Oh look, we are back again - a controversy around racial depiction in advertising!!
We know that the quarter moisturizing cream makes your skin look radiant and absolutely gorgeous. We also know that Dove believes that women should never have to conform to the norms of what beauty is. Then why did they get it wrong, again?
Winston Churchill ones said, "Never let a good crisis go to waste", I thought perhaps there is an opportunity to learn from this.
First, we must not pretend that this is the first time that an ad creates an uproar over race. My column ‘When race stands in the way of great ideas’ here tackled that issue a few months back. Why are we here again?
There is a systematic issue with how brands look at consumers that needs a double-click - the main problem being the lack of diversity in forums that approve such work. Surely, somewhere in the value chain from concept to execution, there should be a team of people of colour who could quite easily have raised this issue?
Or perhaps there was a stubborn and power-hungry marketing executive who completely out-ruled the “junior black staff” or perhaps, not even one single person picked this up - it was just one of those unfortunate mistakes….
Be that as it may, there is an insensitivity with how black people are depicted in ads, and that starts in the boardroom. There is an archaic way of looking at consumers based on old thinking and old standards and this Dove saga remind us that the world has changed. Brands cannot just tell consumers what to be and how to be - they need to be in tune with the people!
As a marketing practitioner, this is really exciting. It means that our work can be liberated from the shackles of stereotypes and old thinking and I completely support that.
What’s rather sad however is that after all the hype is gone, we will get back to the usual because generally, these brands are incredibly strong to withstand the biggest storms once they unleash their PR machine to clean up the mess.
This is a good crisis to learn from. Let’s relook at the make-up of our brand teams. Let’s sharpen our diversity of people and thinking, and may we forge to work with teams who are free to express the truth even if it is not popular.
Let’s ask questions and let’s be cognisant of the messages we are creating as brands. May you have a glowing day!
_Sylvester Chauke is an award-winning entrepreneur and cascader of the Stand Against Bland movement in marketing amongst other fun things. He is the founder and Chief Architect of DNA Brand Architects, sits on the Advisory Council for WEF Global Shapers and is a Board Member of the South African State Theat_re.