At our last BrainShower we had the honour and the pleasure to welcome Rachid Lamrabat as a guest speaker. He took us into a narrative for which we, as born and raised Belgians, have so far been mainly blind to. Very interesting, and also a bit confronting. Because Rachid always told the things from his point of view and culture and we spoke from ours. Because while we think that immigrants with other cultures have been largely admitted in our daily lives, they clearly think about it differently.
For those who don’t know Rachid yet; Rachid Lamrabat is a marketing specialist. More specifically, he is an ethnomarketer. Because he himself has a Moroccan background, he clearly saw the needs of those groups in society with a different ethnic background and decided that it was time for change. He used to work at the civic integration service of the Flemish government. Nowadays he has his own market research and communication agency Tiqah, with which he assists major brands such as Colruyt, Devos Lemmens and many others in reaching precisely these ethnic target groups that other brands do not succeed in reaching.
The societal reality
Did you know that of all the people living in Brussels, 70% are of foreign origin? And that this is 44% in Antwerp? With an average birth rate of 3,1 children at a foreign family and 1,5 children at a native family, it is logical that the amount of people with a different ethnic background will keep on growing in the future. On one side there is the societal reality, but the economic reality might be even more astonishing with a potential €2 billion market in halal meat alone.(1)
Where marketing should start
And in the meantime, we, marketeers think that we are doing good work. That we reach our target groups and that we can convince people to buy what we want them to buy. But is this really the case? Do we even succeed in reaching the majority of Belgians one way or another? According to Muslims in our country, this is not at all the case. Anyhow, these new Belgians are ready to be seen and treated as full-fledged consumers. But why does this seem to be so difficult for us?
Brands and marketeers need to try harder to understand people with different backgrounds and cultures. When you can start from understanding, and you can manage to get an open and unbiased viewpoint, and you talk to people, your communication will be able to reach this foreign community much more easily. After explaining this, Rachid takes us through some everyday examples.
Convenience from another perspective
One thing inherent in retail, is to bring as much convenience to the customer as possible. And still, people of foreign background experience this convenience seldomly. At least, when we talk about one-stop-shopping. For us, convenience might be seen as ready-made meals, but these are absolutely out of the question for more traditional Moroccan and Turkish families.
Rachid told us that the only place where foreigners can get all their specific nourishment or the right size of packages, is in the neighbourhood shops. And even there they can not find everything in one single shop, so getting groceries is taking a lot of time. We can not imagine this situation, but for others it is everyday reality.
One typical example is a pack of sugar. While we can cover one to multiple years with a pack of sugar of 1kg, this amount is too small for a foreign family. Most of the time, their family is bigger and they like to have sugary dishes. That’s why it’s logical for them to buy this in bigger amounts then what we are used to. But this is impossible in our supermarkets.
And what about fashion?
Our most loved fashion brands also don’t seem to succeed in reaching groups with foreign backgrounds in Belgium. How is this possible? While us Belgians like to show of our new and trendy clothing, this is not at all the case for the Muslim community in our country. They want their clothing to be more modest and humble. And no, these don’t need to be long skirts per definition. But we can also not claim that the offer in fashion that we have nowadays is humble or modest.
And this way, many opportunities are left unused. For example the Feast of the Sacrifice or the Festival of the Breaking Fast, that are typical for the Muslim community. Why do none of the supermarkets have communication about these events? Even though these are periods when Muslims spend a lot more money. We can look at these events as the Christmas and Santa Claus for the Muslim community. And while we are used to having decorated streets and the typical music everywhere during the Christmas-period, these events that are typical for the Muslims, can almost go by unnoticed.
Ethnomarketing done the right way
It must also be said that the only way to try and reach these communities for real, is when the attention for these cultures is genuine. One single message during the Ramadan will not make the big change. They will not come and storm your supermarket when you only reach out to them once. They will also be aware that the reason for your message is not a sincere interest, but rather a pursuit of profit. Which will have the reverse effect than the one you were hoping for.
Furthermore, ethnomarketing is not only about communication. There are many more aspects to it. For example, it is also about offer, price, shopping environment and staff policies. Most of the times, we tend to think too much in boxes. When we make a positive change, this does not necessarily need to be focused on ethnic markets. For example, vegetarian dishes are also halal and head-scarfs can also be marketed just as scarfs.
The best thing a retailer can do, is to start transitions slowly, while not yelling about it on all possible channels. Of course, there is an understanding for the fact that the native population must continue to feel comfortable. But if the shops make small, conscious changes, they will get there. When this will be noticed by the Muslim community, the news will spread very fast. Because that is how it goes. Word-of-mouth advertising is reliable and golden. And once you get there, things can move very fast.
Written by Peggy Storme – Junior Marketing Consultant
(1)Source: Lambrabat, R. (2017). Etnomarketing