When the history of the 21st century comes to be written one big theme will be the rise and rise of Islam. A complex issue of course but to a marketers eyes there is a simpler truth: Islam is based on much better brand marketing principles. By this i means it has much better ideas about how to secure peoples commitment and give people a sense of belonging – two things that really successful brands do. (The closest we come to it is Apple and Steve Jobs – a kind of flawed secular saint who built temples to technology)
Consider the obvious strengths of the 5 Pillars of Islam
-There are only 5 not 10 – few people can remember the 10 commandments- so when it comes to the battle of the easy to understand and easy to remember mission statements Islam wins hands down
-Islam Pillars involve clear directions to do things not injunctions to stop doing things ( most of the 10 commandment are prohibitions). Few people remember or feel committed to things they have not done. In fact most of our professed attitudes are self rationalisations of actions we have already taken
-In the Hajj, Islam has set up the Glastonbury of all pilgrimages. It is big,it is global, it is a joyful experience, it is well organised, it is much anticipated and much celebrated afterwards in the stories of those returning from Hajj- and all Muslims want to be a part of it.Chaucer showed us that the stories of pilgrims are powerful expressions of shared experiences but it is Muslims who have the stories to tell today.
The Hajj enjoys what marketers call “the brand leader effect” -the biggest brand in any market has disproportionate power. All Muslims understand that they should go on Hajj which has one famous location in Mecca. A tiny minority of Christians may make it to Rome or Santiago to Compostella.
Islam also wins the broadcast Share Of Voice (SOV) argument by a distance. Christian churches may peel their bells once a week on Sunday mornings but the Muazzin declaims the call to prayer to the local community 5 times a day from a load speaker mounted in the minaret of the mosque. That’s a SOV of 35:1 in favour of Islam. So, Islam is simply more present in communities, more woven into the fabric of daily life and therefore more of an automatic habit- something that is also at the heart of Coca Cola’s success as a brand (as well as the rise of the coffee brands like Cafe Nero). Muslims may not thank me for making a connection with this symbol of western materialism but but both Islam and Coca Cola understand the importance of ( as Coca Cola once expressed is so poetically) of being “within an arm’s reach of desire”.