The United Colors of ‘Unhate’

Nov 29, 2011 | Posted by admin in Campus Corner, Student's Speak   1 Comment »

LOKESH VISHWAKARMA (PGDM 2011-13) expresses himself about the latest AD Campaign of Benetton…

When a clothing company struggling for survival campaigns for world peace, people are bound to suspect the campaign and look at it as a desperate attempt to seek attention, But the Italian clothing company is holding its own and insists that the controversial ads of world leaders kissing on the lips are about tolerance and love. The controversial ad campaign features digitally altered photos. Among them are images of President Obama kissing Chinese President Hu Jintao and Hugo Chavez, German chancellor Angela Merkel kissing French President Nicolas Sarkozy.

It would be unfair to sit in the judgment chair and declare that the Benetton clothing limited is being insensitive to use world peace for gobbling eyeballs. Looking back in its history we all agree that Benetton did mark their spot in the advertising world with their famous ‘United Colors of Benetton’ campaign. Be it an ad where a white infant suckling a black woman’s breast; the naked pulsing hearts of three different races or a black stallion mounting a white mare. The campaigns were so strong that the company decided to immortalize the slogan by adopting it as its official logo. All those several succinct, colorful and sometimes controversial ads carried a single deep rooted message of unity. The ads so powerful in its appeal and message that it made the world stop and take notice.

So why all hell broke loose when Benetton launched its ‘Unhate’ campaign? For me the timing of the campaign couldn’t have been better. Today when the world is engulfed in crisis from Wall Street to Melbourne’s city center, there is an urgent need for the world leaders to rise above their domestic politics and see the light of the day. Benetton’s Unhate campaign embodies that message with lots of creativity, talent and courage. Kissing is not a taboo at least in the western civilization and Benetton is not among the first to display people kissing, what’s different is that brands are not expected to take the route that Benetton has.  It’s ironic in a sense that the Vatican is upset with Benetton for doing what was Vatican’s duty.

Even from a marketers’ point of view this campaign places the brand Benetton at the center stage of the world media and furthers its image as a maverick brand. Benetton is a fry cry from other apparel marquees who can only harp on the coolness factor of their fabric and design. The notion that such campaigns are offensive to the sentiments of the faithful is farfetched. The cynics turn a blind eye to the fact that it is leaders like President Barrack Obama and Pope Benedict XVI that can change the status quo and no one else can do it for them.   The campaign is well within its rights and does not overstep its boundaries. Ads for long have only degraded the people it appealed to and underestimated them for their lack of choices.

Benetton conveys the message of Unhate brilliantly through it ads amidst the global strife. Experts believe that these marketing stunts can get the company eyeballs but converting these eyeballs in to actual sales is difficult, but isn’t this argument myopic? It may well be possible that sales may not hit the roof but in the long run ‘Unhate’ campaign will establish Benetton as a revolutionary brand. Nobody except people at Benetton know the actual sales figures and if history is to be believed then we all know how certain brands have taken great pains to be in news. Publicity gimmicks for the sake of boosting the top line can deliver only limited success, as you can’t exactly control that deluge of attention and it can fall back on you. Marketers are accused of playing on the worst of people’s instincts, if a brand is provoking people with issues that matter to our society, so what’s the harm? It’s important that the marketers today understand the difference between a Product and a Brand. Single minded focus to push the top line can bring more harm than success. Marketers should endeavor to make brands and not products as products are always sold and a brand is always bought.

The haters of the ‘Unhate’ campaign fail to see the liberal subtext of tolerance and brotherhood among faith, religion and countries. The campaign features icons of various race and religion kissing each other to drive the point that hate cannot be just a part of them without having an effect on the rest of people they represent.

For long we have discounted marketers and brands for being acquisitive through their antics that have only added to the problem of prejudice and hate. If Benetton reminds people to love each other while expecting us to pick its pair of scarves and sweaters then I don’t mind picking one.

One Response to “The United Colors of ‘Unhate’”

  1. Namisha says:

    It seems you have put on your thinking cap.
    Excellent thought process.

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