Benetton created the ‘Unhate’ campaign despite knowing that it would face backlash and would have to be soon taken down? Why and what you can learn about branding from it?
In a cluttered media space where hundreds of brands vie for audience attention with thousands of different types of messages, it is difficult for a brand to stand out and be remembered. In such a scenario that is already bleak, would a brand deliberately go out and launch a campaign that it knows would land it in a big soup and be removed in a matter of days, if not hours? Conventional wisdom says, no. But modern branding thought, gives a vehement thumbs up to this activity. Proof: the recent and deliberately-made-to-rake-up-a-controversy of the ‘Unhate’ advertising campaign of United Colors of Benetton.
The campaign featured leaders on the opposite side of the divide kissing each other on the lip in photoshopped images. You had US President Barack Obama kissing his Chinese counterpart Hu Jintao, the Pope Benedict XVI kissing a Muslim Imam and so on. The message: stop hating each other or kiss and make up.
One look at any of the ads and one realizes that there was no way these ads would have survived, at best, beyond a few days. And indeed, it caused such a controversy that they had to be brought down in merely a day. The question is: why do such an advertisement campaign at all? The answer lies in looking at it for what it is: it was not meant to be an advertisement campaign. Aware of the power of social media, the brand hoped that the idea would create enough controversy for it to become a media and social media sensation. Thus, if you can look at it that way, it was actually a very well thought out and executed branding and marketing campaign in the guise of an advertising one.