Arla Foods and the Cartoon Crisis
Swedish-Danish cooperative Arla Foods has had a strong historical presence in the Arab world for almost half a century. In September 2005, a Danish newspaper published 12 cartoons depicting Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), which sparked a sharp controversy and outrage among Muslims. This resulted in a boycott starting from Saudi Arabia and then spread into other Arab and Muslim countries. In response to consumer pressures, supermarkets started removing Danish products from their shelves. It was reported that the company was losing about DKK 400 million a year when the boycott was active. The company started to respond with an aggressive communication campaign through an advertisement posted in several newspapers across the Middle East region that reads as follow: Statement from Arla Foods:-
Arla Foods believes that it is our duty to convey our opinion about the unfortunate events of recent months. We will also set out our position for the conference for International Support for the Prophet in Bahrian from March 22-23, 2006. To clarify where we stand. Arla Foods has distanced itself from the Danish newspaper, Jyllands-Posten’s actions in publishing caricatures of the Prophet Mohammad. We do not agree with the newspaper’s reasons for publication.
On the backdrop of our 40-years history in the Middle East and as an active and integral part of society here, we understand why you feel insulted. Our presence in the region has given us an insight into your culture and values about Islam. This understanding has, over many years, enabled us to supply high quality products which meet your preferences. Through your confidence in our products, we have succeeded in building up brands such as Lurpak, Puck, The Three Cows and Dano. Therefore, we understand and respect your reactions that have led to a boycott of our products following the Danish newspaper’s irresponsible and unfortunate action.
We would also like to take this opportunity to give you some important information about our company. Arla is a Danish-Swedish co-operative which is owned by farmers. Our business in the Middle East has attracted investors and business partners from across the Arab world. Arla employs around 1,000 Muslims in the Arab and Islamic world as well as more than 250 Muslims in Europe. They have felt insulted by these cartoons. However, Arla’s business in the Middle East has been affected not by its own actions, but because of the actions of others.
Esteemed citizens, the year that we have spent in your world have taught us that justice and tolerance are fundamentals values in Islam. We wish to co-operate with Islamic organizations to find a solution to the boycott of Arla’s products. We would simply ask you to reflect on this in the hope that you will reconsider your attitude towards our company.Now you know more about who we are, about our attitudes and beliefs. We leave the rest to you. Arla Foods
Soon after the advertisement was published, the boycott ended but the direct relationship between the above communication and the halt of the boycott could never categorically establish.
Evaluate Arla’s statement in terms of whether they succeeded in overcoming barriers in this one-way communication. Suggest further steps that the company could take to improve their communication.
This question belongs to management and discusses about overcoming barriers in one-way communication of a company.
Word count: 487
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