Concerning my last post about cultural taboos there is a relevant current affair in the media which shows the difficulties of adapting to a foreign market and respect their laws and culture without insulting the ideals of the companies original culture. Sometimes even Global Players commit really bad mistakes.
With starting their operation in Saudi Arabia, IKEA wanted to stick to the laws in which all women in Saudi Arabia have to wear an abayya in public which covers all clothing and additionally a scarf which covers the hair completely. This law has also to be obeyed in newspapers, in magazines or – in case of IKEA – in catalogues.
Unfortunately the department chose the worst decision possible. They erased every woman out of the common IKEA catalogue to obey the law but with this adaptation they went over the top. The position of women in Saudi Arabia is old fashioned in the view of Western society but even in this country the law is not laid out to banish women totally out of the society. In my opinion IKEA had two better possibilities:
- erase all people from the catalogue and just show the products (which is the sense of a catalogue)
- create a special catalogue with adapted models to Saudi Arabia
IKEA erased at least 50% of their customers worldwide with this way of adapting to another culture but in my opinon this mistake won’t show any impact on their sales numbers since their business model is too unique.