Consumer Pulse
- Islam in
Indonesia, a
consumer point
of view
Image courtesy of Daily Guava

Understanding Islam Law (Sharia) is quintessential for any business in Indonesia. Acquiring Halal labels normally used for regulatory purposes, mainly for consumed goods, has recently become a trend for unconventional products who pursue these labels for marketing purposes. Wardah established themselves as one of leading brands of beauty cosmetics in Indonesia via this strategy. Now, we see more brands trying to exploit this sentiment; detergents, refrigerators, and hand-sanitisers are a few of the latest products jumping on the bandwagon.

Understanding this trend within the scope of Islam is important for these brands to ensure they can capitalise on each opportunity. The holy month of Ramadhan is an obvious example, it is the ‘harvest’ period for most brands, as consumers are willingly and fully prepared to double or even triple their spending. Most brands will have a specific advertisements or programs that are related to Ramadhan. Often it is so crowded and noisy that consumers almost feel burdened with choices. These phenomena can sometimes lead advertisers to go for a stand-out-of-the-crowd strategy rather than a more meaningful one that is embedded in product or consumer purpose during this time, which is usually the preferred route during Ramadhan, considering the occasion.

Unfortunately, most brands only apply these two approaches when it comes to using Islamic insights in their strategy, forgetting that the Islamic values and insights go far beyond the law and the current trend. It is deeply-rooted in their behaviour, as Muslim is the majority religion in Indonesia and a lot of its culture & traditions are adapted from Islam hadits and sunnah.

Islamic value plays a big role in Indonesian’s psyche, among many other factors like government and the economic situation. The Indonesian’s non-confrontational nature is mostly in line with the value of ‘Ikhlas’ in the Islamic world. Ikhlas is one of the most fundamental philosophical values from Islam. Ikhlas does not have a straight translation into the English language, but has one in Indonesian and Javanese language, although not exactly the same, but it is much closer to any English version of it. Ikhlas means being sincere in everything one does and accepting things that happen to oneself with the full realisation that everything happens under God’s surveillance. So, whenever something bad happen to them, they will think that God must have other plans for them, while on the other hand, when they do something good they will feel it is because of God’s help. This is why a go-with-the-flow mindset has been adopted by Indonesians up until now. They tend to improvise and go around an issue rather than break barriers and confront things head on.

The Indonesian Islamic view has always been a very moderate and harmonious one, until recently. The injection of modern and western values through the advancement of digital growth has caused an emergence of a new adaptation of Islam. It has moved from being more prescriptive to being more a personal choice. A modern, liberal and progressive Islam is being displayed by youth in opposition to the traditional, backward, and more prescriptive by nature version of Islam that has often been represented by the world.

This new identity of ‘modern Islam’ is strongly related to the ability to be progressive and to have a strong sense of individuality in the modern landscape, but still within an Islamic context. Religion for them is being adapted and interpreted in different ways based on personal circumstances and values. This often leaves those who are unable to cope at that pace (mostly those who have a lower education and social economic status) feel left behind. For this reason, they tend to amplify the traditional religious belief to a stronger level as their coping mechanism. While Islam empowers individuality in modern Islams view, these stronger religious identities seek for a stronger sense of self-identity through group identity.

What does this mean for brands? From this much information alone, we can safely say that communication beyond activities, rituals, colours, and other religious symbolism is needed to address this multi-faceted market.

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