Generation M: Reaching millennial Muslims

Generation M: Reaching millennial Muslims

This week Dubai hit the headlines. The city has been voted one of the top tourist destinations for Muslim travellers and, in a bid to top the charts, it’s stepping up its halal tourism efforts, not to mention its status as a manufacturing and distribution center for sharia compliant consumer products.

But to reduce the Muslim consumer to Dubai would be not only offensive but incorrect. An estimate from Pew Research Center places the number of Muslims globally at 23 percent of the population – or 1.7 billion as of 2014 – and the Middle East-North Africa region is home to only 20 percent of that figure. Indonesia is the world’s single largest Muslim market, although India is catching up fast and Pew estimates that Muslims will account for 10 percent of all Europeans by 2050.

Globally, the Muslim cosmetics market was valued at US$46 billion in 2013, and is forecast to grow 8 percent annually to reach US$73 billion by 2019, according to a report compiled by Flanders Investment and Trade. The group’s spending power in the UK alone is in the region of £20.5 billion, according to a 2013 report form the Muslim Council of Britain.

It’s no surprise then, that the several of the Europe- and US-based multinationals are making eyes at the Muslim population. H&M, Apple, YouTube and Dolce & Gabbana have all featured hijab-wearing women in recent campaigns, while L’Oréal recruited YouTube star Amena Kin for its high-profile True Match ad.

“Now, I can see things are moving forward as people finally realize how much money is in this industry,” Mariah Idrissi, who featured in H&M’s Close the Loop spot, told Digiday, in its report Generation M brands tap Muslim influencers to access a giant demographic. Since the campaign launched last September, Idrissi has become a full-time model and social media star, racking up some 35,000 followers on Instagram. She revealed to Digiday that she has signed a ‘major deal’ with a cosmetics brand for 2017, although is currently bound by a confidentiality agreement.

But as the exposure grows, so too does the inevitable backlash. Dolce & Gabbana’s collection of hijabs was poorly received, criticised as a cynical move by a brand ‘on the outside’, while the jury is still out on the L’Oréal campaign – the French beauty giant has yet to confirm whether its True Match foundation conforms to halal standards.

“What we wish to see from other brands is something beyond a floating Hijabi head in a campaign. Our millennial generation is booming with creativity, and brands need to make sure the community is represented,” Editor-in-Chief of Muslim Girl Amani Alkhat told Digiday.  

That translates as collaborations, a sensitivity to and understanding of the particular needs of Muslim consumers, if not full halal certification, and engagement with the community. In other words, instead of paying lip service, create a dedicated lipstick with Generation M on board.

One thing is clear, it’s early days in the halal cosmetics market and there’s everything still to play for. The company that nails it has everything to gain.