The Turkish elephant

Mads Stenbjerre and Mahan Doğrusöz
GfK, Turkey


Turkey's largest city, Istanbul, is a place of extremes. From the early morning calls to prayer in the poor garbage-ridden suburbs consisting of illegal settlements where rural newcomers settle in large numbers as they seek their fortunes, to the fancy clubs on the Bosporus where you can sip a $25 mojito and watch the Ferraris and Porsches roll by in the stop-and-go traffic that is a stable of life – day or night – in this city of 15 million. Both places are a part of Istanbul. Both places are a part of Turkey today.

Much like the tale of the blind men and the elephant, most foreigners' understanding of Turkey is limited and incomplete. Turkey is all about contrasts. It is east and west, young and old, traditional and modern, strongly religious and vehemently secular. Turkish society is extremely rich in the diversity of forces that operates within it. Both because of its historical heritage (the Turkish Republic as the heir of the Ottoman Empire encompassed 36 different cultures) and geographical location (the Turkish peoples' journey from east to west and the Turkish Republic's on the border between Europe and Asia) Turkey encompasses a diverse set of forces that cause a dynamic interplay within the society and Turkish consumers form self-images by defining their own position relative to a number of different influences.