Ramadan Offers Brands A Chance To Practice Meaningful Inclusivity

While reaching out to audiences during Ramadan definitely serves brands from a business perspective, it is important to practice what you preach.

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For those practicing Islam, Ramadan is a time of reflection, prayer, and togetherness. During this holy month in the Islamic calendar, Muslims all across the world come together for a spiritual celebration; it is a time marked not just by sacrifice and immense self-restraint, but also by charity, empathy, and community. What remains baffling, though, is the fact that there continues to be such a limited cultural representation of Ramadan and everything it stands for even today.

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This seems stranger when you consider the fact that Islam is the world's second-largest religion, comprising roughly 24% of the global population. However, rising Islamophobia across the world and increasing polarization has meant that most global brands don't do enough to connect with their Muslim audiences, and the little representation that does exist can often feel trite- as if it had been done with the sole purpose of ticking off a diversity checkbox, or is often stereotypical. Ramadan offers brands a chance to remedy that. Here's how brands can do some introspection of their own, and practice meaningful inclusivity during the month of Ramadan.

Understand the significance of Ramadan Before brands go about setting their diversity and inclusion targets, it is important to understand the essence of Ramadan. As much as it is a time of fasting, Ramadan is also a time when people come together as a community- sharing food during iftar and suhoor, attending prayers at the mosque together, visiting friends and family and giving back. In fact, Ramadan traditions go beyond just food and prayer. For many, it is also a time to reset and reconnect with their inner selves and a time to practice self-reflection. For brands that want to have an impactful message on diversity this Ramadan, an awareness campaign would be a good place to start. Brands must focus on conveying the significance of this month through their campaign efforts- this will make their Muslim consumers feel seen and understood, and help their non-Muslim consumers gain better insight into the essence of the holy month.

Don't just say- do While reaching out to audiences during Ramadan definitely serves brands from a business perspective, it is important to practice what you preach. Without implementing meaningful inclusivity in your own workplace environment, harping on about employee well-being, diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in brand campaigns will amount to nothing more than token inclusivity. Incorporating policies that allow and respect an employee's ability to observe their religion, providing flexible hours to ensure Ramadan traditions are not interrupted, allowing employees to take leave on short notice, dedicating certain spaces for conducting prayer, and communicating with empathy and kindness are some of the ways companies can step up to ensure their staff are able to maintain their Ramadan traditions, while managing productivity at work. It is also important that managers are mindful with flexible deadlines, and are understanding that fasting for long hours can make energy levels dip in some people.

Be earnest and empathetic Above all, the most important thing when trying to create a meaningful impact through your brand is to be empathetic and earnest in your efforts. As mentioned, if you approach this simply as an exercise to tick-off-a-diversity-checkbox, that is exactly what the end result of your campaign will turn out to be. Brands need to go beyond the tokenistic representation of Muslims in advertisements and graphics if they really want to reach out to people during Ramadan. To reiterate what I said earlier, understanding the essence of Ramadan is key to formulating a brand campaign that portrays inclusivity meaningfully. To do this, brands need to be ready to invest in their campaigns. Brands usually have a robust budget dedicated to branding and marketing during all major festivals and holidays, and it's time that Ramadan gets added to that list as well. This could translate to hiring and listening to experts and people with lived experiences of Ramadan when creating content around the same, investing in corporate social responsibility initiatives in keeping with Ramadan's spirit of charity and donation, to name just a few.

Related: Five Tips To Keep Your Business On Track During Ramadan