Digital Diplomacy
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Digital Diplomacy

The Response by the Marketing Head of a Brand That Won Hearts

Lessons for all marketers during a PR disaster.

Photo by Austin Distel on Unsplash

The quest to stay relevant on social media in the modern age is a double-edged sword. It is no new information that the social media posts made in the past can come back to haunt you, especially if you are a celebrity. The same principle applies to brands when it comes to campaigns and marketing strategies made in the past.

The pancake mix brands Aunt Jemima and Mrs. Butterworth’s have agreed to make the long due changes to their names and logos, in the light of racial undertones in their portrayal of African-Americans. We are living in the times when brands are re-examining the casual racism and sexism that has been deep-rooted in their packaging and marketing.

South Asian countries are especially guilty of not just actively promoting stereotypes, but also lauding them. This is the region where fairness creams are promoted by celebrities, accumulating to the rampant mindset that white skin is more desirable, with dark-skinned girls less likely to get married or achieve success. The market leader with a share of almost 70 percent in India is the brand ‘Fair and Lovely’, which came under fire for its depiction of the supposed inferiority of being dark-skinned. This ultimately led to the brand having to rechristen itself to ‘Glow and Lovely’, but the actual accomplishment of this move is still being debated since the connotations associated with the brand are difficult to leave behind.

‘Fair and Lovely’ tried to pitch the idea that being fair correlated to being successful.

It was amidst these conditions that a LinkedIn user pointed out the subtle gender stereotypes in the cleaning products of Scotch-Brite. For those unfamiliar with the brand, Scotch-Brite is one of the most renowned companies in India in the field of kitchen and washroom cleaners, and almost everyone living in the country is well acquainted with the brand image. However, it was not until recently that a major issue in their packaging was brought into illumination. A communications consultant penned down an article on LinkedIn, addressing the fact that the logo in the packaging of sponges, toilet brushes, and scrubs features the face of a woman, which is however absent from the packaging of other products such as lint rollers.

Screenshot taken from LinkedIn
Screenshot taken from LinkedIn

The message that this packaging puts forward to the masses is that of ignorance towards modern societal norms and a real punch to the progress against historical patriarchal mindsets. Finding yourself in a situation like this is easily one of the worst feelings for a brand, where the majority of the audience is ready to attack you on social media and initiate a movement against you. The way you respond to these circumstances is a deciding factor in whether you have a crisis at hand or not.

This is why the immediate reply by Atul Mathur, the Head of Marketing at 3M, the parent company of Scotch-Brite, is being hailed as a brilliant stroke. Here’s the entire statement made by him:

Screenshot taken from LinkedIn

As a response, it is perfect in its tone and communication. It is a fitting example to the principle of crisis management I like to call the ‘Triple A’: Agree, Advertise, Action.

If you can stick to the basic fundamentals, you will come across as humane and approachable.

Agree

By agreeing with the complaint, a positive message is sent out about the brand’s stance against the regressive nature of the orthodox mindsets of gender roles. Displaying compliance in such conditions through a thoughtfully constructed response, brings you out on top, with your customers staying in agreement with you as well.

The brand acknowledged the opinion of one observer, appreciating his views and recognizing the mistakes in the packaging over the past few years. This goes a long way in building consumer trust.

Advertise

The second step of brilliancy was the callback to a previous campaign of Scotch-Brite. For non-Hindi speakers, the name of the campaign translates to ‘Our Home Belongs to Everyone, so the Work is Everyone’s Too’. Mathur highlighted the shift in perspective of the brand by posting a link to the campaign video. He instantly acquitted the brand of all charges of sexism and narrow-mindedness through this move and simultaneously drove up brand awareness.

The trick here is to seamlessly transition to advertising the product. If it is not subtle and relevant to the conversation, it can come off poorly for all viewers and backfire drastically for the brand.

Action

Addressing the issue at hand is undeniably a necessity, but the manner of overcoming the hurdles is what sets you apart. Swift and decisive action, when done in good spirit, is almost certainly met with accolades. The display of true emotion by Mathur and his positive approach garnered the respect of his audience, including the person who pointed out the error in the packaging.

Marketing deals with not just brainstorming new campaign ideas, but also engaging as intimately as possible with the consumers, to maintain a healthy discourse and formulate a strategy when the brand needs evolving. The case of Scotch-Brite is a lesson for all budding marketers on how to approach a tricky situation so as to avoid a crisis.

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