Behavioural shifts marketers should bank on this Ramadan

Brands and consumers alike will once again be celebrating Ramadan in the midst of a pandemic, but this time, they are more prepared having experienced the challenges of last year. At the same time, purpose-driven marketing has also become a trend among advertisers.

For Twitter in particular, MD, Southeast Asia Arvinder Gujral told A+M that a Twitter report found that 59% of brands want to connect to a purpose and the cultural moments of users. With Ramadan coming up in April, it is yet again another time for brands to touch consumers' hearts via purpose-driven marketing. While Gujral was unable to share specific statistics on how much ad spend clients have allocated for this year's Ramadan, he expects media spend to increase across the board.

"The year 2020 for us, from a Ramadan perspective, was much bigger in terms of marketing spend in spite of the pandemic. 2021 is shaping up to be much better than 2020 because brands have figured it out, there is no shock to the system. Now, they know beforehand what to optimise. The overall spend should increase and we might be seeing some interesting campaigns too," he explained. Twitter's international ad revenue grew 35% YoY to US$508.56 million, according to its financial report.

Twitter is also a popular platform for festive discussions. For Ramadan in particular, the number of conversations around balik kampung increased 55% last year, while entertainment increased 38%. Meanwhile, mentions of food jumped 20% during last year's Ramadan. During the fourth quarter of 2020, Twitter reported an international monetisable daily active usage of 155 million, marking a 28% year-on-year growth. According to Gujral, the number of Malaysian users has grown exponentially last year but he declined to reveal the exact figures.

With the pandemic not abating this year, consumer behaviour shift during the pandemic is here to stay. As such, here are four trends brands should take note of going into Ramadan.

1. Rise of social commerce and consumers seeking brands in online conversations

Consumer behaviour will remain online as a result of the pandemic. Majority of Malaysians (70%) plan to retain online shopping for future Ramadans. Ordering food online (48%) will also become a trend moving forward, as well as donating zakat online (47%). This trend spills over from 2020, which saw Malaysians shift much of their offline activities to online. Reinforcing the growth of this trend last year, Malaysians also tweeted about shopping and gifting 19% more than they did in 2019.

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Twitter users in Malaysia also seek brands to be part of the conversation, with 81% of them saying they want to hear more from brands, and 68% welcoming expert opinions before making purchases. Meanwhile, Twitter also found that 61% of its users are influential and 47% are affluent. At the same time, close to half of Malaysians on Twitter (46%) are also brand conscious. "People love talking to brands and this means brands have the opportunity to interact with them," he said.

However, this also means that brands should ensure their message is relevant to the right demographics, be it a K-pop or an English Premier League fan, or someone who is interested in gardening.

Break them into segments of interest and not age. Age is a very old way of doing marketing.

"When you think of it, topics such as Ramadan, sports and K-pop cut across ages so how can you do demographic marketing? Interest is the only thing that aligns and connects people. So find buckets of interests that audiences follow and figure out what buckets of interests you want to reach," Gujral explained.

2. Social media a key role in Ramadan celebrations

With the social distancing restrictions imposed as a result of the pandemic, more consumers have focused on connecting with family and friends online. As a result, 66% of Twitter users say that using social media will be their most anticipated activity during Ramadan, with 87% saying that they will use social media apps more than usual as they stay connected. This was followed by streaming movies and TV series (52%), online shopping (46%), and watching TV (38%).

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At the same time, online app adoption is still on the rise, with 87% of Twitter users indicating that they will be using social media apps. The next most popular app segment was video streaming apps (77%), followed by online shopping apps (63%) and food delivery apps (46%).

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3. Consumers seek food and comedic content

Users not only use Twitter to connect with one another but also find content and entertainment. Last year, food and cooking content saw an increase from 69% to 74% compared to 2019, while interest in comedic content jumped 2% to 46% from 2019 to 2020. That said, religious content was still in high demand during Ramadan last year, with 66% of Malaysians on Twitter seeking similar content.

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4. Malaysians prepare earlier for Ramadan and still care about the same topics

Ramadan conversations for 2020 started one month before, with a 25% year-on-year growth. More specifically, there was a 60% spike in tweets from 22 to 23 April last year. More than half of these conversations revolved around balik kampung (55%), followed by entertainment (38%) and food (20%). 

ramadanditwitter malaysia infographic 6

"Topics such as entertainment and food, these are perennial topics that should and will always come on Twitter. And the base increase of 55% and 38% for balik kampung and entertainment conversations respectively is significant when you talk about hundreds of millions of conversations on the platform," Gujral said.

Also, Twitter found that Malaysians are positive about this year's Ramadan, with 66% of conversations on Twitter having a positive tone. Meanwhile, 20% of it were negative while the remaining 14% was neutral. At the same time, 40% believe that the pandemic situation in Malaysia will improve.

"The pandemic is pretty new to us and all of us were entering into an uncertain environment last year. You would assume people come online and vent. But we have a 60% increase in positive conversations and that is significant. It shows you that the fabric of humans is always to look at the positive side," he added. Moving forward, Gujral expects Twitter to see more positive content and conversations on its platform post-Ramadan, as well as constant traction for live on Twitter.

Cutting through the online clutter

There has been more emphasis on digital ever since the pandemic hit, with more brands pushing out content online to capture eyeballs as consumers retreat to their homes, and small businesses jumping on the eCommerce trend. According to the dentsu ad spend report, digital will account for 50% of global media ad spend this year, with social (18.3%), search (11.0%) and video (10.8%) expected to benefit the most. This is definitely an increase from 2019 (42.8%) and 2020 (48%) and dentsu predicts the number to grow to 51.2% next year. 

To cut through the clutter, brands need to ensure their content is tailored to each and every platform. Gujral explained that companies need to tweak some assets and messaging to get more in return, instead of taking one single thought and optimising it across all platforms. When that is done, the opportunity cost lost "is very high", he added. On the other hand, brands might spend 5% more effort on tailoring their content but Gujral said they "will definitely get more than 50% of that investment in effort" in return.

Brands have to stop being lazy and think of social media as homogenous. The Internet is not a homogenous place, the audiences are different across platforms. 

"The first mistake that brands do is this lazy marketing. Now that digital has become so significant in size and hence the importance of digital and social, brands need to put in more first efforts in digital and not secondary efforts," he said. 

Besides tailoring content to various platforms, brands also need to understand their target audience on the platform and connect to moments or conversations happening. This includes the type of audience on the platform, why they are on there and what they are talking about. "The minute you connect to moments, to the conversations you are hearing, you will cut through the clutter," he said.

At the same time, brands that are popular online are also those that create their unique identity. Regardless of whether the engagement is organic or paid, Gujral explained that behind every handle is a human powering the tweets. Hence, it is important for brands to find their own voice on the platform that is unique.

"A lot of brands make the mistake of making Twitter part of their PR machinery. People don't come to Twitter to read press releases, they come here to connect so brands need to have a personality," he said. 

A+M's Content 360 Week is back from 6 to 8 April this year! Super charge your content production, distribution and monetisation strategies by learning from brands such as NBA Asia, P&G, Malaysia Airlines, and Marriott International, among others. Sign up today!

Photo courtesy: 123RF

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