Opinion

The Generation M and Why They Can Change the World

As of 2015 estimates, there are 2.8 billion Moslems in the world. The rise of Islam in the modern world also brings a new generation called Generation M. What’s Generation M, and how brands should anticipate the presence of Gen M’s.

In 2016, Shelina Zahra Janmohammed wrote a book about young Moslem generation called, Generation M. In her book, she described the young generation from the world’s fastest growing religion, Islam. For her, Generation M is all about those who are proud of their beliefs, enthusiastic, dynamic, active, creative, yet demanding.

Generation M is defined as the generation of Moslems who have been born in the last 30 years. They continue to practice religion, but not anti-modernity. They believe that religion and modernity are not necessarily contradictory. In contrast to their Christian counterparts in Western Europe and the United States, who have mostly turned away from religion and opted for secularism.

According to Shelina, the Moslem generation M is influenced by two monumental factors, one of which is the 9/11 event that shocked the United States. The global response to the tragedy unfortunately credited Moslems as extremists and terrorists. Another factor is the internet, which in the book is described as “The adhesive that binds Generation M to jointly create a powerful global force.”

Shelina writes that Generation M faith affects everything, and they want the world to know about it. This also distinguishes them from non-Moslem peers. And they want the world to meet the needs of those who are technologically-literate, independent, and happy together in groups. The existence of Generation M instead is an opportunity for marketers to target this market. Knowing their characteristics, however, is fundamental to marketers.

Shelina explained that in 2010, there were about 1.6 billion Moslems in the world. This number is predicted to grow 73% in the next four decades. In 2050, the Pew Research Center projects there will be 2.8 billion Moslems worldwide, accounting for more than a quarter of the world’s population. “One-third of Moslems in the world are under 15 years old, 2/3 of them are under 30 years old,” she said.

Moreover, 60% of the world’s Moslem population lives in Asia. There are 81 countries in the world estimated to house a Moslem population of over one million by 2030. On the other hand, there would be an estimated 500 million people as minorities by 2030. Shelina explains, more than 90% of Moslems confess their belief greatly affects their decision in consuming goods or services.

To understand how big is the Generation M in the world and in Indonesia, Ramadhan Triwijanarko from Marketeers sat with Shelina to dig deeper more about Generation M.

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What kind of characters that Generation M possess that have the potential to change the face of the industry?

They are quite creative and entrepreneurial. And if they see the world that is not like how it should be, they want to change it. They are creating new business, product, and services, as they become increasingly educated and the country that they living in has an increasing middle class. Those kinds of product and services are changing to reflect the middle-class segment.

How big is the total market Moslem market, especially Gen M in the world?

Estimated Moslem lifestyle market is around US$ 2.6 trillion and growing every year. But, this Generation M is very young, and as the young generation, they are in a rising economy. If we combine, they are young, growing, and on their way to become easily affluent. That’s the marketplace where the brand should be investing in.

How big is Generation M in Indonesia?

Indonesia is an interesting case when we talk about Generation M. As within a majority Moslem country, Indonesia has a lot of potential to make its products and services become global and become a pioneer.

What is your opinion about Generation M in Indonesia?

Islam in Indonesia is holds huge importance. The Generation M in Indonesia should be able to carve their own identity as Indonesian Moslem within the wider Moslem population.

Recently Nike featured woman wearing hijab in their advertisement,  how brands should accommodate Generation M in their advertisements?

We are starting to see the beginning of global brands thinking about this diversity issue, but it’s still early days. I think we will see more of it, the question is who will do it effectively and come across as authentic. Because Generation M is very sensitive, they don’t want people to feel like they’re being exploited. They don’t want people to say ‘Hey Moslem, this is for you‘.

There are a lot of Indonesian brands that make halal products, but they do not want to be identified as Moslem brands, how do you see this issue?

The brand has to decide what the right positioning is for it in the marketplace. And we know that Generation M consists of young Moslems who want to have a brand relating to their lifestyle and react to them. So the brand can do it in a number of ways. They can open and say this product is for them. The brand has to choose which particular positioning is right for them.

Are there any cases related to this issue in any other country?

I think it’s a worry for a multinational brand, because they carry such a wide audience and get nervous when they engage with Moslem audience. But some brands have already done that, such as Unilever, Nestle, and Coca-Cola.  It’s about them finding the right point of view for engaging with Generation M.

But, do you think that this issue is affecting Generation M when there is a brand that doesn’t identify as Moslem brand?

Brand doesn’t need to be run by Moslem or openly talk about possessing Moslem credentials. But what Gen M is interested in are the values of that brand which fit with their own values.

Do you see there is a correlation between Generation M and their political belief?

This Generation M is about social religious identity. It’s not so much about political identity. What they say however is that they feel their faith is full of positive good. They want to embrace diversity, they want to be respectful of other people’s opinion. They want to be inclusive, diverse, respect another opinion even if they don’t agree.

Today, Moslems still face radicalism issue, and many of young Moslem fell into radicalism. Do you see that young Moslem who fell into radicalism still considered as Generation M?

There is an interesting research that young Moslem want to make this world better. Actually, their deep knowledge about religious beliefs will be their best defense against radicalism. Because they will understand anything that becomes their basic faith.

How do you associate feminism with the Generation M?

This is a subject that continues to be debated, whether in a Moslem-majority country or a minority, what Moslem women do. And how did they change it? When we look at various demographic and statistical criteria, we conduct studies in 12 developing countries in the world including in Indonesia. When did we ask how their lives changed regardless of entrepreneurship? How their life changed regardless access and barrier? The woman said that they are experiencing the greatest amount of change. This is quiet challenging for Moslem woman, because on one hand they are trying to live in a modern world and trying to break down the public barrier. But in home space, there’s a lot of tradition that they carry on their shoulders, and they work with both families to adapt to that change. For them tackling all of these constraints really motivates them to change the world.

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