I’m sure most of us have heard of the recent major news that H&M, a Sweden-based retail chain, is currently involved in. And while the clothing company was quick to apologize, celebrities, such as The Weeknd, have announced that they have severed ties with H&M. In addition to this, the intense backlash the company is receiving is proof enough that a mere apology won’t cut it, even though H&M has also stated that the photos have been taken down and that the garment will be removed from their product offering.
It is hard to fathom how the image of a young black boy being used in this particular ad could have escaped everyone employed at H&M’s attention. There must have been a few rounds of approval before this went to print. Were the child’s parents aware that this was what their kid’s photo would be used for? What about the talent agency representing the kid?
I don’t believe it was meant to be racist. Rather, it was deeply misguided. Recent surveys have shown that having diverse imagery in marketing and brand messaging is a top priority for marketing pros. However, as you can see, there are some real consequences when approaching diversity without careful consideration.
But once again, this is an example of how a situation can quickly turn in to a PR problem for a company. We’ve seen it with United Airlines, Dove, Kellogg’s among others. Would having a PR person in the room at the time the ad was discussed have altered the outcome? Perhaps not, but having one available after the fact is certainly important. How will this impact H&M moving forward? Time will tell.
What are your thoughts about the H&M advertising controversy? We’d love to hear from you below.