This error on behalf of Tesco highlights two important aspects of modern marketing. The first is that in today’s world, any mistake, however small, will be photographed and tweeted to possibly millions in a matter of minutes or hours. Though many brands have benefited from the viral nature of social media, they have to be constantly aware of the potential PR disaster that could await them following one seemingly innocent error.
The second is that understanding culture is still undeniably important. You could argue that due to the multicultural nature of today’s society, understanding culture and its implications is even more significant today than previously, when it usually only needed attention when considering international expansion.
You would assume that most would know that the consumption of pork products is strictly forbidden in Islam. However in marketing, assuming anything can lead to mistakes like the one in question. Whether it was one staff member’s decision to place the bacon flavoured Pringles on the Ramadan display stand isn’t necessarily important, as it is Tesco and Pringles the ‘brands’ that have had to face the public criticism and media scrutiny. Adding to the embarrassment, the Pringle’s were placed under a Ramadan banner at Tesco’s Liverpool Street Store, around half a mile from one of London’s biggest mosques in Whitechapel.
Considering the above, Tesco should’ve placed huge importance on staff awareness in regards to any promotional displays which contained religious aspects, in order to ensure that no members of the public would have been offended.
This isn’t the first time a major brand has inadvertently offended members of the public (or an entire country) and it certainly won’t be the last. In order to prevent offending people and the negative impact this brings, ensure that you think carefully about everything you do as a company. Research if you’re expanding into new markets or into a highly multicultural area. Check and then re-check that there’s nothing about your product or service that may offend. Consider using focus groups made up of a diverse population to get a broad range of feedback. Question any images, slogans or names associated with and used by your company in order to verify that they don’t cause inadvertent offense. Huge companies such as KFC, Pepsi and Coors have been embarrassed due to a lack of cultural understanding; don’t let your company fall into the same trap.
Win Marketing has over 15 years of International marketing experience, understanding the needs of promoting a company in another country. See our previous blog on international expansion for further explanation of our overseas support.