Sweedish retail store H&M has enjoyed a favorable stay in South Africa since their controversial arrival in the country in 2011; when they announced that they prefer using white models for good image.
Now they have stepped on many black people’s nerves with their insensitive marketing stunt; they released a line of hoodies with different writing on the front of each hoodie. Using children models to advertise one of the hoodies written “Coolest Monkey in the Jungle” was given to a black boy model to wear. In a country with so much sensitivity around the race issue H&M marketing team should have known better.
Violent protests have irrupted leading to EFF members going into H&M shops vandalizing them much to the excited if the country. This whole saga has divided an already disunited society in different pieces. Whether the retailer wanted a bit of controversy or not this has come back to bite their behind. Different corners of society do not see what the fuss is all about; while others are infuriated with the Retail Store calling it “Racist”. An apology was issued and the product pulled out of the shops; but many feel that a big brand like them should have done their research properly.
Having seen Nandos Adverts with their controversial edge, but they are targeting politicians especially government officials of which the country agrees with Nandos. The difference between the two marketing stunts is that one delivers their message with humor and they stay away from names used in the race hate speech.
Race issues, inequality, unemployment and corruption are some of the landmines in South Africa especially for foreign businesses. Something to consider when doing business in the country. Violence is never a good thing, but brands should also be mindful not to communicate anything that may seem to support the oppression of the one race.
It remains to be seen whether H&M will take any legal action against EFF. But also they will be quick to be reminded that EFF in court they like Roger Federer in the Tennis court; it is a place where they shine the most with their lawyers. Will the Retail store continue to operate here? Many doubt it will. The 4000 jobs maybe lost due to this mishap one can hope that, that’s not the case. But also that the store can come out in public and offer a sincere apology.