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This has been done before and it failed. #unhate #unsincere @benetton_ucb

11.17.2011 · Posted in Reklamcılık

Hey Benetton, are we at least allowed to hate the insincerity of your advertising? You’ve done this once and failed big. I’m pretty confident it will fail again, this time for good.

Your company was once built on operational excellence, logistics, just-in-time manufacturing and value chain management. Yet you’ve falsely attributed your success solely to your brand’s provocative ads. Yes they drew attention on one side, but they also drained your brand down the hole. Here you go again. I’ll try to explain why and how wrong this is.

Yes. This has been done before. Remember?

Benetton has a long history of controversial & provocative ads in the 1990’s, led by then creative head, the “infamous” photographer Oliviero Toscani. He exploited serious world matters on giant urban billboards with shocking and irritating images. All for a cause, to raise awareness the company claimed.

Nevertheless we have never ever seen even one of these posters in the “heavenly” Benetton stores, at the point of sales, where shopkeepsers had to move merchandise. Benetton stores always and still have a peaceful, heavenly mix of colors and people. (Apparently they now use the store façades as well…)

The causes were obviously manipulated to drive people to the Benetton heaven. But that didn’t happen. During 1990’s the tone of Benetton campaigns went from a multicultural and peaceful mix of racial colors to bloody death & war scenes.

In 1995, even cold blooded German consumers couldn’t stand this fake & phony transition from diversity to controversy. They started to protest & boycott Benetton. Germany was then Benetton’s largest market outside Italy. Store traffic & sales were down by as much as 50%. German retailers sued Benetton over those shock ads claiming such images of war and Aids caused slump in sales.

This warning didn’t stop Benetton. This kept going until 2000, when Toscani resigned over the furious protests about its “Sentenced to Death” initiative, in the US. This time the state of Missouri sued Benetton over the ads and Sears cancelled its contract to sell Benetton clothing. This was the end for Toscani and the beginning of the end for Benetton.

Their operational excellence, JIT, logistics and value chain models were now hijacked by apolitical fashionistas like Zara, Mango & H&M. In fact shoppers around the world didn’t care about world matters when buying merchandise. Instead reminding them of hunger, ilnesses, violence, racism was really bad for business. Sad but true, those who really care about social and world matters were the ones who really didn’t care about branded merchandise and shopping. Despite somehow steady revenues Benetton stores were now empty or at least perceived so.

Over the last decade, between 2000 & 2010 Benetton’s revenues grew just 1% and remained fairly stagnant at around € 2bn. Whereas competitors like Inditex (Zara) and H&M have witnessed an exponential growth druing the same period, reaching €17.5 bn and €15 bn respectively in annual revenues. Attributing this failure to grow, to Oliviero Toscani’s departure and Benetton’s return to conservative communication strategies would be a major mistake. During the same period Zara and H&M almost didn’t advertise at all, they just used fast fashion, retail experience and designer products to grow their fashion empires. It seems that Benetton is falling for the same mistake twice. Yet the cure is not in controversial advertising.

That’s why the new #unhate campaign is nothing but a hopeless & erroneous effort. People simply won’t buy the “United Charades of Benetton” anymore.

Just by saying #unhate next to images of french kissing people “not-getting-along-well-together” is pure provocation. It sure attracts attention, but it breeds nothing but hatred among those homofobic, intolerant and violent majorities who already hate each other in the 120 countries where there’s a Benetton store. Few would embrace this message and the ones that do would probably be liberals that don’t ever care what to wear.

Benetton’s apology and immediate withdrawal of the Pope poster following the pressure from the Vatican is yet another proof of their insincerity.

So that’s what we call #unsincere and we have every right to hate the #unsincere. What do you think?


Cem Argun.-


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