IKEA Magic: Now You See Her, Now You Don’t

 IKEA Magic: Now You See Her, Now You Dont

The PR Verdict: “B” (Good Show) for IKEA.

Furniture retailer IKEA was caught off guard this week when a Swedish newspaper published pages from the Saudi Arabian edition of IKEA’s catalog.  What a surprise! Women in the Saudi edition had been Photoshopped out by local Saudi management.  Cue embarrassment for IKEA, a retailer that prides itself on liberal values.

The global catalogue is distributed to approximately 200 million households, but for the Saudis it contained unacceptable images that needed removing. What caused offense? A woman in her pajamas beside a bathroom sink. In Saudi Arabia, a Muslim country, women must conceal their bodies and hair. IKEA said in a statement that its does “not accept any kind of discrimination… We regret the current situation.” Management was keen to explain that the changes “do not align with IKEA Group’s values.”

IKEA Saudi Arabia is run by a franchisee outside the IKEA Group. Nevertheless, the company said it is “reviewing routines to safeguard correct content presentation from a values point of view.” Sensible and sensitive handling of this issue but, there could be trouble ahead.

The PR Verdict: “B” (Good Show) for IKEA and a brand remaining true to its liberal streak, but beware of starting something that could become a cultural flashpoint.

The PR Takeaway: Marketing and discussions on broader cultural values rarely mix. What is puzzling about this news story is why IKEA hasn’t had this trouble before. Was a woman featured in the 2011 catalogue? What happened in the Saudi version then? It might have been easier to characterize this latest fuss as a breakdown in established procedures between a franchisee and a head office. IKEA has now stuck its neck out and committed publicly to a conversation about values. In a country as seemingly inflexible as Saudi Arabia, some things are best left unsaid. Better to have described this as a one-off business dispute between two partners and done the rest of the negotiations behind closed doors.

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What’s your opinion of how IKEA handled this situation? Give us your PR Verdict!

 

Oops We Did It Again…Jamie Dimon and JP Morgan Chase

JAMieDIMON2 Oops We Did It Again...Jamie Dimon and JP Morgan Chase

The PR Verdict: “B” for JP Morgan Chase and Jamie Dimon.

How do you say sorry for losing $2 billion?  Jamie Dimon, CEO of JP Morgan Chase seems to have got it right.  With a remorseful mea culpa, he announced last week a blow-out trading loss from credit derivatives.  From one of the banks  least scathed by the 2008 financial crisis, JPM’s surprise market malfunction was announced with aplomb.

The previously revered Jamie Dimon and his firm blamed the losses on “errors, sloppiness and bad judgment” and ominously warned, “it could get worse”.   Was this the same issue that had been raised in April but Dimon then dismissed as “tempest in a teacup”?  In a TV interview he said he was “dead wrong” to have dismissed earlier concerns.

In PR terms, so far so good but now the tough part.  For the CEO who has been the industry spokesperson against regulation and in particular trading restrictions proposed by the Volcker Rule, future lobbying efforts will now be muzzled (or at least should be).  Having cavalierly dismissed the notion of “too big to fail” as “non factual” he has at least temporarily, lost the PR right to belittle proposed oversight rules and restrictions.

The PR Verdict: “B” for JP Morgan Chase and Jamie Dimon.  From an industry that has lost its halo, the PR strategy to explain an “oops we did it again” $2 billion loss was well handled.  The challenge is what to say next.

PR Takeaway: No one likes a smarty pants.  Sunday’s NYTimes quoted a recent dinner in Dallas where Dimon was talking to valued clients about the much-discussed Volcker rule and its restrictions.  Dimon, allegedly imperious and heavy-handed, dismissed the debate as “infantile”.  He now needs to take a more humble and conciliatory tone.  With an uncapped trading loss of $2 billion dollars, the assumption that he and the industry know best, has well and truly hit the skids.

To read more click here.

What’s your PR Verdict?

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