Watsons Malaysia says sorry a second time after first apology backfires

By now, many of us are probably already aware of Watsons Malaysia’s controversial “Legenda Cun Raya” ad that has gone viral with netizens calling it racist. Acknowledging this, Watsons apologised via a Facebook post saying that it was sorry that the spot offended people. This clearly did not sit well with netizens, many of whom questioned the brand's sincerity in apology.

Since then, Watsons Malaysia has released yet another statement of apology. It said, that it "deeply and sincerely" apologises for the recent “Legenda Cun Raya” spot.

"The 15-minute video was inspired by the Malay legend Dayang Senandong made popular in the 1965 movie 'Dayang Senandong'. It was our intention to convey concepts of inner and outer beauty, unfortunately the video instead offended many.  Regretfully, we acknowledge that the 'Legenda Cun Raya' video is not in-line with the values that we hold dearly in Malaysia. Watsons Malaysia takes responsibility for the video and its content and is truly sorry that some elements have offended the general public," the apology stated added.

It added that moving forward, it will listed to the general public and loyal customers.

"On behalf of Watsons Malaysia we humbly seek your forgiveness and deeply regret any harm that we have caused," it added. The brand also changed its Facebook cover photo to read #MaafkanWatsons.

Check out the full statement here:

On this unfortunate incident, we’ve asked a few industry players on the right steps for Watsons in solving this branding and PR crisis might be. LEWIS’ senior vice president of Asia Pacific Scott Pettet said:

Errors in judgment on behalf of brands that offends its audiences need to be dealt with, sincerely and authentically.

Speaking about the first apology note, Pettet added that the sincerity and authenticity seems to be lacking in the case of Watsons, where instead the company was focus more on justifying the rationale for the ad.

"They’re missing the point. Consumers have already made up their mind and are unlikely to be swayed by such comments,” he added.

David Lian, managing director at Zeno Group Malaysia shared the same sentiment, adding that Watsons should have shown more empathy in its first apology to show to consumers that it understand its fans' reaction.

“Yes, the brand has its point of view (as per its initial statement), but it needs to also show it understands the sentiment, objections and concerns of its fans,” Lian said. He added that Millennials care a lot about values and they love brands who share the same values as them.

In this case, Watsons has probably discovered the values that its fans and the Malaysian public hold by now, and taking this into consideration, the brand should try to align its response with these values.

“Maybe Watsons could launch a new campaign based on what it has learnt and show how it actually shares the same values of equality and acceptance, demonstrating that this whole episode has been a temporary lapse of judgment,” Lian added. He added that Watsons needs to go beyond just lip-service and take concrete and immediate actions.

Pulling the ad immediately, apologising, as well as recognising the error immediately would have been a firm and decisive start in making the amends.

Meanwhile, Pettet said, the appropriate response could be simply to acknowledge the error, apologising, thanking the audience for their feedback and pulling the ad (which they thankfully did).