Brand obsessed

IKEA logo Fellow countrywoman and blogger, Roba, mentioned the latest IKEA chaos in north London, where people clashed as they gathered for the opening of the famous furniture store. She revisited the stampede that occurred in Saudi Arabia last year when three people died waiting for the opening of that same Swedish furniture giant in Riyadh.

All that reflection made me wonder what the Jordanian reaction would be if this legendary store ever makes it to the kingdom. For some reason, I foresee a similar mania, if not worse, among those ready to welcome the arrival of this touted brand in Jordan.

The call of those golden archesWhat makes me think so? Let’s travel back, back to the mid-1990’s and remember what happened to Jordan and Jordanians when the first McDonald’s opened in the capital. Oh, my! I remember after the initial opening of the store, parts of West Amman were closed for almost a week because of the traffic, as waves of burger lovers came from across the country to get a glimpse of the famous golden arches.

The almighty cheeseburgerI was among those trying to drive to the Seventh Circle District to see what all the fuss was about. Of course I couldn’t get through the massive traffic jam; I was stuck in it for hours. I amused myself by guaging people’s excitement as they waited for their turn to get a taste of that burger. I remember seeing kids dangling from the car windows chanting “McDonald’s! McDonald’s! McDonald’s!” It was, by any definition, mass hysteria.

The story doesn’t end here. When I went to Jordan University the following day I was among a select few that decided to skip early morning classes so we could get to Mickey D’s before anyone else arrived. After ditching school, a group of ten of us or so managed to dodge traffic and arrive safely in Seventh Circle to make it inside. After savoring a Big Mac, we stopped to take a picture outside the store with the infamous Ronald McDonald. If that is not pathetic I don’t know what is.

Would I be surprised if a similar incident occurs in Jordan if IKEA ever makes it to the kingdom? No. Brand obsession is another trait cherished by Jordanians from all walks of life. The story of McDonald’s-Jordan is but one example.

10 Comments

  1. Arash February 12, 2005 at 12:53 am

    Same thing happened with McDonald’s in Tehran in the early 90s. Crazy traffic, huge crowds, then the committee attacked and shut them down the very day they were going to open. I think they weren’t actually going to use the name but only the logo to avoid trouble. Funny thing is Tehran actually had or were going to have a McDonald’s in 1979, but that changed with the revolution.

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  2. iyas February 12, 2005 at 1:31 am

    Did you forget about the army march band there too?! That’s just the proof that we are forced to be sluts to capitalism, sluts that hate it at first then finally learn to enjoy it although the pay is minimal if any.
    God damn you McDonald’s..and BK…and Starbucks…and…
    F**K…the army at the opening….amma maskhara…bas khalas ana m3assib…I need some scotch…

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  3. Natasha February 12, 2005 at 2:28 am

    Come on man take it easy. This post was meant to cheer you up. Go drink your scotch;-)

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  4. Jareer February 12, 2005 at 2:40 am

    I never considered either. One is too “junky”,the other is too expensive for me. But I like the good deals. If IKEA has a big sale, I might consider. If Mc Donald’s remove the bunn and the french fries, and the fatty stuff; with some diet pop, it will be more healthier to me.

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  5. Clare February 12, 2005 at 3:25 am

    I guess the irony now is that McDonald’s does not seem that popular in Jordan. Many is the time I have driven past the branch in Sweifiah and it was practically empty!

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  6. Natasha February 12, 2005 at 3:37 am

    Clare,
    Maybe this has to do with the boycotting campaign that started during the second Palestinian Intifada. Or maybe, it is simply because there are lots of other “junk” choices in Jordan nowadays like Burger King, Domino’s Pizza and others. In the mid 90’s those choices were very limited.

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  7. linda February 12, 2005 at 3:56 am

    hmmm, lets see. born and raised in Los Angeles for 21 years. Have probably eaten something from McDonalds: maybe 15 to 20 times, max. Never stepped foot in ikea because i have heard their furniture is absolute crap.

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  8. Clare February 12, 2005 at 9:24 am

    Natasha, I agree with you, I am sure that the present decline in business started with the intifada….it reached its peak in the winter/spring of 2002…when all the major demonstrations against the intifada were taking place in Amman….the business level has increased but I think it will take a while before it reaches the pre-intifada business levels.

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  9. Roba February 12, 2005 at 12:04 pm

    Hehe, that’s very funny about MacDonalds! I missed the launch of globalization in Jordan, as we were still in Saudi Arabia. But I guess I can imagine if Starbucks is anything of an example… They basically turned a laid out hang out place into a soiree party! Horrible.
    As for Ikea and Jordan, I think it’ll do good here. It’s not expensive for one thing, and its very simple with clean cut lines and solid colors. I noticed that a lot of people here like that but because we don’t have much of a furniture manufacturing industry, people have to resort to Egyptian and Syrian baroque style furnishing.
    Ikea is also very aware of consumer economics and economies of scale and whatever, and that whole “pack, carry, put together yourself” is very practical.
    Anyway, yeah, I’m a fan, but you must understand that when you’re a kid in Saudi Arabia in the late 80’s, there’s really nothing to do except resort to malls(playing with the escalators) and Ikea(a wide open area with a hot dog stand and a kids corner). Life there has become much better for children with the creation of residence compounds, but it was a 7abseh for me and I associate Ikea with happy memories.

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  10. metalordie February 12, 2005 at 8:35 pm

    All hail the corporate Gods, hail!

    Reply

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