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EXCLUSIVE RAMADAN INSIGHTS PART 1: What’s missing in your FMCG strategy?

To help marketers outshine their competitors, and stand out amid Ramadan ad clutter, Sapience, in partnership with Mediaquest, conducted an analytical study titled “Marketing in Ramadan”. The study examines the traditional media’s cluttered advertising scene, showcases top advertisers on main stations during Ramadan 2017, and provides a deep insight into consumer’s behaviors, media habits and purchase behavior change during the month of Ramadan, in the GCC countries.

To help marketers outshine their competitors, and stand out amid Ramadan ad clutter, Sapience, in partnership with Mediaquest, conducted an analytical study titled “Marketing in Ramadan”.

The study examines the traditional media’s cluttered advertising scene, showcases top advertisers on main stations during Ramadan 2017, and provides a deep insight into consumer’s behaviors, media habits and purchase behavior change during the month of Ramadan, in the GCC countries.

The study will be released through three special reports:

1-Advertising in Ramadan with a focus on FMCG

2-Audience’s media habits and purchase behavior

3-Ramadan campaign review with a focus on where advertisers are spending their money

To download either of the special reports mentioned above or the full study, please click here, and a representative will be in touch with you.

This exclusive PART I report addresses the important trends that impact the FMCG sector during the holy month of Ramadan in the MENA region, what marketing strategies FMCG brands adopt to connect with consumers, how FMCG brands measure the success of Ramadan-centric campaigns and, last but not the least, how FMCG marketers and advertisers need to catch up with the consumer behavior in the MENA region.

This report is a summary of Part 1 of a three-part whitepaper on Ramadan strategies for brands.

Read Facebook: How to get your sales up by 75% this Ramadan

How does Ramadan affect consumer behavior?

Fasting is obligated during the holy month of Ramadan. But that does not mean there is a fall in demand for food.

On the contrary, Ramadan period (including a few weeks before and a couple of weeks after the Eid festival) sees a spike in the demand of food and grocery items, as consumers observing fast tend to stock up.

Also, the shopping behavior witnesses great fluctuations during Ramadan time. Saudi consumers reckon that Ramadan and shopping come hand in hand.

Chocolate and Confectionery is one of the top categories that tends to be more purchased followed by clothes. And when shopping during Ramadan, price-discounted products attract the majority of consumers.

Ramadan is also a time when grocery outlets and shopping malls stay open past the midnight, to allow for people to shop.

Infographic: Facebook’s Ramadan insights on users’ experience

How to market FMCG products

The top food products consumers purchase during Ramadan are dates, processed concentrated drinks, grains (rice, oats, wheat…), frozen proteins and dry fruits.

While Ramadan is a period of fasting and austerity, it is also a time for a marketing feast for retailers and brands as they ramp up their advertising spend.

Undoubtedly, marketing in Ramadan provides businesses with the means of reaching a more targeted audience, however, as competition gets fiercer, it can be difficult to stand out in an extremely cluttered advertising landscape, which produces a challenge on brand penetration.

Every year, during Ramadan, people connect with faith, family and friends. FMCG brands and marketers, too, try to make the best use of the Ramadan period to create meaningful conversations with potential customers in the Middle East.

Ramadan, therefore, works as a magnet for advertising budgets for many FMCG as well non-FMCG brands, with many of them choosing to spend around this time of the year due to its importance.

Top advertisers such as Mobily, Hyundai, Saudi Telecom, Zain, Vimto and many others represent the lion’s share of total TV advertising during the holy month.

Read: Watch for smoke signals this Ramadan: UAE help is on the way

Hear from the experts

During Ramadan period, every FMCG marketer needs to understand its brand position in a competitive context. The holy month may be culturally diverse across different regions and geographies, yet there is one common theme everywhere, i.e. buying of food items.

It is crucial to optimize your performance and continually improve it over time. Also, understanding your consumers’ Internet habits, road traffic and outings are crucial.

To produce the desired effect, a brand message should say the right thing at the right time. Keep your messages succinct, crafted powerfully and use repetition to cut through the brand clutter.

It’s not just what you communicate, it’s where, how, when, and to whom, and how often you communicate it.

And so we spoke to three communicators: Asad Rehman, director of media and digital transformation, Unilever MENA; Rainer Mueller, communications director at Nestlé Middle East; and Mustafa Shamseldin, Snacks, Vice-President MENA, PepsiCo.

Read Feast or famine: Will UAE businesses go slow as Muslims fast this Ramadan?

Unilever’s Ramadan strategy is all about moving away from traditional metrics to brand equity

“The core of Unilever’s strategy, during the Holy Month of Ramadan accordingly focuses on connecting with our consumers via our brands with purpose,”  says Asad Rehman, director of media and digital transformation, Unilever MENA. Unilever aims to drive positive impact through the month by engaging its consumers through opportunities such as the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan, which focuses on waste and packaging, opportunities for women, and sustainable nutrition among others.

The brand’s advertising campaigns also reflect the spirit of Ramadan. For instance, Lipton’s “Think, Do” campaign encouraged people to think of others and do small and good deeds during the holy month. Similarly, Omo and Comfort’s “Share a Touch of Love this Ramadan” campaign has been running for eight years encouraging consumers to donate their used clothes. The clothes are then cleaned with Omo and Comfort and donated to the needy via a partnership with Emirates Red Crescent. The campaign has gone on to break the world record thrice for the largest clothes donations collected anywhere in the world.

“All of these have had a unique way to connect with consumers and have been supported with unique partnerships with organizations that have a social impact such as NGO’s and non-profits,” adds Rehman.

Additionally, Unilever also partners with other organizations such as Uber and Careem, and For example, Careem played a key role in arranging collections during the “Share a Touch of Love this Ramadan” campaign.

“Whilst the consumption of various products sees a substantial increase during Ramadan, the month for us is an opportunity to get closer to the consumer’s hearts, and engage around the spirit of Ramadan by bringing to life the brand purpose while building impact and relevance,” explains Rehman. And so, “The key measure of effectiveness is not necessarily the traditional measures , but enhancement of brand equity.”

REVEALED: Top Ramadan road safety ‘Tips & Tricks’

Nestlé celebrates through food but its moment of truth is at the POS

“Our approach during before and during Ramadan aims to complement and enrich good food moments that our consumers share with their families and within their communities,” says Rainer Mueller, communications director at Nestlé Middle East.

Through its diverse product portfolio, Nestlé focuses a lot on a Ramadan menu planner and recipe ideas. “Celebrating togetherness, kindness, generosity, and sharing nutritious and delicious meals and desserts during Iftar after sunset, and providing healthy energy for the day during Suhoor before sunrise are at the core of this,” adds Mueller.

Brands can see an increase of up to 40 percent in sales during Ramadan, which means the preparation for this month, is of utmost importance.

“Ramadan has a different impact depending on the business; it can go up to 40 percent of the annual sales of some brands,” he says, which means preparing ahead of time is of utmost importance. In fact, Nestlé’s local factories start planning a year ahead, peaking production to ensure that stocks reach to the shops early enough to help people make decisions ahead of time.

Although Nestlé’s Ramadan campaigns focus on family, togetherness, healthy eating, etc., what really determine their success are reach, engagement, sales and market share, he says. Reach helps understand if the campaigns are triggering awareness and consideration, and engagement helps understand if the campaign content, recipes and menu planner resonate with consumers. “The moment of truth is in store when shoppers make their product choice,” he says. “If our Ramadan campaigns are more successful than the ones of our competitors, is finally captured in our market share results. “

Some of the company’s initiatives this year include MAGGI’s “1000 Women For Good” initiative, which first launched in 2012. It mobilizes 1000 woman every year to prepare close to 15000 ‘baskets of goodness’ that are provided to less fortunate families, in collaboration with local NGOs or food banks.

Read: Why are more brands and marketers turning to Facebook this Ramadan?

For PepsiCo, Ramadan is about both, numbers and emotions

It’s an understood fact that consumption and purchase behaviors change massively during Ramadan, especially for F&B products. PepsiCo is not only aware of this but as Shamseldin says, as one of the largest F&B companies operating for over 50 years in the region, it “adapts its communications, innovation and channel marketing focus to fit the needs of consumers during this special time.”

The company’s main goal is to provide its consumers with the right products to meet their nutritional and social needs; reconnect with consumers by developing campaigns in line with the values of Ramadan, such as sharing, reflecting, and peace, and to leverage the deep connection they have with the Holy month to increase the relevance of our brands, he explains. It’s also an opportunity to highlight more nutritious products since healthy eating during both iftar and suhooris important. For instance, Quaker Oats is used in preparing soups and broths during iftar – something that has become quite a Ramadan staple, according to Shamseldin. “We plan on marketing more of our nutritious foods and beverages to consumers,” he adds.

When it comes to Ramadan campaigns, Shamseldin says that Google data shows an increase in digital media consumption during the month,” and so we ensure our campaigns are also present online.” Along with campaigns, the company also focused on packing innovation to address consumer needs.

“The effectiveness is measured by our sales figures, our share of the consumption occasions, the response we get to our campaigns on social media, as well as the emotional connections we build with our consumers through our brands,” he adds.

This part 1 of the report was originally published on Communicate (, AMEinfo’s sister company 

Click here to find out how to get the full report