The Brand Campaigns of Ramadans Past

11 March 2024

The month of Ramadan is just around the corner, and as one of the most important calendar events in the Islamic world, it’s an opportunity for reflection and philanthropy. 

That includes international brands active in Islamic-majority countries — some of which represent major economic drivers for regional language and localization workers. Ramadan poses a brand challenge, particularly for food and drink brands seeking to remain relevant during widespread fasting. But every business is different, and the tactics used to stay in the public eye are equally diverse. A few of the approaches businesses used in the past are not only interesting — they’re also a learning opportunity for marketeers, public relations specialists, and the language workers supporting them. 

Starbucks, for instance, reasoned that if Ramadan observers weren’t visiting their local shop, they could still enjoy a beverage outside the traditional fasting hours of sunup to sundown. Complicating matters further, company associates developed a campaign during the height of the 2020 Covid-19 lockdowns. Considering all the factors, marketeers studied their data to develop a chilled coffee product that individuals could enjoy on their own terms. 

“With the day constrained by fasting, we set about to create a Starbucks Ramadan coffee moment before Suhoor and after [Fitoor,]” the team wrote on marketing platform Sila. Right when our data said there was a Iull in activity. But how to connect to that moment this year?” 

The team promoted the drink by distributing ice buckets to underline its chilled nature and by creating “moments around gaming (men) and the Zoom catch ups now happening instead of house visits [post-Fitoor].” The result? Starbucks claims USD $120,000 in extra media equivalency, a 26.2% engagement rate on marketing content, and ongoing sales growth throughout 2020. 

Coca-Cola, on the other hand, tackled pandemic-era Ramadan not by introducing new products. Instead, the company sought to get into the spirit of the event with contributions to charity. PR Week reports that the company “launched a donation program that turns bottle labels into a currency that can be used to donate a meal with the purchase of a Coke bottle.” 

“Despite recent global events, like the pandemic and inter-country conflict, seemingly making the world more uneven and unequal than ever before, there are still major cultural moments we share, such as Ramadan, that put us all on equal terms,” Mostafa Talaat, head of consumer and shopper content at Coca-Cola, Eurasia and Middle East, said of the campaign in an email. “From sunrise to sunset, when observers are fasting, we all experience the same things: hunger, mood swings, getting stuck in traffic, being thirsty, and so on. It’s only at that moment of Iftar (when we break fast) when our inequalities and differences appear, with some individuals not able to access a hot meal.” 

Other companies outside the food and beverage vertical found their own way to embrace Ramadan. Last year, for instance, Spotify created personalized playlists for users with a special spotlight on regionally trending music. And in 2018, Netflix leaned into the Arab world in particular with a campaign centered on the iconic literary work One Thousand and One Nights.

“We don’t want to change people’s behaviour during Ramadan,” Leyla Guilany-Lyard, Netflix MENA spokeswoman, told The National. “We know people have their routines during Ramadan, having the TV on in the background with the family and the big Ramadan dramas, and that’s totally something we don’t want to compete with because the roots of that are so deep in the culture. What we want is to focus on what people are already naturally doing on Netflix, not try and change their behaviour.”