Social-Impact Branding Isn’t Going Anywhere This Year–And Neither Are The Gaffes

Here’s how companies can take an activist stance–without making a mess of it.

The year has only just begun and H&M has already inadvertently inaugurated the “biggest brand fails of 2018” list. Having released–and then quickly pulled–a product photograph depicting a young black child wearing a “Coolest Monkey in the Jungle” sweatshirt, the company was attacked for being insensitive, offensive, and, to some, racist.

I do not believe H&M meant any harm. The company made a mistake not thinking hard enough about how such a photograph could be construed. But its actions follow a pattern similar to that of various brands that misstepped while wading into social issues in 2017.

In today’s world, the lines between citizens and consumers, beliefs and brands, are blurring. Companies today are expected to align with their values in word and deed. So you get brands like Pepsi overreaching and botching its attempt to relate to the activist subset with its disastrous spotlast year featuring Kendall Jenner. You also see brands like Dove lambasted for its tone-deaf ad featuring women of color and its misguided attempt to sell its products in bottles nominally shaped like different women’s bodies, and McDonald’s criticized for exploiting a son’s grief over losing his father.

Read Phil’s full article on FastCo online

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