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The Malay Consumer Profiled

Malaysian PopulationMalays make up 54% of the Malaysian population; and that stacks up to almost 15 million people. They are by default, the largest demographic in Malaysia and therefore the most important in terms of potential and value.

It is important that marketers understand the “code” by which Malays live their lives. The Halal code covers more than just food; it extends to personal care, health supplements, pharmaceuticals, and among others, banking. It is critical to bear in mind the importance and the influence of religion upon the behaviour of the Malay community.

Some unique characteristics of the Malay segment:

  • Modernation of Ambition
  • Strong Sense of Community
  • Intense Family Bonding
  • More Emotional than Rational – responds better to emotional values rather than functional values, particularly bonds between husband & wife
  • Strong Belief & Value System
  • Charitable
  • Forgiving – Generally more forgiving towards both people and brands, and can be easier to please.

Malays 1

Guidelines and advice when targeting the Malay Consumer

  1. First and foremost, the brand or product must be equipped to meet the specific needs of Muslims, e.g. Takaful, Islamic Banking. Elements within the brand must be compliant with Islamic values and rules.
  2. Brand communications, tonality and visuals should adhere to the culture code based on modesty. Avoid (at all costs) revealing attire, intimate scenes and any other subjects that conflict with the Islamic religion.
  3. Altruistic values, community based activities are the key communication elements for any brand targeting the Malay consumer.
  4. The brand/product should appeal to the hearts and emotions of the Malay consumer
  5.  Avoid “stereotyping”. Being sensitive to culture and religious codes does not mean it has to be staid, boring or old. The challenge is to work within the parameters and yet generate an out-of-the-box solution.

Rural vs. Urban Malays

There is a distinct difference between urban and rural Malays. Through observation, Muslims in rural areas are more religious than those living in the cities. The gap is getting wider through the influence of globalization, internet, etc. We observe, for example, the receptivity towards non-pork rather than strictly halal.Rural

The challenge is finding an insight that brings forth a truth to both sentiments; a common denominator that is neutral but at the same time stays true to the religion and the Muslim values.

Differences in Shopping Styles

Here are some notable differences in buying patterns:

  • They are bargain hunters, perhaps due to the fact that they have large families
  • Tend to buy big ticket items in installments
  • Buy smaller SKUs rather than in bulk – most likely because they are stretching their money to enjoy more things at once rather than savings through paying in cash or buying in bulk
  • Try out new products more readily than any other race in Malaysia
  • Purchase products that appeal to emotion, altruism or community


Online vs. Traditional Media?

We should avoid making a blanket statement about the efficacy of new vs old mediums when targeting the Malay community. We wouldn’t say that online is more effective than traditional or on-ground. Different media still serve different purposes and have different affinity and acceptance levels.

While Malays have taken to cyberspace intimately, personal touch does remain an important element in their culture and psyche. Online may be effective in facilitating information needs and encouraging further exploration, but on-ground is good at fostering brand relationship, engagement and conversation. Online would appeal to the younger, more affluent and urban Malays in comparison to older Malays in both city centers and semi-urban environments.

Thus, we need to consider the combination of roles and impacts of different media rather than just picking the highest reach medium.

Celebrity Influence

Malays 3Malays are certainly more celeb-gullible. This was validated through the OMD/PHD 2011 ‘Celebrity Power’ study, specifically designed for Malaysia.

  • 24% of the Malay respondents claimed to be active or die-hard fans of celebrities, whilst only 17% of Chinese admitted so.
  • Compared to the Chinese, Malays are more willing to spend on their favorite celebrities (either buy their products or products endorsed by them).
  • Malays seem to be more receptive to endorsements from celebrities of other ethnic groups too.