Cat Got your Tongue? Puma’s Epic Stumble in the UAE

In an age where information surrounds us, there is no excuse for Puma’s recent recall of a line of sneakers decked out in the colors of the United Arab Emirates flag after consumers complained the shoes were disrespectful. As anyone from the region can tell you, shoes are seen as being dirty, so Puma’s decision to place the UAE flag’s colors on a pair of anniversary sneakers was a lesson in cultural misjudgment.

Not only was this a highly embarrassing PR mistake for Puma, but it was also an error that cost the company millions of dollars in production, design, and marketing. And while the Middle East holds plenty of business opportunities for businesses throughout the world, it is a region that requires careful consideration to the different cultures across dozens of countries and populations.

How might a company prevent such an error? Puma made the mistake of not consulting a single local liaison in the UAE who would have immediately pointed out the folly of such a product. As foreign investment in the Middle East continues to grow, international businesses must have the eyes and ears on the ground to identify out these cultural sensitivities. As many of the region’s successful businesses have already figured out, an investment in one’s cultural eye is quick to pay for itself.