When it comes to the international expansion, Arabic world is probably one of the toughest markets. It is no secret that it is very conservative and what is often widely accepted in the West, is oftentimes a taboo in the middle East. Due to cultural differences communication with target audience becomes a cornerstone question. Especially, in such industries as apparel. Fashion has always been a frivolous matter. Therefore you need to be extremely cautious when marketing your fashion-related products in Arabic countries. This is exactly what puma learned the hard way in United Arab Emirates.
In a nutshell
UAE celebrated the 40th anniversary of its birth in December 2012. On this occasion, sport clothing manufacturer Puma had the idea to create it with a special model of sports shoes painted in the colors of the Emirates’ national flag. Shortly after, this decision cause the backlash among consumers and Puma had to pull model from the shelves.
What went wrong?
Local were offended by the sneaker print for one simple reason: they treat their shoes differently that most Western countries. Primarily, shoes are in touch with the ground, which means most of the dirt will end up on them. Hitting someone with a shoe is a sign of great disrespect. For this reason, people might throw their shoes during the civil unrest. Shoes are also considered unclean in the Muslim faith and believers must take them off before prayer. This is why it is forbidden to enter mosques in shoes.
Here is what Quora’s users have say about it:
What should have been done to prevent it?
Obviously, Puma should have started with researching some common dress code etiquette, which includes:
- Never show bare shoulders, stomach, calves and thighs are forbidden
- Despite the heat, most of the body must always remain covered
- Women should always wear modest clothes in public
- Displays of affection in public places is forbidden
These are just the starting points but each one of them indicates the depth on how do Arabic countries approach appearance and fashion. Knowing them could have save you a lot of trouble and prevent your company from unnecessary spending.
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