The furore over the publication of cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad in a Danish newspaper will do more damage to the country’s national brand than the individual companies currently facing boycotts, according to a leading brand consultant.
Chief operating officer at Interbrand John Allert believes the storm will blow over for the likes of Arla Foods and Lego, but that Denmark could see more serious damage to its reputation as a whole in the long term.
The cartoons were first published in Denmark’s biggest selling newspaper Jyllands-Posten last September and have since been reproduced in newspapers across Europe.
The crisis has cost Arla more than &£50m so far. The Middle East is a &£300m a year market for Arla but in some countries sales have fallen to zero and it had to send home 170 employees across Denmark last week due to the impact of the reduced sales.
Allert says: “Arla needs to batten down and wait for the crisis to blow over, which it will. I don’t think the damage to brands like Lurpak is likely to be sustained because it dominates the market [in the Middle East].
“But there are many sectors of the market that view countries as branded propositions. The Danish national brand will certainly be tarnished,” he adds.