By: Ahmed Hafez Younis (Fizo), Creative Shop Lead for MENA, Facebook

Ramadan 2020 is taking place in exceptional circumstances, with the coronavirus pandemic having disrupted movement, supply chains and businesses around the world. At a time when authorities have instated shutdowns and shelter-in-place mandates with strict social distancing rules, people are forced to observe this period differently. In such a scenario, how should brands show up for Ramadan? Is it responsible and permissible to be advertising right now? What should brands do to stay connected with customers during this challenging time? 

Ahmed Hafez Younis (Fizo), Creative Shop Lead, Facebook MENA

While there are no simple answers to those pressing questions, we have always believed that what is good for people is good for business. Brands can help people relieve some of the most universal tensions they are facing this Ramadan, from facilitating virtual togetherness to enabling social good. Never has it been more important for a brand to be empathetic and authentic, as it is this Ramadan. 

First and foremost, brands need to be sensitive and listen; you don’t need to have an idea to jump on the coronavirus bandwagon. Right now, the best thing a brand can do is act responsibly and understand that consumers are under a lot of pressure – the last thing they’d probably want to see is a brand poetically sharing its point of view without any actions.

Secondly, brands need to provide utility and prioritize consumer needs in today’s hard reality. If you are a brand manager or marketer, ask yourself – what can my brand do to help? Is there a way my products or services can help people in quarantine, perhaps offer entertainment for kids at home or connect people virtually? A brand that shows genuine compassion and provides utility is bound to be loved.

We believe brands and Facebook can help people observe Ramadan differently this year – here is a three-step roadmap: 

  1. Get Customer Communication Right

Step one is about getting the customer communication basics right, especially as we are battling the COVID-19 crisis. It begins with reassurance. As confusion and anxiety prevails, brands need to communicate with much more clarity. ‘Clever’ ads are clever, but are not enough; brands need to be meaningful, generous and helpful in their communication. We’ve all heard of inspiring brands and businesses donating their resources to help society cope with the situation. In brief, think “people first.”

2. Creatively Champion The Four Behavioral Shifts

The next step is about creatively championing the Ramadan spirit while providing real value to consumers and audience. According to research, there are four behaviour shifts unique to Ramadan and only magnified by the COVID-19 outbreak. The first is super-sensory consciousness – generosity and selflessness are a core practices during Ramadan. We’re at a time when more people need support so think about how your brand can encourage and build a stronger sense of community this year.

The second shift focuses on togetherness. Ramadan is a time for celebrating community and spending time with friends and family. But with the restriction of social distancing, think about how your brand can facilitate and inspire more moments of virtual connection between friends and family members.

Reduced working hours, hunger fatigue and closed shopping venues are contributors to boredom and frustration, and, accordingly, entertainment plays a significant role during this time. With filming restrictions, there is also a possibility of people not getting to watch their favourite shows this year. Therefore, brands need to think about the type of content they can create or sponsor that caters to a diversity of viewers with storytelling that connects deeply.

The last shift is shopping. As we know, there is a higher demand for goods and services during the holy month, especially so with special deals spiking up. This year, however, online shopping will play an even bigger role than before, so focus on how your brand can adapt quickly and serve more timely inspiration and deals to encourage more meaningful consumption of products and services.

3. Overcoming Production Challenges With Ingenuity And Agility

This is probably a little late, but if you haven’t produced your Ramadan campaign yet or if you need to create additional assets, then you might want to consider pivoting to illustration, animation and graphics. You can also get creative with stock or repurpose archival footage. So, what are you waiting for? Open that drawer, dust off those forgotten assets and get creative! Finally, consider partnerships and collaborations with Facebook and Instagram creators. 

Remember, these are more of guiding principles than definitive answers. Trust in your judgment and think ‘people first’. There’s a fine line between being relevant and being opportunistic – don’t be the latter.