not in my back yard’ senti- ments I expressed before and more about connecting with communities locally and celebrating that glob- ally. But let’s see if Uniqlo can go all out and extend these offerings further West to the millions of eagerly awaiting Muslims. Also, amongst all of this you’ve gotta feel sorry for us brothers. Sure, beards might be in fashion, and peo- ple are rocking them with bright coloured chinos. Also designers like Tom Ford have now launched luxury conditioning beard oil, retailing at $50 USD – but I think the world is still afraid of us Muslim beardies, or using them as brand ambassadors… okay, with the exception of ultra cool Hip-hop emcee Mos Def, also known as Yasiin Bey. ISIS Because we’ve got this Islamic State (IS)/Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS)/Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) thing going on – whatever you want to call them. For the past two years that I have attend- ed the KIN Global Kellogg Innovation Network con- ference in Illinois, USA; and the ‘brand’ [which we can probably judge it as such] that has been mentioned the most has been ISIS. Commentators have dissected their social media strategy, their ideology and narra- tive, and how they are affecting markets. UK Prime 01. New York Hip-hop emcee Mos Def / Yasiin Bey 02. MarkPlus’s Iwan Setiawan, me, and Professor Philip Kotler on his 84th birthday at KIN Global 2015 03. Yada and Tamara modelling the DKNY 2014 Ramadan collection 04. Yuna outside the Uniqlo Kuala Lumpur store 05. Hana styling Yaya with a hijab from the Uniqlo collection 06. Kebaya and Dress from the Uniqlo Lifewear collection 04
  4. 4. A E S T R O Market 118 “WELOOKFORWARDTOTHETIMEWHEN THEPOWEROFLOVEWILLREPLACETHE LOVEOFPOWER.THENWILLOURWORLD KNOWTHEBLESSINGSOFPEACE” William Gladstone (1809-1898) & Jimi Hendrix (1942-1970) Minister David Cameron has even proposed, what is essentially a rebranding exercise, referring to them by the Arabic acronym, DAESH. Think about this for one minute in marketing terms: stakeholders outside of the organization are calling for the rebrand of that organization, and the name that they are suggesting is in a language which is un- derstood locally, rather than globally. This perfectly highlights the challenges and paradoxes of modern marketing. Similarly, there are debates surrounding the contin- ued use of the US Confederate flag, in light of recent civil unrest and murders, which CNN covered last month with headlines dubbing them as Racial Terror- ism, according to some commentators. People are fighting for identities and searching to be heard in a globalized and hyperconnect world, where brands, nationalities and flags, through association, are being drawn in. Race, religion and politics are no longer no-go areas for marketers - we have to grasp the nettle and tackle these issues. I spoke about these issues at KIN Global last year and this year the discus- sions continued. It’s easy to have them at a conference full of some of the greatest, most hard-working and innovative minds, and not to mention the most kind- spirited people I have met in one space. However the challenge remains how to action the themes of these two conferences: Change at Scale, and Growth for Good. If that isn’t enough of a challenge, reading in Al Jazeera News about how ISIS are using selfies as a marketing tool; then read about how the Russian po- lice have launched an infographic campaign urging people to take safer selfies; after over 100 were injured and dozens died this year in gruesome accidents while striking high-risk poses. With that I’ll end with a quote from William Glad- stone (1809-1898) that was resurrected by Jimi Hen- drix: “We look forward to the time when the Power of Love will replace the Love of Power. Then will our world know the blessings of peace”. I hope you had an amazing Ramadan and a fantastic Eid. 05 06