In just a blink of an eye, we’re celebrating the Ramadan month once again. Commencing in less than a few weeks, Muslims will go into a one-month routine mainly in terms of when they begin and break their fasts. Ramadan bazaars will unwrap in our neighbourhoods, and talented Malaysians will offer their best delicacies for iftar meals.

But Ramadan isn't all about fasting. During this time, Muslims are encouraged to have an awareness of thought and intent. It is a time of reflection and growth into our better self. Brands have the opportunity to show their support through the year but more so during the holy month of Ramadan.

From a survey conducted by with 1,077 Malaysian Muslims on consumer behaviour during the month of Ramadan, we uncovered a list of challenges Muslims brave through during this period. Here are seven ways your brand can be more supportive during the month of Ramadan.

1. Be the voice and image of perseverance

Most challenging food/activities to abstain from during Ramadan

Among those who were fasting, a majority (69%) revealed that drinking water was the hardest to abstain from while a minor (12%) found food and smoking (11%) to be challenging.

How can a brand show support? Impact on consumers and what it means for a brand
  • Be extra conscious about the time of the day when promoting ads that contain food or beverages.
  • Consider the impact on consumers who are fasting when advertising food or beverage items during the day. While this could influence a consumers’ decision in selecting a meal to break fast, it could also be off-putting.
  • While Muslim consumers understand that their challenges do not affect those who are not observing a fast, they remember the brands that go out of their way to show their support.
  • Brands would inspire and encourage non-Muslim consumers to be more aware and display their support too.

Ad example:
Coca-Cola shows support for Muslim consumers with uplifting Ramadan ad - Marketing-Interactive

2. Create a safe and emphatic public space for Muslims who are unable to fast

A majority (89%) of women who are pregnant or on their menses say they do not feel safe eating in public during Ramadan. Additionally, more than half (61%) of Muslim women also say they do not feel safe packing food from a restaurant/stall during Ramadan.

How can a brand show support? Impact on consumers and what it means for a brand
  • Creating an ad campaign with the intent of educating the public on Muslims who are unfit and unable to fast can help position your brand to be an ally.
  • Find out what other issues your target consumers face during this period. Aim to offer solutions and share awareness of the concerns.
  • Consumers will recognise brands that provide comfort and security which ultimately creates an emotional bond between a consumer and a brand.
  • The brand will be known as one who respects cultural sensitivity and diversity.

Media coverage example:
6 misconceptions about Ramadan - BBC News UK

3. Considerations on message and timing

On a topic of festivities, around one third (36%) of respondents think that malls or shops should wait closer towards the end of Ramadan to play Hari Raya music or have Hari Raya decoration up from the beginning to the end of the Ramadan month. While more (64%) say it would create a sense of excitement, brands should not brush off the potential disrespect it could display to consumers who believe otherwise.

Is it appropriate for malls or shops to play Hari Raya songs or have Hari Raya decoration up from the beginning to the end of the Ramadan month?
How can a brand show support? Impact on consumers and what it means for a brand
  • Consider finding a middle ground to appease your consumers. While wanting to create an exciting sense of festivities for consumers, be culturally sensitive and respectful to your more conservative consumers.
  • Consider opting for a scheduled time and duration to play festive music.
  • Consumers recognise brands that show initiatives in being respectful.
  • Your consumers’ reaction towards your brand’s activities and messaging is an insight into their judgment and motivations during this particular period.
  • This reaction may differ in other months. Understand what makes them feel appreciated and supported.

Ad example:
Mcdonald’s Indonesia ran a ‘Wrapped Ramadan’ campaign with a video ad promoting their burgers with the wrapper still on, never revealing the image of the food during fasting -

4. Offer opportunities for corporate social responsibility (CSR) efforts

Involvement in charity activities during the Ramadan month

When asked about involvement in charity initiatives during the Ramadan month, a majority (39%) of Malaysian Muslims say they do more charity work during this month. A slightly lesser amount (30%) say they do the same amount of charity as with other months.

How can a brand show support? Impact on consumers and what it means for a brand
  • Create opportunities for consumers to engage with your brand by forming charity partnerships.
  • Work with charity organisations that include an option for supporters to make a Zakat donation.
  • Find appropriate ways to persuade your consumers to selflessly donate.
  • Consumers appreciate ‘culture conscious’ brands. It creates an emotional connection between them and the brand.
  • When a brand involves itself with CSR activities, it is recognised for more than just the products and promotions it offers.

Ad example:
Coca-Cola’s various initiatives and partnership with Yayasan Kemanusian Muslim Aid Malaysia to support its charitable work for the underprivileged.- Marketing-Interactive

5. Offer meaningful rebates/discounts

Top spends during the Ramadan month

When asked about the top three spends during the Ramadan month, the majority responses were food (72%), clothing (67%), and duit raya (41%). More than a quarter (37%) also selected donations/charity and travels back to their kampung (33%) as their top spends.

How can a brand show support? Impact on consumers and what it means for a brand
  • Offer discount/rebates during festive periods, especially for essential everyday necessities.
  • Businesses that have loyalty programmes could initiate unique reward points during this time or offer cash vouchers as a festive gift.
  • Brands could run surveys to understand their consumer purchase behaviours during this period to provide more meaningful offers to them.
  • Consumer expectation has increased, and they demand an improved level of personalisation. They are likely to turn to brands that understand their needs and priorities most.
  • Your marketing strategy will not matter to a consumer, what matters is if your business can deliver to their needs and understand their purchasing behaviours and influence.

Media coverage example:
15 Ramadan promotions that worked -

6. Advocate a healthy diet and lifestyle

Working out during Ramadan month

Half (50%) of respondents said they work out during Ramadan in efforts to keep fit. Nearly one third (24%) expressed being too tired during this period.

How can a brand show support? Impact on consumers and what it means for a brand
  • Brands can advise consumers to adopt alternate routines that can keep them active and energized during the fasting month.
  • As Muslims face a different routine during Ramadan, eating habits may also differ. Ads that encourage and remind consumers to remain on a balanced and healthy diet throughout the month could be useful.
  • Health tips such as not skipping suhoor meals and avoid over-eating during iftar could place as daily reminders.
  • As it can be a challenging time for Muslims, support received from brands via online or offline ads can create a meaningful impact.
  • By sharing health tips for the fasting month, brands would be seen as taking a special interest in consumers’ health.

Media coverage example:
Healthy Ramadan fasting -

7. Share, promote and advocate family values

Ad criteria that consumers were most connected with

Brands in Malaysia received a lot of attention for their Hari Raya ads in the year 2018. More than half (64%) of respondents still remember these ads and the majority (80%) of them felt connected to the family relationship criteria within the ad.

How can a brand show support? Impact on consumers and what it means for a brand
  • Brands that express understanding in Malaysia’s cultural and family values, will relate better to consumers.
  • Consumers often make decisions based on emotional factors. They are likely to be drawn to brands which either support their values, ethics or cause.
  • A brand that chooses to advocate these criteria should be consistent with their messaging to maintain a healthy consumer consumption of their products/services.

Ad example:
Marketing Magazine shares ‘Everyone’s favourite Hari Raya 2018 ads!’ - Marketing Magazine

Consumers are often drawn to brands that reflect closely to their own identities such as being youthful, elegant, athletic or even conservative. Brands have reliable influencing power over the mass and are often able to forge new behaviours and trends. Given this significant influence and realisation over the potential outcome of an event, brands can employ efforts to create a more evolved and harmonious community.

Ramadan is a holy month observed mainly by Muslims but respected by all Malaysians. Brands can strive to educate, spread awareness and continuously study consumer behaviour over different time periods to progressively maintain and understand the difference in consumer reactions and influencing factors throughout the year. Placing efforts in this could sustain an effective long-lasting connection between your brand and consumers.

If you're interested in learning more on the insights, we uncovered in this online survey, head on over to the dashboard here.

You are more than welcome to utilise this data, do firstly have a read on our terms.