Selling’s the Game: Marketing Home and Away

It’s an easy mistake to make, the assumption that people are the same the world over. It’s not true of course and Western multinationals, desperate to extend sales to the lucrative Middle East market have learnt that advertising has to be tailored to the, well – the market.

Targeting the Middle East can be a minefield for Western companies but the returns, if they get it right, are enormous. So they cut their cloth accordingly.

Most of us are familiar with Ikea’s promotions – you know domestic life in its idyll, I mean catalogue, mum, dad and kids – but not in Saudi Arabia. Oh no. In Saudi domestic life is a male only zone. Women? What women?


Other major retailers who’ve been happy to play the marketing game in order to win over non-democratic countries include Starbucks. You know the place where they charge a small mortgage for a cup of coffee and their own tailored tax arrangement – they were happy however to replace their mermaid logo with a crown to placate Saudi sensibilities. Mermaids? What mermaids?


Some companies enjoy testing the system in these newish markets. Coca Cola faced a boycott when it introduced ads with a love interest which offended Saudis. Sex? No sex please we’re Saudis.

After an awkward start Burger King, along with its competitor McDonald’s, went along with the requirement for separate areas for males and females in their fast-food outlets. Personally I refuse to eat anywhere I’m expected to use my hands instead of cutlery and a cup is a cardboard cut-out.


La vache qui rit – you know – the laughing cow cheese – how innocuous is that? It’s not even strongly flavoured and it definitely doesn’t include any dodgy blue mouldy bits but that didn’t stop  ads for it being torn down in protest against the cow’s earrings.

That’s right earrings. Cows do wear earrings in this country – their ID tags. The laughing cow’s earrings are wee copies of the cheese’s round boxes. Earrings? We’ll have no earrings here.


Shampoo company Silvikrin has a clever response to the need for delicacy when handling a product aimed at women in Saudi. Getting the advertising right means they can hope to sell to potential buyers among the country’s vast young female population of around 13 million.

Disposable incomes among women in the Gulf states demonstrates the enormous potential for spending on western goods. It is claimed that 60% of female wealth, estimated around $40billion is held in cash.

Luxury items from flash cars to chocolate bars are up for grabs. Advertising executives stress the importance of reflecting in their commodities what is important to these women: traditions, family, status.

Familiar sight of Twiggy advertising M & S in this country

But I expect she doesn’t travel well.

Sometimes re-branding is done for other reasons. Greenstone Energy – Shell’s New Zealand owners  spent NZ $35 million on rebranding its filling stations around the country – not because New Zealanders were making a stand against Shell for environmental reasons but Greenstone could save around NZ$7 million annually on royalty fees to Shell for its iconic brand identity by renaming it Z.

Ref:  F T Saturday Oct 6/7 2012


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