Are Malaysian consumers ‘missing the target’ in anti-Israel boycotts of Western brands?

Beyond paying a franchise fee and adhering to quality control measures and brand representation, their Malaysian operations are essentially all Malaysian, from their supply chain to marketing and to some extent even product development.

(SCMP) – If you have ever wondered if a boycott could make global conglomerates wince, look no further than Malaysia.
Consumers in the Muslim-majority nation have wielded their collective financial muscle for over half a year to punish American brands that are seen to have links with Israel, in protest of the Israel-Gaza war that has killed over 34,000 people to date, mostly civilians including many women and children.
Fast food giant KFC was the latest casualty, announcing last week that it had temporarily closed outlets in predominantly Muslim areas due to “challenging economic conditions”.
This followed an earlier fallout by fast food rival McDonald’s, and US coffee chain Starbucks that reported steep losses attributed to the sustained boycott.

Outrage is an effective motivator.

Supporters of the boycott have pegged the companies for either directly supporting Israel’s military or representing the interests of the US, which spends billions of dollars annually in military aid for its Middle East ally.
A quick Google search would yield numerous treatises expounding on the moral and ethical crux of boycotts as a legitimate and potentially powerful means of peaceful dissent against entities that may be far too large for any single person to tackle on their own.

The premise of the movement is simple – hit them where it hurts the most, which in the case of companies would be their bottom lines.

All three brands have some things in common. They have been operating in Malaysia for decades and until recently were household names that were much loved by many Malaysians across class and racial lines.

More importantly; they are operated by wholly local franchise holders, with outlets staffed entirely by Malaysians who typically come from lower income families and also vulnerable groups like the disabled.

KFC, McDonald’s and Starbucks are all huge transnational companies operating across at least dozens of countries. While business arrangements may differ between jurisdictions, in Malaysia they sell the rights to local companies to run the business.

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