Companies in the past, especially those from the Western world tend to have a more coercive attitude towards their products, expecting others to adapt to their identity brand (i.e. how Coca-Cola for the longest time would use the same marketing for all the countries they sell to). Nowadays the need for marketers to scrutinize, analyse and consider various elements of culture has become inextricable in launching a product in foreign markets. This applies to companies’ ability to penetrate the halal market too. With a population at more than 1.7 billion people, making up over 23% of the global population, the economic, cultural, and political environment of these countries cannot be neglected.
Firstly, it is more than just being halal. It is about marketing strategy. When enquired whether a company might target Muslim consumers, “we don’t do halal” is a common response. However, it’s as important to recognize that Muslim consumers shop at different times and for different reasons, even if they are essentially buying the same products. An instance of this is the multinational company, Johnson & Johnson. The company has always enjoyed a New Year sales bump when it comes to nicotine patches, but also noticed a Ramadan sales bump as Muslims used the patches to stop smoking during the month-long fast, which has led to a change in marketing behaviour. The same goes for halal tourism as well. HalalTrip.com advertises its accommodations according to how near they are to halal restaurants and mosques.
The Muslim world is also diverse from an economic perspective. Choosing between global and local marketing strategies depends very much on the countries, whether they have a high GDP per capita (Qatar) or high overall GDP (Indonesia & Turkey), or on the poorer end of the spectrum (Somalia or Comoros). Even in poorer communities, opportunities still exist because of the bottom of the pyramid approach and workers remittances. As a whole, growing GDPs, coupled with an increasing demography makes a great combo in terms of a good market.
Furthermore, when selling to the halal market, due consideration must be paid to local legal barriers. Boycott of one company or one country – as is the case with the Arab League boycott of Israel is a landmark example of this. This puts companies in a tough position, as they are made to choose between accessing the Israeli market or Arab League member markets. A country’s legal system is a huge factor. Malaysia, for instance, has separate statutory authorities regarding industries such as Islamic banking, or the halal certification of food. Harmonizing a company’s standard with the standard of the country they are selling to would be an integral part of selling products to Muslim consumers.
The halal market is large and diverse amongst the Muslim world, with the global Muslim consumers having specific demands, which changes according to local context. However, with all of those factors kept in mind, access to such a massive growing market becomes more possible.