Marketing and Advertising: A tale of Successful and Horrible Experiments

“Brands can never stand still” – The rule of modern marketing. Therefore, in order to moving forward constantly, marketing and advertising are full of experimentation and creativity. Though comprehensive market research is usually a good idea to go with but a certain amount of risk is inescapable. One cannot win by playing a completely safe game. Many marketing and advertising initiatives land you with a slew of awards and accolades, while others can even put your entire career on the line and land you with a barrage of negative feedback from all over the world. As a result, it is imperative that you not only comprehend the fundamentals, but also keep an eye on people’s emotions before going for a stroll.

In terms of getting trolled, the year 2021 appears to be particularly severe for numerous brands. Nestle Kitkat, Zomato, Byju’s, Dabur, KFC, Mohey, Unacademy, Nykaa, Fabindia, Sabyasachi, CEAT, and a slew of other companies are among them. Nestle Kitkat was recently chastised for offending religious sensitivities by including images of Lord Jagannath, Balabhadra, and Subhadra on its packaging. In light of the ongoing pandemic, the brand was most likely inducing a much-needed travel break among their readership. A number of Twitter users questioned the brand about what happens to the wrapper once it has been consumed. The package with the photographs of the revered deity will be thrown away. In this case, the company should always connect with their audience in a proactive and courteous manner to help them understand or accept the unfortunate mistake. In such a conversation, you should first explain why you took the action you did, followed by a contrite apology for inadvertently hurting the feelings of the valued audience. After all, long-term success is always preferred above short-term success. Nestle Kitkat has just done so by promptly responding to Twitter. Similarly, Zomato’s attempt to recognise the work of loyal delivery partners by showcasing Bollywood celebs was met with disapproval by netizens. Also, the nitty-gritty of a brand is influenced by the personal lives of a brand symbol. In a similar vein, after being mocked by netizens as a brand symbol, Shahrukh Khan when his son was interrogated by NCB for drug involvement. In the similar context, Shahrukh Khan also received a lot of backlash from the public for advertising Vimal Brand, a cancer-causing substance. As a result, while selecting a brand icon, the brand should be very clear and rigid about the personal lives of the brand icons.

Displaying the Karvachauth celebration by same-sex people (lesbian and gay), Dabur has stirred controversy. Many people, including politicians, reprimanded them for going against Hindu tradition, which entails a wife fasting Karvachauth for the long life of her husband. As a result, Dabur unwittingly offended the general public’s religious sensibilities. In the same way, Mohey featured Bollywood celebs and questioned the authenticity of “Kanya-daan”, urging people to instead adopt “Kanya-maan”. People on social media have also expressed their displeasure with it, claiming that it offends their religious beliefs. India is a diverse country with more than 22 languages spoken by Indians and more than 19,500 mother tongues. It is extremely challenging for businesses to accommodate language preferences in such a diverse culture, especially in an offline setting. In one such case, KFC, a well-known fast food business, became embroiled in a wide-spread controversy after one of its employees refused to play Kannada music in a store when a client requested it. They are providing Hindi music because it is sought after and understood by the majority of Indians. As a result, social media users launched a boycott movement against KFC. When queried later in an interview, KFC management stated that they had already purchased certain song rights for their outlets across the country. Harming such sentiments in a country like India, where various religions, languages, castes, and creeds coexist, is a very perilous path to take. Unacademy, an online study application that offers online education and competitive exam preparation, has been criticised by social media users for including religion-sensitive content in its study materials as well as sponsoring a play mocking the holy Ramayan, an ancient Sanskrit epic that is revered in Hinduism. More in row, social media users have also called for a boycott of Nykaa for selling condoms under the name of a “Navratri-special Sale”. Navratri is a Hindu festival in which nine goddesses are worshiped for nine days, followed by the celebration of goddess Durga’s victory over Mahisasur (evil). Moving ahead, Fabindia has also faced backlash for using the term ‘Jashn-e-riwaz’ to promote its new collection on Diwali’s Eve. Diwali is a Hindu festival that welcomes Lord Rama’s return to his region of Ayodhya after 14 years. According to social media users, it is a strong belief, much more than just a tradition. After being mocked by netizens, Fabindia later withdrew the ad. Likewise, the public rebuked Sabyasachi’s “Mangalsutra Collection” for displaying inappropriate nudity in the name of culture and tradition. Following widespread public outrage and political intervention, Sabyasachi withdrew the entire campaign and issued an apology message. Last but not least, CEAT ad, which features Bollywood stars, aims to educate people about the dangers of bursting firecrackers on public highways. As a result, a lot of twitterati slammed the ad, interrogating the brand’s lack of response when people of other religions stopped the road while celebrating their festival, despite the fact that public highways are solely meant for driving a car. This troll wrecked CEAT’s day.

These days, opposition, reaction, and internet trolls are all too common. The current digital era provides an instant platform for anyone to express good or negative emotions. These emotions can sometimes turn into a nightmare for a business. The urgency of the hour for businesses is to be hyper-aware while taking a step. It is more crucial for firms to comprehend all possible human reactions. Also, it is critical for social media users to take a deep breath and consider whether these platforms are turning them anti-social at times.

Happy Reading!

Dr. Anuradha Yadav
Assistant Professor
DSCE-MBA

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