Brands devise their marketing strategy with the sole objective of grabbing eyeballs and to reach out to their target audience. In order to do so, brands adopt different strategies, some get celebrities on board, touch upon unconventional issues and few love to ride on any topical wave. In this journey, some brands taste success, while others fail to create a mark and miss the bus. Not only does it cost a heavy price on the marketing budget, but it also ends up doing severe damage to the brand's reputation.
In 2018, there are few Indian as well as International brand campaigns that created controversies. From Kalyan Jewellers ad featuring Amitabh Bachchan and Shweta Nanda to Fortune Oil's Durga Puja ad showing fish being cooked and savoured during the festival. The international brands are also not far in the list, be it Burger King's pregnancy advertisement for the Russian World Cup or Dolce & Gabbana's Racist Chopstick ad.
Here are some of the brand campaigns that sparked controversies
Kalyan Jewellers' advertisement featuring Amitabh Bachchan and his daughter Shweta Nanda, received major backlash from a bank union, All India Bank Officers' Confederation in July. The Union referred to it as 'disgusting' and had threatened to sue the brand for “casting aspersion and hurting the sentiments of millions of personnel” through the advertisement. Initially, the brand apologised for hurting the sentiments and agreed to add a disclaimer below the TV ad saying that is a work of pure fiction and at no time, the ad has intended to generalise the bank officers at large. However, looking at the huge furore over the ad, the brand finally decided to withdraw the ad from all their media channels. Kalyan Jewellers Withdraws Controversial Ad Featuring Amitabh Bachchan & Shweta Nanda With Immediate Effect.
Fortune Foods featured a video showing people consuming non-veg food during Durga Puja. The ad rubbed the group- Hindu Janjagriti Samiti the wrong way, who raised objection against the ad and stated that eating non-veg food during Navratri was prohibited. This created an immense backlash on social media, prompting the brand to apologise and withdraw the ad. It didn't go down well with the Bengali community who felt that there was nothing wrong in the ad, and the brand shouldn't have apologised because it is wrong to confuse Durga Puja and Navratri. Abar Pet Pujo Ad by Fortune Foods During Durga Featuring Fish Delicacy Creates Controversy, Brand Withdraws & Apologises, But Was it Needed?
Hero Xtreme 200R Bike
The ad, which was released in September this year, promotes the message 'Fear Nothing', and shows Virat Kohli performing some rash stunts. This year, the Indian cricket team captain was roped in as the brand ambassador of Hero MotoCorp and the TVC for new Xtreme 200R premium motorcycle was Kohli’s first ad for the company. As per various reports, Ministry of Transportation has asked the Advertising Standard Council of India to ban the advertisement as it promotes rash and careless driving. Virat Kohli’s Ad of Hero Xtreme 200R Bike to Be Banned by the Government: Reports.
Burger King promises $50,000 and lifetime whopper supply for Russian women able to get pregnant from any football celebrity (to transfer good genes to Russia) pic.twitter.com/su8lyfkt6N
— English Russia (@EnglishRussia1) June 19, 2018
Burger King's ad for offering a lifetime supply of Whoppers to Russian women who get pregnant from World Cup players was slammed heavily. It was termed as sexist and demeaning. The brand apologised for the flak it received online. Get Pregnant With 2018 FIFA WC Players & Win Lifetime Supply of 'Whoppers'! Burger King Russia Apologises for Sexist Ad.
Dolce & Gabbana
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#DGlovesChina ? More like #DGdesperateforthatChineseRMB lol. In a bid to further appeal to luxury's covetable Chinese consumers, @dolcegabbana released some hella offensive “instructional” videos on the usage of chopsticks. Pandering at it's finest, but taken up a notch by painting their target demographic as a tired and false stereotype of a people lacking refinement/culture to understand how to eat foreign foods and an over-the-top embellishment of cliché ambient music, comical pronunciations of foreign names/words, and Chinese subtitles (English added by us), which begs the question—who is this video actually for? It attempts to target China, but instead mocks them with a parodied vision of what modern China is not...a gag for amusement. Dolce & Gabbana have already removed the videos from their Chinese social media channels, but not Instagram. Stefano Gabbana has been on a much-needed social media cleanse (up until November 2nd), so maybe he kept himself busy by meddling with the marketing department for this series. Who wants to bet the XL cannoli “size” innuendos were his idea? Lmao. • #dolceandgabbana #altamoda #rtw #dgmillennials #stefanogabbana #shanghai #chinese #italian #cannoli #meme #wtf #dumb #lame #chopsticks #foodie #tutorial #cuisine #italianfood #asianmodel #asian #chinesefood #dietprada
Dolce & Gabbana's ad features an Asian model eating Italian cuisine with chopsticks in her hand. Diet Prada was quick to call them out for their stereotypical mentality and stirring racism. After an elaborate post on Instagram where they slammed the designer brand for encouraging racism, many Chinese women supported their view and the result was the campaign being removed from Chinese social media platform Weibo.
The brand further faced a major crisis in China where top e-commerce sites have dumped its products over accusations of racism. From platforms like Alibaba and JD.com, the products have just vanished following the severe criticism. The company had apologised earlier saying that the offensive messages sent from Gabbana's Instagram's account were the result of hackers. Dolce & Gabbana Called Out for Their Racist Ad by Diet Prada, Forced to Cancel Shanghai Fashion Show.
These were our list of brands which courted social media controversies in 2018. We feel that the situation is tough for any brand today. When Fortune Foods decided to apologise for their Durga Puja creative for hurting the Hindu Janjagriti Samiti, they were slammed by the Bengalis for not taking a stand. But in today's day and age, when social media has given immense power in the hands of the common man to build and break a brand, is it worth taking the risk to agitate trolls?