Track 22: Business in Asia
Sponsored by University of South Australia: Australian Centre for Asian Business
Paper 297: McDonald’s apology over a pig toy: A cultural territorial clash
Guan Cheng Quek, Institute of Policy Studies,
Peter Ling*, RMIT University,
Abstract: McDonald’s introduced a modified Chinese zodiac promotion to celebrate Chinese New Year in Singapore in 2010. Instead of the traditional 12 zodiac animals – rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, sheep, monkey, rooster, dog, and pig – McDonald’s replaced the pig symbol with a Cupid toy because Valentine’s Day fell on the same day as Chinese New Year in 2010 and because the restaurant’s Muslim customers do not consume pork. This paper discusses how and why ethnic groups rejected the zodiac promotion through heated discussions in the media. Following a review of literature on cultural sensitivity and hybrid cultural theories, a Foucault-based framework of discipline-ethics-performativity guided this qualitative text analysis of 97 letters in the Straits Times newspaper plus online postings on Asia One and Channel News Asia.
The emerging theory was that there was a cultural territorial clash of discipline structures, ethical moderation, and identity performance. This paper contributes to literature on business in Asia, as there seems to be little research on pig symbolism in Marketing or on the failure of culturally oriented marketing activities. The implication for practice is that the marketing team needs to consider more carefully the fundamental cultural disciplinary structure, ethics responsibility, and identity performativity in a multi-ethnic country. While McDonald’s zodiac promotion appeared not to have upset the Muslims in multi-racial Singapore, it would be interesting to research whether there was any online backlash in Malaysia and Indonesia, which have a higher Muslim population.