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Scandals: A New Form of Marketing?

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This article will discuss the recent H&M mishap and its subsequent similarities and differences to previous grievances.

Following the recent controversy surrounding H&M’s new campaign, one cannot help but wonder whether the offensive content being paraded across the interweb under the guise of ignorance is simply a ploy, put in place to allow content to go viral.

This unfortunate chain of events appears to have become part of a perpetuating cycle.

It inevitably follows the same three stages

A company releases a campaign that contains an inflammatory element, the public in outrage protests across social media indirectly raising brand awareness in the process. The said company then issues a substandard apology and everyone moves on with their lives as though nothing happened.

Consumers are faced with a double-edged sword. Express their outrage and feed into the cycle or say nothing and inadvertently condone such ‘mistakes’.

Arguably a consumer could shop elsewhere, but will there always be an alternative?

2017 saw many cases of this including both the Nivea ad endorsing skin lightening and Dove.

Dove dipped its toe in the sea of controversy back in 2011 with an insensitive campaign that caused global outrage. While their more recent ‘misdemeanour’ was one of the few instances where ignorance or unthoughtful promotion could be used as an honest offence, it begs the question that if so many eyes having to scan content before it goes to press, why does this keep happening?

Or better still, is this being done on purpose?

As objectionable as it may appear to make such suggestions, what other alternative is there?

It was John C. Maxwell, who said that a wise man learns from the mistakes of others.[1]

If a company has not learned from its own errors surely it would have learned from the errors of its fellow brands. Perhaps there is more to it?

Even still, this case differs from the previous in several ways. The first being that the ‘victim’ was a child.

Being a minor the brand no doubt had to seek the permission of the child’s parent or guardian. Regardless of the divergent opinions on the matter, if the child’s guardian failed to flag up the issue the brand cannot be blamed entirely for the misstep.

Secondly, in this case, the reaction of the public was more than just superficial. H&M was also faced with the host of celebrities taking offence to the campaign and not only voicing their opinions but acting on them.

The Weekend went as far as terminating his partnership with the brand, following an announcement on twitter.

 

The singer began working with the brand last year designing a The Weekend XO men’s line as well as modeling in the Spring 2017 campaigns.[2]

Rapper G – Eazy echoed the weekends sentiments also pulling the plug on his collaboration with the brand.

Unlike previous cases of such scandals, the reaction of celebrities had direct financial implications for the brand, becoming what many may deem a long overdue wake up call to the industry.

The jury is still out as to whether is inflammatory content a new marketing strategy, although the suggestion remains a tempting conclusion.

One thing is for certain, the patience of the public is wearing thin and brands will have to begin their search for a new strategy that does not involve alienating fractions of their target audience. Hopefully sooner rather than later.

[1] https://www.goodreads.com/work/quotes/2445727
[2] https://www.spin.com/2018/01/the-weeknd-h-m-offensive-picture/
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