Is Black Friday a Cultural Blunder in Pakistan?

By Muhammad Salik on
November 23, 2015
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When PepsiCo entered into Chinese Market with the slogan “Pepsi brings you back to life”, it failed to realize that when phrase translated into Chinese characters, it meant, “Pepsi brings your ancestors back from the grave”.

Failing to research on local and cultural nuances results in cultural blunders; it can cause brands a lot of harm and years to recover. Adapting a strategy of Glocalization, a practice of conducting business according to both local and global considerations, can help marketers convince consumers that their product or services are not in any way, culture impure.

Pizza Hut’s introduction of local-flavored pizza has been one of the finest examples of Glocalization in Food businesses. In additional to traditional pizza toppings; it incorporated Pakistani favorites such as chicken tikka, seekh kabab etc.

Globally, holiday seasons bring in huge shopping festivals such as Black Friday; the day which unofficially or officially signals the start of the shopping season, especially in the U.S. However, very recently, one of Pakistan’s most popular online retailer, Daraz.pk, announced the launch of Black Friday in Pakistan with an aim to make it the biggest sale of the year in the country.

Now, the launch of this event unfolds a question as to whether Black Friday in Pakistan can be a case of cultural blunder? In Muslim countries and especially here in Pakistan, the color Black is normally considered to be a symbol of evil, bad luck or mourning. Whereas the day Friday holds an important part in these countries and represents the day of “Blessings and worship”.

That is the reason, in 2014 when Souq.com (the largest e-commerce site in the Arab World) imported Black Friday style deals to the region, they didn’t bring in the name and instead they tailored it to “White Friday”. According to them, Friday is a day of worship, gathering, friends and family; and as such, the e-tailer is calling the day ”White Friday”, a day of prosperity, celebration and joy.

Profiting from competitor’s possible slip-up, Homeshopping announced White Friday Sales with the tag line saying “Because in Pakistan Friday is never Black”. HSN team said “In the Muslim world Friday is the day of prayer, the day of gathering, the family day, the day of joy, which is why our Friday is white!”

Ultimately, whether Black Friday might be a cultural blunder or not is yet to be decided as the Black Friday Sale is a few days away. I expect marketers, brand managers and strategic managers to share their two cents on what they think about “Black Friday” sales in Pakistan.

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