British luxury fashion house Burberry came under fire recently after it released its Valentine’s Day campaign that featured several LGBTQ couples. The campaign titled "B:Mine", was released on January 23 and showcased a number of real-life LGBTQ couples embracing each other. The ad was meant to celebrate the concept of intimacy and affection and was presented alongside a curated selection of Burberry gifts such as bags, shoes and accessories.
However, despite its clear attempt to be inclusive, the ad seemed to cause quite a stir on its social media platforms. Many on Instagram claimed the ad was too sexual in nature, and netizens threatened to unfollow and cancel the brand. Many also slammed the brand for its activist marketing that targeted a small demographic that likely does not buy from its stores. Others argued that the label only wanted woke people who have the money to spend at their stores.
While Burberry has not yet responded to the comments online, creative chiefs MARKETING-INTERACTIVE spoke to said that many brands are now starting to jump on "woke conscious band wagons".
“We have seen a lot of brands lately that have started to jump on conversations from green washing to the LGBTQ movement and many other social topics,” said Francis Ooi, the managing and creative director of Bread Butter Bacon, an advertising agency. While there is nothing wrong with driving the conversation on those fronts, Ooi believes the real question is whether or not the campaign is a flash in the pan one off execution or an area to stand behind for the long run.
“I believe that people are put off because this is not the usual Burberry voice that they have known throughout the years, and consumers are not used to sudden changes. People are so uncomfortable with disruption,” he said, adding that this might make the brand seem “opportunistic”. Ooi added:
If Benetton were to do the same ad, they would probably be applauded for it. Because Benetton is consistent with what they stand for and that's their brand DNA.
Nonetheless, it's worth also noting that Benetton too has had its fair share of controversy in recent times. The popular Italian fashion brand came under fire for using images of children in their underwear to promote their products in a new ad. Netizens claimed the ad sexualises children and encourages pedophilia.
Agreeing with Ooi, Tay Guan Hin, the creative chairman of BBDO Singapore said the ad simply comes across as the brand trying too hard to shed its old image and appeal to a younger crowd. “It would have been smart for Burberry to seek feedback from the LGBTQ community before launching this campaign. It would ensure that the ads were respectful and sensitive to everyone, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity,” said Tay.
He then brought up an example from the campaign in which a person with scars from an apparent double mastectomy, a surgical procedure where both breasts are removed partially or completely, was featured. “It seems to be pushing a harmful message to young women that they are not good enough in their skin and that they need to alter their identity to feel better. The glorification and normalization of self-mutilation sends a misleading message to young people.”
Considering how many luxury brands have come under fire recently, the advice to be sincere and respectful is an apt one.
Recently, Spanish fashion brand Balenciaga was in the hot seat for launching its Spring/Summer 2023 collection with a campaign that showed kids playing with toys dressed in BDSM-style bondage gear and for featuring documents from a child sexual abuse case. The brand sincerely apologised on Instagram Stories for any offence caused by its holiday campaign. "Our plush bear bags should not have been featured with children in its campaign. We have immediately removed the campaign from all platforms," the brand said.
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