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Is Your Ad Racially Insensitive? What Entrepreneurs Can Learn From Missteps by Gap, Dove and H&M.

Is Your Ad Racially Insensitive? What Entrepreneurs Can Learn From Missteps by Gap, Dove and H&M.

Latina and black women have a combined consumer spending power that will reach over $3 billion in just 3 years, according to Nielsen. So, brands are seizing this opportunity. But in recent years they have all but alienated these consumers. Specifically, brands like Gap, Dove, and H&M had to apologize for their racially insensitive ad. 

  • In the 2016 Gap ad, a young black girl posed next to an older white girl. She propped her arm on the younger girl’s head. The ad drew criticism from black consumers. 
  • In 2017, Dove advertising for body wash. It looped an image of a black woman removing a dark brown t-shirt to reveal a white woman. 
  • Earlier this year, H&M was forced to apologize for using a black child to model a sweatshirt that read “coolest monkey in the jungle”. But the brand experienced global backlash from consumers. 

These became negative incidents because the brands weren’t managed by someone who frequently experiences racism or discrimination. And when targeting minority consumers, having this perspective is crucial.

Now, let’s discuss the team behind the brand.

Hire a diverse marketing team.  

The company Unilever manufactures Dove.  Basically, this is how their branding process works. 

  1. First, there are junior marketers, senior executives, and customers who also serve as brand stakeholders. 
  2. Secondly, brand managers analyze and interpret consumer data, uncover market insights and create branding strategies.  
  3. Once branding strategies are created, a brand manager develops, implements, and executes marketing activities.  
  4. They are responsible for increasing market share by understanding what the consumer needs. Before the consumer even realizes they need it. 

The lack of diversity in the marketing and advertising industry isn’t the only problem. Generational shifts in consumer backgrounds worsen the divide between brand managers and minority consumers. 

Case in point: the generation with the largest consumer spending power to date (millennials) is also a generation more diverse than its predecessors. 

Hire a diverse marketing team … and empower them. 

Since Latina and black consumers are primary to sales growth, many businesses are turning to diverse freelancers and multicultural agencies for immediate support., the leading online service for professionals seeking freelance jobs. However, more than a third of millennials are already employed as independent workers, and these professionals are more likely to be black or Latino. 

When, compared to Latina and white women, black women are least likely to be given “stretch” assignments. The one which would challenge them and give them opportunities to advance. In the world of marketing and branding, “stretch” assignments would most certainly include leading a creative team of junior marketers. 

Hire a diverse marketing team … and respect their candor. 

Lastly, make sure your marketing team takes time to interpret data, connect with your consumers and uncover insights. If you’re not willing to hold all stakeholders, from junior marketers to senior executives who are accountable for perceptive, relatable content, your consumers will feel alienated.

In short, alienating consumers doesn’t increase the share of the wallet, it gets you no wallet. 

Is Your Ad Racially Insensitive? and What Entrepreneurs Can Learn From Missteps by Gap, Dove, and H&M.? 


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