Resonating with Ramadan: Thomas Gateff on culturally-sensitive branding

BF Firos |

Today marks the launch of an engaging series on AdGully Middle East: exclusive Ramadan-related interviews with industry stakeholders as we approach the auspicious occasion of Ramadan.

In today’s interview, we have Thomas Gateff, Co-Founder & Managing Partner at M2L Concepts, who discusses how brands in the Middle East are tailoring their marketing strategies to resonate with the cultural nuances and significance of Ramadan. Gateff emphasizes the importance of authenticity and respect in engaging with consumers during this sacred time, highlighting examples from M2L Concepts' Ramadan District Season 2. He also explores how brands are leveraging digital platforms while maintaining cultural sensitivity and discusses the challenges of balancing commercial objectives with honoring the spiritual aspects of Ramadan.


How are brands in the Middle East tailoring their marketing strategies/campaigns to resonate with the cultural nuances and significance of Ramadan?

Brands are increasingly crafting their strategies and campaigns to align with the cultural nuances and significance of Ramadan, an occasion that embodies a multitude of values such as spirituality, community, familial bonds, and charitable giving. Understanding and respecting these elements is crucial for any business to genuinely connect with audiences on a deeper level during this sacred time.

During this time, campaigns often revolve around themes such as family unity, community support, and acts of kindness. These narratives find expression through various channels, including markets like the Ramadan District Season 2, advertisements, and partnerships with community organisations.

When engaging with consumers, businesses should place a priority on authenticity and respect for the occasion. Messages must be crafted to resonate with Ramadan's values without appearing opportunistic or insincere. Whether through experiential activations, digital campaigns, or markets, brands are increasingly recognising the importance of resonating with consumers in a meaningful and culturally sensitive manner.


Can you discuss specific examples of how you are incorporating traditional elements of Ramadan into your exclusive services?

In our Ramadan District Season 2, we're continuing to deepen our commitment to honouring the traditional elements of Ramadan while creating immersive and engaging experiences for communities and brands. One way we're doing this is through our meticulous curation of the market. We're focusing on authentic Middle Eastern design elements, carefully selecting décor that not only reflects the region's rich heritage but also creates an ambiance that resonates with the spirit of Ramadan. From intricate lanterns to vibrant textiles, every detail is thoughtfully chosen to transport visitors to the heart of Middle Eastern culture.

Moreover, we're amplifying the cultural experience by featuring businesses specializing in traditional arts such as henna designs and calligraphy. These artisans not only showcase their skills but also provide visitors with the opportunity to engage firsthand with these timeless traditions. In addition to cultural immersion, we're ensuring that our events cater to families by offering a diverse range of activities suitable for all ages.

Drawing from the success of our previous endeavours, such as the Ramadan Majlis, FIFA World Cup activities, and Winter District, which collectively attracted over 40,000 visitors, we're leveraging our expertise to provide immersive experiences, and create unforgettable moments that resonate with our audience long after Ramadan ends.


In what ways are brands leveraging digital platforms to connect with consumers during Ramadan, while maintaining authenticity and respect for the occasion?

Leveraging digital platforms allows brands to reach a wide audience while also providing opportunities for interactive and engaging content that reflects the spirit of Ramadan. Moreover, the UAE's digital landscape is highly advanced, with a 99% digital penetration rate and active internet usage, makes it an ideal environment for brands to connect with consumers. One key strategy is the use of social media to deliver tailored messages across different sectors like retail, leisure, hospitality, and cultural events. Additionally, brands have been using digital platforms to educate and engage consumers about Ramadan traditions. This not only helps in building brand loyalty but also promotes cultural understanding among consumers.


What challenges do brands face in balancing commercial objectives with the need to honour the spiritual and cultural aspects of Ramadan, and how are they navigating these challenges?

One of the primary hurdles is ensuring respect for the religious observance without appearing exploitative. Brands must avoid over-the-top sales tactics and instead focus on meaningful engagement that aligns with the spiritual aspects of the month. Understanding the cultural nuances of Ramadan is equally crucial. Thorough research and consultation with local experts can help brands craft marketing campaigns that are respectful and resonate with the target audience. Moreover, teaming up with local and regional businesses lends credibility to a brand's efforts and demonstrates a commitment to understanding and supporting the community's needs and values. Overall, successfully navigating the intersection of commercial objectives and cultural sensitivity requires a thoughtful and respectful approach that prioritises genuine engagement with the community.