Advertising in Presence of Product Differentiation: Outlining Islamic Etiquette


Salman Ahmed Shaikh

In the real world, we find many producers for most goods and services. Often, these producers offer differentiated products which means that products differ from each other in some characteristics. Each producer can create demand for its products by focusing on specific features like some could focus on producing an economical product while someone else could focus on quality and still others could focus on catering to different taste preferences of different sections of the market. In industries like cell phones, restaurant meals and automobiles, we see many producers supplying differentiated products.

In economics, such a market in which there are many producers serving differentiable products is known as monopolistic competition. In this market type, often producers adopt certain marketing strategies and execute marketing plans to increase their product’s appeal, demand and hence increase the sales and thereby profits. It also helps them to create brand loyalty for their products.

Key parts of the marketing strategy include creating awareness about the product, publicizing its main features and presenting it as more compelling than the other products offered by competitors. From an Islamic perspective, there are certain principles and broad guidelines that must be followed and taken care of while advertising the products. Below, we explain some of these.

1)      First of all, Islam through its divine principles has a filter that disallows production and consumption of certain goods and services such as liquor and obscene content offered through various media and in various forms.

2)      False information must be avoided. ‘Kazb’ (lie) is condemned in Islam.

3)      Persuasive advertising that commits attributes which cannot be provided as promised is deemed immoral. Not acting upon the promise made is a serious sin in Islam.

4)      While physiological and aesthetic needs and wants can be targeted through effective presentation, it must not overly promote consumerism, which is inconsistent with the modesty cherished in Islamic value system.

5)      Even in halal goods, ‘Israaf’ (excessive spending) is disallowed. Islamic principles would encourage not to use the economy’s given physical capital stock, labor force and other resources on the production of goods and services that represent and encourage excessive spending.

6)      Islamic principles do not disallow market forces to work, but, Islamic principles encourage observing Adl (justice) and Ihsaan (acting on something in the most appropriate manner). They encourage cooperation, empathy and social responsibility. Hence, using price power to make essential goods more expensive and using quantity restrictions to raise prices are forbidden acts.

8)      Islamic tradition also does not approve creating appeal for products by representing culture that does not signify or match with Islamic social etiquette. For instance, advertising for perfume by showing how it can create positive image before opposite gender is neither necessary nor in line with Islamic social etiquette. Likewise, showing how one can stand out and be envied by others if one buys a particular brand of perfume, car or suit is neither necessary nor in line with Islamic etiquette.

9)      Disclosures about products must not be presented in a way to just bypass legal formalities. Rather, the disclosures must be explicit, readable, visible and presented with the belief that if same cannot be put against one’s actions in this world by someone in a court of law, then, it will nevertheless be one day put forward before Allah.

10) By not using sex appeal, status appeal, and envy in human’s nature to market products, the consumer protection could be ensured. Moreover, if over-commitment is avoided, there will be much lesser need to expend huge sums on advertising.

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About Salman Ahmed Shaikh

PhD Scholar in Economics and works as GRA at UKM, Malaysia. He can be contacted at: salman@siswa.ukm.edu.my
This entry was posted in Articles on Islamic Economics and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Advertising in Presence of Product Differentiation: Outlining Islamic Etiquette

  1. Islamic principles do not disallow market forces to work, but, Islamic principles encourage observing Adl (justice) and Ihsaan (acting on something in the most appropriate manner). They encourage cooperation, empathy and social responsibility——–Good Jazakallah.

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  2. Immad says:

    All reality, but unfortunately for us, it is not not implemented. I really hope that business firms make this as a draft when it comes to marketing their products.

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  3. Shahood Alam says:

    Islam makes it a duty upon the seller to protect the rights of the buyer. Any cheating or willful concealment of defects, however small, cannot be hidden from the eyes of Allah SWT and will be punishable on the Day of Judgment. In short, a change in the mindset is all that is required.

    Keep your spirits high. Jazak’Allah brother Salman!

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  4. Maher Kababji says:

    Jazak Allah Kul Khair Salman.
    Islamic principles ensure pure fair competition.

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  5. Fahad Ahmed Qureshi says:

    Asalaam u Alaikum ,

    Masahallah your effort is appreciable, May Allah always guide us to the right path. But, I find something which would be missing or may be not guided by our respected teachers (Islamic Scholars), definitely due to their busy schedules, but there are many chapters in Ahadith and in Fiqh (Islamic Jurisprudence) i.e. Khyar e Aaib, Khyar e Shart, for instance.

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    • Wa Alaikum Assalam, Thanks for the feedback. Indeed, Ahadith and Quran guides us to the right path. In a brief article, not all possible points could have been discussed and mentioned. Jazak Allah for sharing the Chapter in which there are indeed many details and guidance for all of us. Jazak Allah.

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  6. HayatCanada says:

    Thank you

    This is very intersting subject. It’s all about how to market your product. We Muslims have the best product in the market, but our marketing tools are very poor. Then, it’s normal that the consumer will prefer the western product.

    Here, in Canada, as Muslims, we focus a lot on Halal product. Before we buy the product, we ensure that there is the brand, Halal. I think we should brand the Halal even in the muslim world.

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