Emerald Group Publishing Limited
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Ernst & Young on Islamic marketing
Article Type: Interview From: Journal of Islamic Marketing, Volume 1, Issue 1
Interview with Salmaan Jaffery, (Director, Advisory Services and Islamic Financial Services Group, Ernst & Young, Bahrain)by Ahmad Alkaabi, Abu Dhabi University, United Arab Emirates
Ernst & Young (E&Y) is a global accounting and consulting firm employing over 140,000 people around the world and covering nearly every major continent. E&Y offers a broad range of services to clients in all major industrial segments. According to Salmaan Jaffrey a Director in E&Y Bahrain, “we are an organization with unrivalled reach in terms of geography, service offerings and client base”.
E&Y definition of Islamic marketing
Regardless of whether you market to a conventional or to an Islamic audience, good marketing has a number of basic solid principles that you have to follow. Islamic marketing, to me, is the effective use of these basic principles to satisfy the needs of Islamic clients through the provision of tailor made and innovative solutions and advice. Islamic marketing, does not necessarily mean that this is marketing done by Muslims for Muslims, our team enjoys an inimitable mix of academic, ethnic and religious backgrounds and professional experience. However, what we do all have in common is a deep passion for, and belief in, our work and an unwavering dedication to quality.
If you are marketing to any customer successfully, you must be a good marketer in the first place and must understand your target customers. The characteristics of Islamic customers today require that you have knowledge of the Shari’ah principles. For example: in Islamic banks you must understand what those principles are: a prohibition on interest, avoidance of Gharar (risky or ambiguous sales), avoidance of excessive risk, not investing in haram (forbidden) industries like alcohol, pornography, pork, and gambling.
Thus, good Islamic marketing is solid technical marketing experience and expertise coupled with knowledge of the Shari’ah principles. The skill of a good Islamic marketer will be to integrate these two into something that can be implemented in order to create and deliver a unique customer proposition and demonstrate value.
E&Y pursuit of Islamic marketing
E&Y Middle East capitalized on its wealth of industry knowledge and the depth of its advisory services to establish an Islamic advisory group in 1998. We have built up a dedicated and experienced team of professionals who are able to use their intellectual power, relationship network skills and significant expertise for the benefit of our clients. Through this team, we leverage their technical expertise to publish innovative thought leadership brochures and are consistently present at industry conferences, where we are invited to speak about new developments in the Islamic world. We have a profound understanding of our market and are keen to share this with knowledge when we market ourselves to customers.
E&Y is more than just a brand name. As one of the leading professional services firm in the world, it is our brand that shareholders, stakeholders and directors of leading global institutions in the region want to see on their marketing material. Why? It is a result of the value they see in the services we offer across the world.
The advantages of pursuing Islamic marketing
Islamic marketing is largely an underserved area and historically clients would rely on the word of mouth and a belief that labelling themselves Islamic was enough for branding and marketing purposes. However, to compete in the current competitive market place Islamic organizations are realizing the power of marketing and are actively pursuing this. E&Y has actively worked with its clients to develop marketing strategies that would allow them to compete on a level marketing playing field.
There are many challenges associated with pursuing Islamic marketing which are intrinsically linked to Shari’ah ideals and these need to be followed when pursuing an Islamic marketing campaign. However, our dedicated team at E&Y have a developed a unique position in understanding Shari’ah and Islamic concepts to implement an effective marketing campaign for its Islamic clients.
One main challenge; skilled people. Simply there is not enough trained people to understand Islamic banking and Shariah. As the industry is in its relative infancy, there are few experts in this industry.
Competitors pursuing Islamic marketing
Many of the other Big 4 professional services firms as well as larger strategy houses are trying to enter this market. However, E&Y was the first dedicated Islamic consultancy practice globally and has established an unrivalled track record within the Islamic marketing areas. We know our customers and our markets well through leveraging our relationships with our regional offices, partners, and teams. We have local people with local expertise who know the culture, speak the language, and build relationships with the people. Our employees know how to speak, how to communicate, how to negotiate, and know how to deliver results.
E&Y approach to potential Muslim clients
E&Y approaches all of its clients whether they are Islamic or non-Islamic in the same way. We provide innovative, ground-breaking solutions and services tailor made to our clients. In addition E&Y continues to develop the range of services it offers to clients to meet their needs in view of the rapidly changing marketplace we work in. Again, if our client is Islamic, then we ensure that we are thoroughly prepared by understanding the specific Sharia’h and/or business issues our client may be facing.
Once potential Muslim clients become actual clients, how does the company retain them?
Over the last decade, IFSG has developed an innovative and client-centric approach to the provision of assurance and advisory services by offering bespoke and comprehensive solutions to meet the exacting needs of their clients. This approach has allowed E&Y to experience remarkable growth in market share and the rapid development of its client base. “Quality in Everything We Do” is not just a tagline – we constantly strive to ensure that all of our people offer our clients the best possible advice and care, leading to a mutually rewarding experience.
The difference between Muslim clients and other clients
There are no real differences between a Muslim client and a non-Muslim marketing client. Both want the best possible service and E&Y is not only known for providing profitable solutions and creating win-win situations for all of a bank’s stakeholders but also adhering to Shari’ah principles and guidelines. The only difference is that Islamic institutions may have specific Islamic finance knowledge needs that can only be provided by an institution with experience doing Shariah work. And so, they come to rely on our professionals for the Shari’ah knowledge which we offer – although we do not term ourselves Shari’ah experts.
Are your Muslim clients interested in Islamic marketing?
Yes, they are. For example, all of my bank clients who do retail banking are interested in finding out how to attract more Islamic customers to the branch, more Islamic credit cards, and more Islamic accounts. They want to understand more. A lot of emphasis is being placed by these banks on customer research for their Islamic customers.
E&Y marketing strategy to Muslim clients
The marketing strategy for a consulting company is little bit different. However, our number one priority is to grow and maintain the brand. We do that through writing articles, public speaking, and meeting clients. Our second priority is to maintain visibility in the marketplace.
Does E&Y take into consideration the peculiarities of the Muslim market in its marketing campaigns?
Established in 1998, the multi-award winning IFSG has a deep rooted passion to promote the global spread of Islamic finance coupled with extensive specialist Shari’ah knowledge and comprehensive first-hand experience. Known for our original thinking and deep practical knowledge, our team enjoys an unparalleled and extensive understanding of the Muslim market and the peculiarities associated with it.