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Asia Pacific Journal of Marketing and Logistics Impact of religion on the effectiveness of the
Asia Pacific Journal of Marketing and Logistics Impact of religion on the effectiveness of the

Asia Pacific Journal of Marketing and Logistics

Impact of religion on the effectiveness of the promotional aspect of product packages in Muslim countries Mohammed M. Almossawi,

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Mohammed M. Almossawi, (2014) "Impact of religion on the effectiveness of the promotional aspect of product packages in Muslim countries", Asia Pacific Journal of Marketing and Logistics, Vol. 26 Issue: 5, pp.687-706, https://doi.org/10.1108/APJML-11-2013-0137 Permanent link to this document:

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Impact of religion on the effectiveness of the promotional aspect of product packages in Muslim countries

Mohammed M. Almossawi

Department of Management & Marketing, College of Business Administration, University of Bahrain, Sakheer, Bahrain

Abstract

Purpose The purpose of this paper is to investigate the influence of religion on the effectiveness of product packages in attracting customers attention, and forming their attitudes, preferences, and buying decisions. In other words, the study aims at finding out how do Muslims respond to product packages including elements believed to disagree with the Islamic values, in this study referred to as contentious packages. Design/methodology/approach To test the five hypotheses, the study recruited 300 young Muslims in Bahrain, chosen from the population of 14,000 students of the University of Bahrain aged between 20 and 25, 26 percent male and 74 percent female. The primary data were collected through personal interviews with the selected sample, using a specially designed questionnaire. The questionnaire included ten questions covering two personal questions for age and gender and eight other questions attempting to find out Muslims responses to contentious packages in terms of attention, attitudes, buying intention, company image, and word-of-mouth. Findings Findings indicate that use of contentious packaging runs a high risk of tarnishing a company s reputation and appeal. Muslims who live by Shari a and the dictates of the Kuran will consider such companies to be promoters of fornication, and will therefore boycott such companies in order to prevent them from corrupting the purity and piety of the community. If advertising firms continue to fail in recognizing the profundity of these beliefs within Muslim communities, both their fiscal success and reputation run the risk of suffering substantial damage. Practical implications The findings of this study send six important messages to multinational companies doing business in Islamic countries. First, Islam governs all aspects of Muslim life, including consumer behavior. Second, to prosper in Islamic countries, choose packaging that does not contradict or offend the principles and values of Islam. Third, recognize that much packaging that has proven to be effective in Western countries will not be successful in Islamic countries due to vastly different cultural environments. Fourth, a contentious package may result in a steep drop in the sales. Fifth, using contentious packages may damage the reputation. Sixth, you can attract more Muslims by using non-contentious packages. Originality/value This paper is of great value to companies who wish to expand their practice in Muslim countries. Its findings promise to improve advertising standards and to increase both company profits and customer satisfaction. Keywords Advertising, Cross-cultural marketing, Environmental management, Consumer ethics, Customer satisfaction, Contentious packaging, Immodest packaging, Islamic marketing, Halal markets, Advertisements and promotions to Muslims Paper type Research paper

Introduction Nowadays, especially with the emergence of online shopping and the spread of self-service giant retail shops, packaging serves as an important promotional tool to inform, attract, and persuade customers. One way to increase the promotional

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Received 24 November 2013 Revised 15 January 2014 22 March 2014 Accepted 6 April 2014

Revised 15 January 2014 22 March 2014 Accepted 6 April 2014 Asia Pacific Journal of Marketing

Asia Pacific Journal of Marketing and Logistics Vol. 26 No. 5, 2014 pp. 687-706 © Emerald Group Publishing Limited

1355-5855

DOI 10.1108/APJML-11-2013-0137

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effectiveness of products packages in Islamic countries is to consider and to respond to the target market s socio-cultural forces. Said forces have a great influence on the Muslim members of these countries and on the way that they respond to a product, in terms of the attention given to it, their attitude toward it, and, ultimately, their buying decision. Primary among these socio-cultural forces is religion. Literature indicates that the Muslimsreligious commitments and convictions have a significant influence on their perception of promotional material (Bari and Abbas, 2011; Saeed et al. , 2001). This study seeks to investigate the influence of religion on the effectiveness of product packages in attracting customers attention and forming their attitudes, preferences, and buying decisions. Put differently, the study s goal is to find out how Muslims respond to product packages, and in particular, those elements that they believe not

to be in accordance with their religious values. Said elements are herein referred to as

contentious packages. A contentious package is one that contains elements that

are not in accordance with Islamic principles, such as imagery that may be deemed immodest, women or men in seductive poses or revealing what may be considered

a

fare amount of skin and so on. Such elements are strictly prohibited in Islam.

In

a sizable number of Islamic countries, one notices that a subset of products do in fact

have contentious packages. These products include perfumes as well as women s socks, stockings, lingerie, shirts, and shorts.

Literature review Literature indicates that package labels play an important role in influencing buyersattitudes and buying decisions. For instance, some studies have investigated the impact of labeling when it conveys nutritional information (Kasapila and Shawa, 2011; Hieke and Taylor, 2012; Ippolito, 1999; Wansink and Huckabee, 2005; Garde, 2008; Seiders and Petty, 2004), ingredients (Lafebvre and Aynne Cook, 2013; Dsouza et al. , 2008), safety information (Tavernier, 2012; Boyce et al. , 2013; Diamond, 2011; Schneider, 1977), and environmental information (Purohit, 2012; Sorqvist et al. , 2013; Esther et al. , 2004; Docecalova and Strakova, 2011). Other studies have investigated the impact that images, which are shown on a package have on consumers buying decisions (Hoek et al. , 2013; Romer et al. , 2013; Kees et al. , 2010), while others found that consumers associated the quality of a package with the quality of the product (Sehrawet and Kundu, 2007). Despite the fact that much of the information on a package is promotional (Mackey and Mitz, 2009), there appears to be a lack of studies that have investigated the impact of a package s promotional elements, such as design and label, on consumers buying decisions. This study attempts to partially fill that gap by focussing on the impact of religion on the effectiveness of a package s promotional elements. Hence, this study s hypotheses are drawn from the literature, detailed below, along with pertinent Islamic principles from the Kuran and Sunnah. Boddewyn (1982) reported that religion is one of the forces that affects the regulation of advertising around the world. Religious values include a set of beliefs, attitudes and activities to which a culture subscribes and is reinforced by rewards and punishments for those who follow or deviate from these guidelines (Kalliny et al. , 2008, p. 217). According to Luqmani et al. (1989), in Saudi Arabia, one of the major factors influencing advertising is religion, and all promotions must be compatible with religious standards. This is because Shari a (Islamic Law) is viewed as a comprehensive code governing all areas of Muslims lives (Luqmani et al. , 1989; Coualon, 1964). In Islamic countries, the role of religion in peoples daily life should not be overlooked given that Muslimscultural value system is derived from and guided by their religious

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beliefs (Salzman, 2007; Bari and Abbas, 2011; Anastos et al. , 1980; Kavoosi, 2000; Lawrence, 1998). Indeed, Almossawi (1992) found an inverse relationship between Muslims religious convictions and their perception of contentious ads. The importance of religion, as a contributing factor to the effectiveness of promotion, is emphasized by a considerable number of researchers (for example, Marriott, 1986; Kline, 1982; O guinn and Belk, 1989; Luqmani et al. , 1980). Religion can also play an important role in peoplesbuying decisions, as reported by Wilkes et al. (1986) who stated that religion is an important criterion in the study of consumer behavior. A similar result was also found by Hoge et al. (1987) who reported that the value trends of the youth in the USA is moving in a conservative direction as compared to the 1950s. In the same respect, a number of studies that focus more on advertising have reported that a promotional material s background features might have a considerable influence on the target market s attitude toward the promoted brand (Engel et al. , 1978; Schiffman and Kanuk, 1978). Therefore, when designing their product packages, it is imperative that companies opt for background features that are acceptable to their target audience. In other words, the effectiveness of a product package partially depends on whether it is presented in a favorable or an unfavorable context (Gorn, 1982). In Arab countries, one of the major forces determining people s perception of product packages as well as other promotional tools, is religion. This is because Arab culture is for the most part based on Islam, which as it happens, is the majority religion in all Arab countries (Kalliny et al. , 2008). In this respect, Stone (2002, p. 3) stated whatever is happening in the Islamic world whether in its collective manifestations or in individual Islamic countries and populations is a product of the commonality of attitudes and sentiments which Islam imposes. For Muslims, the main two sources of Islamic Law are Kuran scripture and Sunnah the documented traditions of the prophet Mohammed (Al-Qaradawi, 1960; Mutsikiwa and Basera, 2012). In his book Know your Islam, Yousuf Lalliji reported that Islam influences the daily life of Muslims through their holy book, the Kuran. He stated, the Kuran is the general code of the Muslims world; a social, civil, commercial, military, judicial, criminal, penal and yet religious code; by it everything is regulated from the ceremonies of religion to those of daily life, from the salvation of the soul to the health of the body, from the rights of the general communities to those of each individual, from the interests of man to those of the society, from morality to crime, from punishment here to that in the life to come (Lalliji, 1987). The importance of the Kuran to Muslims is also emphasized by Kabasakal and Bodur (2002) who stated that the Kuran is respected by all Muslims and considered to be a holy book, which has helped foster among the Arabs a common culture. It is on the basis of Islamic Law that Muslims decide which elements of a promotion are contentious and, hence, must be avoided. In this respect, the prophet Mohammed said:

What Allah has made lawful in His book is halal and what he has forbidden is haram and that concerning which He is silent is allowed as His favor (Al-Qaradawi, 1960, p. 15).

The theoretical framework of this study s hypothesis is based on the main source of the Islamic Law: the Kuran. Religion not only defines what is universally proper, but also includes a set of prohibitions of attractions that it deems vices, such as materialism, immodesty, indecency, and so on. Therefore, any promotion that is perceived as contentious is unlikely to be effective in capturing buyersattention or changing their attitudes

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toward the promoted product (Rice and Almossawi, 2002; Bari and Abbas, 2011; Kelman, 1961; Howard and Sheth, 1969; Newcomb, 1963; Saeed et al. , 2001; Rice, 1998). With regards to nudity, Islams call is for men and women topurify their eyes and hearts by refraining from looking at things that are prohibited to look at (Kiran and Karande, 2000). In this respect, the Kuran indicates that God has commanded believing men and women to lower their gaze and guard their sexual parts:

Tell the believing men that they should lower their gaze and guard their sexual organs; that is purer for them. Indeed, Allah is well-aquatinted with what they do. And tell the believing women that they should lower their gaze and guard their sexual organs, and not display their adornments except that which is apparent of it (Kuran 24, pp. 30-31).

Lowering the gaze in this context means not looking at a member of opposite sex with lust. The prophet Mohammed described such looks as the adultery of eyes , given that it leads to unlawful sexual pleasure:

The eyes also commit adultery, and their adultery is the lustful look (Al-Bokari, 1978).

The points discussed above lead us to the formation of H1 :

H1. Muslims pay minimum attention to contentious packages, which are those packages that including nudity or immodest imagery.

Here it is necessary to clarify that minimum attention is used as committed Muslimsworse possible response to the contentious package. The reason for not using no attention is that even committed Muslims have no way around not seeing a package before they pass judgment on it. Sometimes, that minimum attention is enough to influence a buyer s attitude and their buying intention. Literature indicates that religion has a significant influence on attitude. Essoo and Dibb (2004) found that religion has a strong impact on consumers attitudes toward owning and using products. This observation is also emphasized by McDaniel and Burnett (1990) who concluded that religious beliefs tend to be causally related to different attitudes and/or behavior among individuals in the population. Literature provides evidence that religious affiliation influences people s attitudes toward advertising (Walker et al. , 2005). For example, some studies found that strict Muslims have negative attitudes toward advertisements containing nudity, songs, and dance (Rice and Almossawi, 2002; Michelle and Almossawi, 1999). This finding was supported by Chittithaworn et al. (2011) who studied the impact of people s religious beliefs on their attitudes toward TV advertising in Thailand and found that ads with negative contents led to negative attitudes. Other studies found that consumersreligious commitment has a significant influence on their lifestyle as well as on their attitudes toward goods and services (Wilkes et al. , 1986). Luji et al. (2003) concluded that religion has an impact on people s social and economic attitudes. Ramasamy et al. (2010) conducted a study in Hong Kong and Singapore and found a significant positive relationship between religiousness and corporate social responsibility. A similar result was also reported by Conroy and Emerson (2004) who surveyed university students in USA and found that religiousness has a significant impact on students responses to a number of ethical issues. In this respect, Gerlich et al. (2010) reported that religious adherence has no impact on ethical attitudes but religious intensity has a positive significant influence on people s moral judgement. Al-Makaty et al. (1996) studied the attitude of people toward advertising in Saudi Arabia and found that religion plays an

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important role in forming such attitudes, as many Saudi Arabians appeared to have a negative attitude toward ads that did not comply with their religious values and principles. In light of the discussed literature, and per Islamic Law, Muslims are expected to have a negative attitudes toward products with contentious packages. In this respect, the Kuran instructs women to remain modest:

That they should not display their adornment, except that which is apparent of it (Kuran 24:31).

In the above verse, adornments refers to both natural features, such as the face and hair, as well as artificial enhancements of beauty, such as clothing, ornaments, make-up and so on. This verse reveals the importance that Islam places on the type of clothing that women are expected to adorn and hence the parts of their bodies that they may reveal in public, which are the hands and face. Based on this, packages that show women in seductive poses or that depict them with some level of nudity would be considered sinful according to Islam. In this respect, the Kuran asks of Muslims to avoid partaking in sinful acts. These acts are referred to by various names in scripture, such as foul deeds, immorality, evil and so on, as shown in the following verses:

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Say My Lord has only forbidden foul deeds, whether open or secret [] (Kuran 7:34).

And when they commit a foul deed, they say we found our fathers doing it, and Allah has enjoined it upon us. Say, Allah never enjoins foul deeds. Do you say of Allah what you know not? (Kuran 7:29).

Those who love that immorality should spread among the believers, will have a painful punishment in this world and the Hereafter. And Allah knows, and you know not (Kuran 24:20).

[ ] and that you approach not foul deeds, whether open or secret [ ] (Kuran 6:152).

O ye men! eat of what is lawful and good in the earth; and follow not the footsteps of Satan; surely, he is to you an open enemy. He only enjoins upon you what is evil and what is foul, and that you say of Allah what you do not know (Kuran 2:169-170).

Satan threatens you with poverty and enjoins upon you what is foul, whereas Allah promises you forgiveness from Himself and bounty. And Allah is Bountiful, All- Knowing (Kuran 2:26).

Aye, whoso does evil and is encompassed by his sins those are the inmates of the Fire; therein shall they abide (Kuran 2:82).

Or do those who commit evil deeds think that they will escape Us? Evil is what they judge (Kuran 29:5).

It shall not be according to your desires, nor according to the desires of the People of the Book. Whoso does evil shall be rewarded for it; and he shall find for himself no friend or helper beside Allah (Kuran 4:124).

Verily, Allah enjoins justice, and the doing of good to others; and giving like kindred; and forbids indecency, and manifest evil, and wrongful transgression. He admonished you that you may take heed (Kuran 16:91).

And those who do evil, shall be thrown down on their faces into the Fire: Are you not rewarded for what you have been doing? (Kuran 27:91).

Considering the discussion hitherto, the second hypothesis is as follows:

H2. Muslims have negative attitudes toward contentious packages.

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Literature reveals that religion has an influence not only on peoples attitudes toward products and advertising, but also on their buying behavior (Terpstra and David, 1991; Taylor et al., 2010; Essoo and Dibb, 2004; Wilkes et al., 1986). Given that their attitude and behavior are positively associated, a negative attitude that arises as a result of religious convictions is expected to lead to negative behavior. Such a finding was reported by a noticeable number of studies such as Delener (1990), McDaniel and Burnett (1990), Mckee (2003), Mutsikiwa and Basera (2012) Schiffman and Kanuk (2010). Other studies observed the influences of Hinduism, Islam, and Buddhism on consumersbehavior (Essoo and Dibb, 2004; Baily and Sood, 1993). Taylor et al. (2010) found that religious advertising has

a significant effect on the buying behavior of religious Christians. Some studies reported

that religion has an impact on the consumersdecisions to buy food related products (Pettinger et al., 2004; Delener, 1994). In this respect, Mutsikiwa and Basera (2012) studied the attitudes of Muslims in Zimbabwe toward consuming halal food and found a positive

correlation between Muslimsreligious affiliation and their consumption of halal products. Religious people consume products that are in accordance with their religious values because they consider such acts to be ethical acts (Bell et al., 2011; Patwardhan et al., 2012; Robert and Jurkiewicz, 2003; Longenecker et al., 2004). This positive relationship between religiousness and ethics is supported by a number of studies that found religion to have a significant influence on peoples ethical judgements and behavior at work (Corner, 2009; Kolodinsky et al., 2008; Parboteeah et al., 2008; Walker et al., 2012). Schneider et al. (2011) conducted a comparative study on Christian and Muslim consumers in Germany and Turkey and studied the impact of intrinsic religiousness on consumersethical belief. They found that their subsample of Muslims indicated a stronger connection between religiousness and consumersethical behavior than their subsample of German Christian consumers. Such a strong relationship between religiousness and purchase behavior is also emphasized by Ilyas et al. (2011) who found that religious commitment plays

a significant role in determining the buying decisions of graduate students in Pakistan.

For Muslims, religion has an influence even on the clothes that they wear in public (Sobh et al., 2008; Abu Odeh, 1993; Gole, 2002; Tarlo, 2005; Ruby, 2006). Companies that choose not to respond to their target markets religious values and principles when developing their productsdesign, packaging, and advertising are vulnerable to adversely impacting their reputation and image. In this respect, Rogers et al. (1995) reported that ignoring the Islamic perspective while advertising in Muslim countries can indulge multinational companies not only in risk of conflict with the local consumers but also in risk of alienation with a remarkable proportion of their target audience.Furthermore, Islam urges Muslims not to contribute to the spread of immorality and to avoid those products and that may aid in the spread of vices. Indeed, Islamic law is rich in this regard and stresses on the importance of qualities such as fearing God and being obedient to God, as shown in the following verses:

And Allah will deliver the righteous and lead them to a place of security and success; evil shall not touch them, nor shall they grieve (Kuran 39:62).

And the recompense of an injury is an injury the like thereof; but whoso forgives and his act brings about reformation, his reward is with Allah. Surely, He loves not the wrongdoers (Kuran 42:41).

Whoso does evil will be required only with the like of it; but whoso does good, whether male or female, and is a believer these will enter the Garden; they will be provided therein without measure (Kuran 40:41).

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He who does a good deed shall have better reward than that; and as for him who does an evil deed those who do evil deeds shall not be rewarded but according to what they did (Kuran 28:85).

These are the limits set by Allah; and whoso obeys Allah and His Messenger, He will make him enter Gardens through which streams flow; therein shall they abide; and that is a great triumph (Kuran 4:14).

And whoso disobeys Allah and His Messenger and transgresses His limits, He will make him enter into Fire; therein shall he abide; and he shall have a humiliating punishment (Kuran 4:15).

In this respect, Rogers et al. (1995) reported that multinational companies must take into consideration the role of Islam when advertising in Muslim countries, otherwise they run the risk of adversely impact their image and creating conflict with their consumers. This is partly because according to Islam, Muslims are accountable for their actions and are hence their behaviors and actions are constrained by Islamic Law (Rice, 1998; Bari and Abbas, 2011). Furthermore, Islam demands from Muslims to be righteous. In this respect, the Kuran says:

You are the best people, evolved for mankind, enjoying what is right, forbidding what is wrong, and believing in Allah (Kuran 3:116).

In light of the above discussion, we develop the third and fourth hypotheses:

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H3. Muslims avoid buying products that have contentious packages.

H4. Muslim consumers tend to have a negative image of companies that use contentious packaging.

H3 can also be justified through the positive relationship between consumers attitude ( H2 ) and their intention to buy and even their actual buying ( H3 ). In this respect, some studies stress the importance of ad attitude as a mediator of brand attitudes (Gardner, 1985; Mackenzie et al. , 1986; Park and Young, 1986; Rossieter and Percy, 1980) and as a mediator of buying intention (Mitchell and Oslon, 1981; Shimp and Yokum, 1982; Moore and Hutchinson, 1983). From all the above discussion, it is evident that the relationship between attitude and image on one hand and word-of-mouth on the other is a positive one. In other words, if a consumer has a negative attitude toward a product, then he or she will certainly convey a negative message about it to others. This is emphasized by Bari and Abbas (2011) who pointed out that in Islam everyone is accountable to Allah for his actions. Individuals are not free in their will rather they are bound to do everything including business by keeping themselves in the limits of Shariah. Some researchers reported that Muslims tend to spread negative word-of-mouth about products or advertisings that considered to be against their Islamic values, an act that is in line with a saying by the prophet Mohammed:

God likes that when someone does something; it must be done perfectly well (Rice and Almossawi, 2002).

Muslims consider it their duty not only to stop buying products that have contentious packages, but they also feel a sense of responsibility in urging others not to buy them. In Islamic law, this behavior of spreading negative word-of-mouth about prohibited

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things is well rooted in the concept of virtue propagation and abomination enjoining, as stated in the following verses from Kuran:

The hypocrites, men and women, are all connected one with another. They enjoin evil and forbid good, and keep their hands closed. They neglected Allah, so He has neglected them. Surely, it is the hypocrites who are the disobedient (Kuran 9:67).

And the believers, men and women, are friends one of another. They enjoin good and forbid evil and observe Prayer and pay the Zakat and obey Allah and His Messenger. It is these on whom Allah will have mercy. Surely, Allah is Mighty, Wise (Kuran 9:71).

You are the best people raised for the good of mankind; you enjoin what is good and forbid evil and believe in Allah. And if the People of the Book had believed, it would have surely been better for them. Some of them are believers, but most of them are disobedient (Kuran 3:111).

They believe in Allah and the Last Day, and enjoin what is good and forbid evil, and hasten, vying with one another, in good works. And these are among the righteous (Kuran 3:115).

You are the best people, evolved for mankind, enjoying what is right, forbidding what is wrong and believing in Allah (Kuran 3:116).

The above Kuranic verses help develop the fifth hypothesis:

H5. Muslims find themselves responsible to advise others not to buy products with contentious packages.

Given the importance of religion in determining consumers attitude, interest, and buying decisions, some studies suggest that it is important to integrate religiousness into consumer research (Delener, 1994; Essoo and Dibb, 2004; Mokhlis, 2009; Delener and Schiffman, 1988).

Methodology The sample and the data collection procedure In order to test the five hypotheses, this study recruited 300 young Muslims in Bahrain, chosen from the population of 14,000 students enrolled at the University of Bahrain. The students are between the ages of 20 and 25; 26 percent of them are male and 74 percent are female. The primary data were collected through personal interviews using a questionnaire.

The questionnaire The questionnaire has nine questions including two that are demographical, namely age and gender, and six that aims to determine how the sample reacts to contentious packages in terms of attention, attitude, buying intention, company image, word-of-mouth, and customersrelationship with the firm. The last question asks the respondents to give some reasons for their negative responses. The questionnaire begins with the statement:

Suppose you are seeking a product with no loyalty to a specific brand. Suppose you found the product you seek and noticed that its package containing some immodest pictures or women or men in a seductive position. How would you treat such a product? Circle the answer of your choice.

It is important to point out that the questionnaire does not specifically reference any particular product, but is rather more abstract when talking about products. In the personal interviews, and prior to eliciting respondents answers, respondents are

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briefed about the study s purpose and are told the precise definition of what a contentious package is.

Variables of interest and how they are measured The study s aim is to find out how Muslims respond to contentious packages in terms of six variables, as explained below, showing the formatting of the question and the scale used to measure each variable:

(1)

Attention paid to the contentious package How much attention would you pay to a product with a package containing immodest pictures or pictures of women/men in a seductive position? The variable is measured on a three-point scale: (full attention, some attention, minimum attention).

(2)

Attitude toward the contentious package Please express your attitudes toward a package containing some immodest pictures or women/men in a seductive position? The variable is measured on a three-point scale: (positive, indifferent, negative).

(3)

Buying decision

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Would you buy a product with a package containing some immodest pictures

or women/men in a seductive position?

Respondents are given three options to choose from: (would buy the product, may buy the product, would avoid the product).

(4) Word-of-mouth How would you promote (tell others about) a product with a package containing some immodest pictures or women/men in a seductive position? The variable is measured on a three-point scale: (will promote the product positively, none of my business, will promote the product negatively).

(5)

Companys image and reputation How using a contentious package may affect a firm s image and reputation? The variable is measured on a three-point scales: (positively, no effect, negatively).

(6)

Customer s relationship with the firm

What is the impact of using a contentious package on your relationship with the firm?

A three-point scale is used to measure this variable: (despite using contentious

package I would continue dealing with the firm, I may boycott the firm, I will certainly boycott the firm).

Findings The first question intended to identify the amount of attention paid by Muslims to contentious packages. We found that 60 percent of the respondents claimed that they would give minimum attention to such packages, while only 10 percent stated that package contentiousness would not stop them from looking at the packaging of the product that they intended to buy. The remaining 30 percent reported that they would give such products some attention, that is, the attention needed to identify the product or read some necessary information on the label. A χ 2 goodness-of-fit test indicates that the responses of Muslims related to their attention for contentious packages are significantly different at o 1 percent level, as shown in Table I.

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When attention data was analyzed based on gender, it was found that women scored lower: 66 percent said minimum attention whereas it was 43 percent. In general, it seems from the findings that the packages containing more contentious elements would capture less of the attention of Muslim buyers. This finding is in agreement with a study conducted by Almossawi (1992) which indicated that commercials containing fewer contentious elements could capture more of the attention

696 of strict Muslims and would increase their positive attitude toward the product.

The above findings support H1 The questionnaires second question intended to find out the influence of contentious elements on Muslimsattitudes toward the package. The findings indicate that 76 percent of Muslims reported to have negative attitudes toward a package that includes contentious labels. On the other hand, only 23 percent said that package contentiousness has no influence on their attitudes, while only 1 percent of the respondents claimed to have positive attitudes toward such packages. Splitting by gender, we found the results to be almost in the same direction as the overall one: 75 percent of male and 77 percent of female reported negative attitudes. A χ 2 goodness-of-fit test indicates that the responses of Muslims related to their attitudes toward contentious packages are significantly different at o 1 percent level, as shown in Table II. The attitude results reported above is very much in line with the literature. Zinkhan and Martin (1982) found that a message containing elements that are enjoyed by an audience has a positive effect on the audiences attitude toward the message and the brand. This finding was supported by other studies, which found that the content of a message plays an important role in forming peoples attitude and buying decisions (Bettman, 1974; Holbrook and Maier, 1978; Holbrook, 1975; Wright, 1974; Wilkie, 1976; Paul et al., 1990).

The above findings strongly supports H2 With regards to buying decisions, results indicate that 63 percent of the respondents said that they would avoid buying products with contentious packages, while 34

 

Responses

Observed n

Percentage

Minimum attention Some attention Full attention Total Notes: χ 2 ¼ 117.657, df ¼ 2, Asymp sig ¼ 0.000

179

60

Table I. Attention Muslims pay to contentious packages

91

30

27

10

297

 

Responses

Observed n

Percentage

Table II.

Negative attitude Indifferent attitude Positive attitude Total Notes: χ 2 ¼ 264.424, df ¼ 2, Asymp sig ¼ 0.000

226

76

Attitudes of

67

23

Muslims toward

4

1

contentious

297

packages

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percent said they may buy them and the remaining 3 percent said they do not mind to buy a product they like regardless of its contentious package. Looking at gender, one notices that although package contentiousness has a significant influence on the buying decisions of both genders, its relative influence on women is stronger than on men (65 percent of women responded will not buy compared to 58 percent of men). The responses of Muslims related to their buying decisions for products with contentious packages was found to be significantly different at o 1 percent level, as indicated by the χ 2 goodness-of-fit test shown in Table III.

Product packages in Muslim countries

697

These results give full support to H3 Some studies examined the impact of the content of a message on attention, attitudes and buying decision through the audience s mood state. Messages which induce negative moods are likely to be unfavorably evaluated while messages inducing positive moods are likely to be favorably evaluated by customers (Gardner, 1985; Gardner and Raj, 1983; Sudnam and Schwarz, 1989). By looking at the findings reported above, one can observe the negative influence of contentious packages on the sales of products and brands. However, would such contentious packages also influence the overall image of the company behind those products? According to this study s findings, the answer is yes. In total, 87 percent of the respondents said that such contentious packages would certainly have a negative effect on the image and reputation of the company, while 9 percent said that it would have no effect and only 4 percent claimed that such packages may have a positive effect. On the other hand, most respondents (90 percent) reported that the resulted negative image of the company may make them boycott the company as a whole and the remaining 10 percent said that it would have no effect on their business with the company. Muslims consider it a duty to confront companies considered to be against their religious values and those which they view as promoters of depravity and debauch in the society. When we looked at gender, we found that majority of both genders (89 percent of women and 82 percent of men) claimed that package contentiousness would have a negative effect on the company s image and reputation. This indicates that a difference in gender has no effect on the responses of Muslims when it comes to the effect of contentious packages on the image of the company, as confirmed by a χ 2 test at even a 10 percent or higher significance ( χ 2 ¼ 3.204, Asymp sig ¼ 0.201). On the other hand, gender analysis also revealed that most member of both genders (90 percent of women and 92 percent of men) reported that contentious packages would not only have a negative effect on the company s image, but may actually result in Muslims boycotting that company as a whole. So, here also, difference in gender had no effect on their response as shown by a χ 2 test at even a 10 percent significance ( χ 2 ¼ 1.218, Asymp sig ¼ 0.544).

Responses

Observed n

Percentage

Will not buy

179

63

May not buy

91

34

Will buy

27

3

Total Notes: χ 2 ¼ 156.505, df ¼ 2, Asymp sig ¼ 0.000

297

Table III. How contentious packages affect the buying decisions of Muslims

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APJML

26,5

698

The opinions of Muslims related to the effects of contentious packages on the image of the company, as well as on the long-term relationship of Muslims with the company, was found to be significantly different at o 1 percent level, as revealed by the χ goodness-of-fit test, shown in Tables IV and V.

2

The above argument supports H4 For testing H5 , the respondents were asked whether their Islamic commitment mandates them to spread negative word-of-mouth about a product that includes a contentious package. In total, 46 percent of the respondents said that Islam does indeed require them to do so in order to stop such companies from spreading unethical values and adversely impacting Muslim youth. The remaining 51 percent of the respondents said that they felt that it was none of their business to spread negative word-of-mouth about such products, while only 3 percent stated that regardless of the product s package, they would still spread positive word-of-mouth about the company if they liked its products. Here, the responses of males and females were found to be almost compatible with the overall picture: 43 percent and 47 percent, respectively. The responses of Muslims related to their word-of-mouth for products having contentious packages were found to be significantly different at o 1 percent level, as revealed by the χ goodness-of-fit test shown in Table VI. The above results strongly support H5 .

2

 

Responses

Observed n

Percentage

Negative effect No effect Positive effect Total Notes: χ 2 ¼ 391.094, df ¼ 2, Asymp sig ¼ 0.000

260

87

Table IV. Effects of contentious packages on a company s image

27

9

11

4

297

 

Responses

Observed n

Percentage

Table V.

Effects of

contentious

Will boycott the company May boycott the company Will continue with the company Total Notes: χ 2 ¼ 88.839, df ¼ 2, Asymp sig ¼ 0.000

108

36

packages on

Muslims

161

54

29

10

relationships with

297

the company

Responses

Observed N

Percentage

Table VI. Muslims tendency to spread bad reviews of products with contentious packages

Negative word-of-mouth Do not care Positive word-of-mouth Total Notes: χ 2 ¼ 123.372, df ¼ 2, Asymp sig ¼ 0.000

136

46

151

51

9

3

297

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Conclusion The role of packaging has expanded in contemporary society. The purpose of a package is no longer just to protect a product from damage, but also to promote it. Packaging has become a form of advertising, and companies around the globe are using packaging to catch the attention, and hopefully long-term patronage, of customers. The promotional aspect of package design has become extremely competitive, and firms must maintain a high standard of aesthetic appeal to ensure the

triumph of a product or brand. Successful packaging requires including much more than the necessary product information. Superior packaging requires attractive graphics, eye-catching design, and labels that appeal to the tastes of the target market.

It must be modern, and speak to the current trends, and it must be professional in order

to assure potential consumers that this is a product or brand that they can trust. In short, effective package has a big role to play. It must attract customers attention,

generate positive attitudes toward the package and the brand, and convince customers to buy the product and even inspire long-term brand loyalty. While the above research examines how brand and product popularity is directly affected by packaging and visual presentation, it also points to a larger picture, illuminating how belief systems and cultural backgrounds inform consumers opinions and reactions toward what they encounter in the market. These findings suggest that the job of marketing firms has expanded to unprecedented heights. A firm cannot

simply design a package that they believe accurately represents their product; they must have a comprehensive understanding of the target market, and must speak to the values and tastes of that market. In a sense, advertising works as a dialogue with society, responding to consumer demands instead of aiming to influence and control consumer demands. Literature indicates that customers perceptions depend on many factors, especially their religious background (Wilkes et al. , 1986; Hoge et al. , 1987; Engel et al. , 1978; Gorn, 1982; Rice and Almossawi, 2002; Kelman, 1961; Saeed et al. , 2001; Rice, 1998. Therefore, to be effective and generate positive feedback, product packaging should be designed in a way that respects rather than contradicts the religious principles and beliefs of the target market. In this study, we examined how devout Muslims perceive packages containing immodest pictures that are considered unlawful by Islamic law. Findings indicate that from the Islamic point of view, such contentious packages will not only attract minimum attention, but will also propagate negative attitudes toward both the product and the brand within the Muslim community. On the other hand, this study s findings show that there is a portion of Muslims who are not particularly bothered by the issues presented by contentious packages. This finding may have been expected because not all Muslims have the same degree of religious commitment: Some are strict and tend to attempt to apply Islam to all aspects of their lives, whereas others are lenient and do not care as much about Islamic principles such as those of halal (permissible to consume or do) and haram (prohibited from consuming or doing). Such a difference in Muslims responses to the contentious package was also emphasized by the results of the χ 2 which shows that at a 1 percent significant level, there is a considerable difference between the responses of various Muslims, in the sample, to the examples of contentious packages that they were presented with. Although gender comparison is not one of the objectives of this study, the findings in this study suggest that further analyzing this dimension of the data would be

a worthwhile endeavor.

Product packages in Muslim countries

699

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700

Practical implications Our findings indicate that the use of contentious packaging runs a high risk of tarnishing a company s reputation and appeal. Devout Muslims whose lives are governed by Islamic Law and the teachings of Kuran have a high propensity to consider such companies as promoters of vice, and will therefore likely boycott

such companies in order to prevent them from, as they see it, corrupting the community. If advertising firms continue to fail in recognizing the profundity of these beliefs within Muslim communities, both their fiscal success and reputation run the risk

of suffering substantial damage.

The findings of this study send six important messages to multinational companies doing business in Islamic countries. First, Islam governs all aspects of Muslim life, including consumer behavior. Second, to prosper in Islamic countries, choose packaging that does not contradict or offend the principles and values of Islam. The prophet Mohammed considered looking at sexual or indecent images to be adultery of the eyes, so in order to respect this precept, it is necessary to avoid using sexualized

images on packaging. Third, recognize that much of the packaging that has proven to

be effective in Western countries is unlikely to be successful in Islamic countries due to

a vastly different cultural environments. Just as a company would not include the

image of a woman in a burq a on a label designated for Western consumers, it is unwise to include the image of a woman in a bathing suit on a label that targets Muslim consumers. Fourth, a contentious package may result in a steep drop in sales not only

of the product responsible for that package, but for a company s other products as well.

Muslims consider it a religious duty to boycott haram, and to eradicate its influence within Muslim society. The packaging of a single product implicates the brand itself. Fifth, using contentious packages may damage the reputation it took you many years

and much money to build. Part of boycotting a product or brand includes spreading the word that it is a contentious product by way of mouth. Sixth, use simple logic. Not all Muslims will avoid contentious packaging, and you will be able to sell products by way

of such packaging to some Muslims, but the number of Muslims that will purchase your

products and spread positive feedback about your brand will triple if you use appropriate packaging that appeals to the tastes and values of the Islamic community. It is the same

simple strategy that firms have been using to their advantage for decades. The Muslim community has been overlooked by many Western companies for

a long time. However, as society begins to integrate and the global market continues

to expand, Islamic countries are playing a much more important role in the global economy. Islamic countries are a growing market, and once this fact is fully acknowledged, a new era of advertising will evolve. It will demand new aesthetic standards and a wealth of creativity. It is an exciting challenge, and one that will reap great financial and moral benefits worldwide.

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About the author Dr Mohammed M. Almossawi is an Associate Professor of Marketing at the University of Bahrain. He obtained his doctorate in 1993 from Manchester Business School, the University of Manchester (UK). His research interests include the cultural dimensions of marketing, advertising effectiveness, and services marketing. Dr Mohammed M. Almossawi can be contacted at: mosawimh@gmail.com

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