Technology and digital communication are impacting people’s interactions and activities during Ramadan.
Freemium mobile apps like Iquran and Muslim Pro, which launched in Ramadan 2010, are more used during this month. The latter has constantly introduced new features, evolving into a platform that connects Muslims worldwide. Google has even recently created an app called Qibla Finder that guides Muslims to find Makkah’s direction for daily prayers.
Greetings, religious music, recipes search is higher than ever
Millions of messages sending Ramadan tidings, via social media networks and chat apps, are exchanged between families and friends. Twitter has even created custom emojis for Ramadan, including a crescent moon and a mosque emoji automatically displayed when someone tweets using a ‘Ramadan’ hashtag in English or in Arabic and a ‘Ramadan Kareem’ in Arabic.
A January 2017 Think with Google report shows that there were 50 percent more searches for recipes in the MENA during Ramadan than in any other time of the year. The report also pointed out that Youtube watch time for cooking videos jumped 30 percent higher than the annual average during the first week of Ramadan 2016, which represents the peak for the year.
Consumption of religious music, a longtime favorite during Ramadan, also increased by 20 to 30 percent during the first and the last few days of Ramadan 2016.
A time to give back
The holy month is seen a time to ‘give back’, and corporates have started to do that digitally through various CSR campaigns. Tajawal, a rising Dubai-based travel reservation startup with partnerships in Saudi Arabia, launched a Ramadan CSR campaign, ‘We know Ramadan means giving’, donating 10 Emirati dirhams ($2.7) from every hotel or flight booking completed during Ramadan through its platform, to Dubai Cares, a Dubai NGO.
Careem is also donating 3 dirhams ($0.8) to help refugees through a partnership with UNCHR with every booking of a UNHCR car.
Besides CSR, some companies have offered special discounts. Dubai telco company Du has been offering free video on demand and discounts on phone plans.
During the final week of Ramadan, companies have started publishing Eid-focused content, including telco companies’ celebratory ads wishing everyone ‘Eid Mubarak’.
According to Google MENA product marketing manager Zain Masri, content created in the MENA on Youtube during Ramadan continues to gain major visibility long after the holy month ends.
Case in point: the 2016 Aljay Afdhal الجاي أفضل يا بندر (The best is yet to come) TV commercial by Saudi telco Mobily, its annual Eid advert. It featured an inspirational song by young Saudi singer and Youtuber Bandar Al Salamy with an appearance by award-winning Saudi singer Hamza Hawsawi. Featured on TV screens across the Gulf, the tune, which touched on themes like hope and faith, went to rack up over 5.6 million views on Youtube and won awards at leading marketing industry festivals in the MENA. Youtube will be holding the second edition of The Lantern Award campaign, to highlight the best digital ads.
For the people, by the people
When it comes to creating short-form content, Snapchat is one of the top two platforms (along with Instagram) in the MENA region and elsewhere in the world where Muslim communities can be found. Data that Snapchat’s parent company Snap Inc. revealed earlier this month indicates that Saudi cities Jeddah and Riyadh are top two most active cities in the world for daily Snapchat usage. Of the 166 million global daily active users of Snapchat, over eight million are in Saudi Arabia.
While celebrating Eid Al-Adha in 2014 Snapchat’s US team curated a ‘story’ (collection of Snaps) that exhibited Muslims around the world, using the app, had taken.
Following up on this initiative the MENA HQ of Snapchat, which has been expanding its team in Dubai, has brought a broader range of features that hadn’t previously been deployed in the region. It introduced special Geofilters in Arabic and English, as well as Ramadan-themed lenses (which alter images and videos) and a series of stories that focus on how Ramadan is celebrated by Snapchat users in various parts of the world.
According to Ahmed Al Kabab, a Dubai-based Yemeni startup entrepreneur who cofounded Frenzy Brands, which allows brands to engage with people through their smartphones via contests and rewards them with prizes, a new way of thinking is required: personalization.
“Catering to the desire of consumers, which should be seen as individuals, and not just as numbers, would be the best marketing technique. This could be achieved using available marketing platforms and consumer analysis tools to track, predict, and understand consumers’ online behavior and cater to that on a personal basis,” said Al Kabab.
As we flip the calendar at this halfway point of the year and the end of an important month for marketers in MENA, it remains to be seen if brands will integrate personalization into their marketing efforts (such as Google’s Ramadan With Google microsite) going forward in 2017.