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What Western Executives Can Learn from the Arab Gulf Culture

Essay by   •  February 20, 2017  •  Research Paper  •  888 Words (4 Pages)  •  1,099 Views

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What Western Executives Can Learn from the Arab Gulf Culture


Arla Foods, Scandinavia’s largest dairy products manufacturer, used to enjoy dominance in the Arab world with the sales of the products it was dealing with, which included cream, cheese and butter. This was however only the case till the year 2005, when the company’s sales dropped by half from $550 million to about $275 million. The main cause: the publication of an article by a Danish newspaper titled ‘The Face of Muhammed’ (Mahajan, 2013). The article had a number of cartoons that depicted the prophet in a manner that did not go well with the Arab world in general. Three months after the publication of this article, a boycott was lobbied by Saudi Arabian clerics to all Muslims against all Danish products. The market responded by pulling down all Danish products, including those distributed by Arla Foods. Despite intense advertising by the company in a bid to distance themselves from the article, it has never been able to get back to its former glory.

The Mosque and the State

Through this incident, the west learned the hard way that Islam and the nation are aligned so close to each other in the sense that there is significant influence of either on the other. Western companies that set up in the Gulf States should thus make sure they conduct their due diligence in an in-depth manner to ensure they do not end up on the unpleasant side of the market they target with their products. In relation to this, it should be noted that the normal work day is not like that of the west in the sense that Islam states reserve times during the day for prayer sessions as required by their faith. It is actually against the law in some of these states to have workers at their stations during these periods and companies could face related penalties for violating the rights of its workers to worship.

On a related note, it is usually advice that companies conduct in-depth market research when considering introducing a product into the Gulf States with the main focus being how the people will interpret the logos, mission statements, slogans, and taglines. This is essential because there are some expressions that would not auger well with the population, a factor that will make people feel offended and either shun the product or discourage further distribution of the product itself. There is in this relation a case whereby Unilever was expanding to Saudi Arabia. To facilitate this, they developed a logo that they thought would appeal to the target market. Upon close analysis by the Saudi executives, it was ruled that the logo vaguely resembled how the word Allah is written in Arabic. According to the religion, it is forbidden to depict Allah’s image, whether this in writing or in picture form (Mahajan, 2013). Regardless of the fact that this realization was made close to the launch date of the product, the logo was scrapped and redesigned. This thus emphasizes the proximity to which Islam is in close



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