Don’t be a hater

Rosie Baker is Marketing Week’s specialist on sustainability and retail.

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Benetton’s latest campaign, Unhate, is causing quite a stir around the world. After a few years in the bland wilderness and losing its once edgy perception, Benetton is back in the game with a bang.

The Pope is pretty peeved and the Vatican is apparently considering legal action against the clothing chain for depicting The Holy See kissing Egyptian Imam Ahmed Mohamed el-Tayeb, despite the fact that Benetton has agreed to pull the image.

Other clinches shown in the Benetton campaign include US president Barack Obama and Chinese leader Hu Jintao, Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and European leaders Nicolas Sarkozy and Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Benetton says the images are “symbolic of reconciliation – with a touch of ironic hope and constructive provocation”.

While the campaign has been celebrated by some, it’s a little too provocative for others.

The ads have been damned as inappropriate, offensive and disrespectful – and these are just the first few comments on Benetton’s own blog. Some go as far as to say the ads could incite acts of terrorism.

The reactions go some way to prove the point Benetton is making that there is hate in the world and it shows how far there is to go to combat what it calls a “culture of hatred”.

Benetton is deliberately courting controversy, but at least as a brand its message is good. Part of the Unhate campaign invites consumers to upload their own Kiss to the Unhate Wall and share hopeful messages – can a brand like Benetton change the world? I don’t know but I respect the gesture. Will it help Benetton sell more jumpers? I don’t know about that either but at least people will remember that Benetton still exists.

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