You might remember Dove’s social media post that went viral in October 2017, showing a looping image of an African-American woman removing a dark brown t-shirt to reveal a white woman. Backlash ensued on social media and Dove quickly issued an apology admitting that the advertisement “missed the mark.”
Recently, Swedish worldwide apparel retailer H&M advertised a hoodie for sale featuring a black child, who lives in Stockholm, modeling a sweatshirt with the phrase “Coolest Monkey in the Jungle.”
Once again, many people took to social media to question how such an offensive advertisement was approved by the retailer’s marketing team. Among them was New York Times columnist Charles M. Blow who posted on Twitter, “Have you lost your damned minds?!?!?!” British-based diversity advocate, Models for Diversity, criticized H&M’s judgment in choosing this model to advertise the hoodie, tweeting, “How on earth can this be? SHAME ON YOU!”
To make matters worse, other sweatshirts from the same clothing line bearing the phrases “survival expert” and “junior tour guide” were worn by white children.
Last Monday, H&M issued an apology stating, “We sincerely apologize for offending people with this image of a printed hooded top. The image has been removed from all online channels and the product will not be for sale in the United States. We believe in diversity and inclusion in all that we do and will be reviewing all our internal policies accordingly to avoid any future issues.”
On January 9, H&M issued a further statement:
We agree with all the criticism that this has generated—we have got this wrong and we agree that, even if unintentional, passive or casual racism needs to be eradicated wherever it exists. We appreciate the support of those who have seen that our produce and promotion were not intended to cause offence but, as a global brand, we have a responsibility to be aware of and attuned to all racial and cultural sensitivities—and we have not lived up to this responsibility this time.
This incident is accidental in nature, but this doesn’t mean we don’t take it extremely seriously or understand the upset and discomfort it has caused.
We will now be doing everything we possibly can to prevent this from happening again in the future.
Racism and bias in any shape or form, conscious or unconscious, deliberate or accidental, are simply unacceptable and need to be eradicated from society. In this instance we have not been sensitive enough to this agenda.
Please accept our humble apologies.
Despite these apologies and statements, in response to the ad, Canadian pop star The Weeknd said he would no longer collaborate with H&M, and American rapper G-Eazy has pulled his association with H&M.
One serious advertising misstep like this is all it takes to destroy business and consumer relationships.