Managing diversity: Muslim consumers in Turkey by Tugra Nazli Akarsu, T C Melewar, Pantea Foroudi and Olga Mourouti
Islam has become a highly prominent topic in the media since it has been spotlighted as a political debate after 9/11, Arab Spring and Middle East crisis (Fawcett, 2013). However, beyond this, Islam is a phenomenon with its effect on every aspects of human experiences, shaping Muslim individuals’ everyday life through its practices and principles by providing them a common ethos, sense of belonging and a unique identity (Karatas and Sandikci, 2013; Sandikci and Jafari, 2013; Yavuz, 2004). Regardless of the significance of religion, a notable amount of marketing literature has considered religion as a segmentation variable by comparing them with consumers belongs to other religions to identifying their purchase decisions (Delener, 1990; Hirschman, 1983) or consumption patterns (Hirschman, 1983; Sood and Nasu, 1995).
Due to the complex and multi dimensional structure of religion, there is a critical distinction between religious affiliation and religiosity: religious affiliation is the adherence of individuals to a particular religion whereas religiosity is mainly a behavioural and psychological phenomenon providing the degree of beliefs practiced by individuals (Mansori et al., 2015; McDaniel and Burnett, 1990; Sood and Nasu, 1995). Therefore, it can be said Islam provides the identification of individuals’ religious affiliation, whereas being Muslim gives the sentiment of being a “… distinctive subgroup of society that self-selects on the basis of a shared commitment to a particular product class, brand or consumption activity.” (Schouten and Alexander, 1995, p. 43) By ignoring the fact that Muslims are like a mosaic in respect to their diverse cultural and lifestyle differences as well as the degree of their religiosity (Sandikci and Jafari, 2013; Temporal, 2011), considering Muslim consumers as a homogeneous entity or having a stereotypical vision of a monolithic Muslim society rather than embracing and recognizing Muslims with its diversity can emerge a deception when investigating the consumers in the marketplace (Jafari, 2012; Temporal, 2011). Therefore, the very first aim of this study is to adopt the diversity of Muslim consumers in Turkey consumption space while investigating the concepts of brand sensuality and brand experience and the mediator effect of Muslim identities since “consumers can be connected to a brand because it represents who they are or because it is meaningful in light of goals, personal concerns, or life projects” (Park et al., 2010, p. 2) as brands and religiosity are good substitutes for each other because “they both allow individuals to express their feelings of self- worth” (Shachar, 2011, p.1). Since Turkey is secular and perceived as being embraced “market friendly Islam” (Yavuz, 2004, p.214) country, it has a valuable potential for global brands to penetrate the marketplace. Therefore, understanding the diversity of Muslim consumers in Turkey consumption space could be the best way to capture the insights of consumer and focusing brand related constructs could illustrate how Muslim consumers react the branding stimuli.