5 politically insensitive marketing mishaps

In the week Kia came under fire from Northern Irish Unionists over its ‘Provo’ car, we revisit other recent politically insensitive marketing gaffes.

Nike – Black and Tan

Nike Black and Tan Trainer

Keeping with the paramilitary theme, Nike came under fire in 2012 after releasing a “SB Dunk Low Black and Tan” pair of trainers to commemorate St Patrick’s Day.

Little did the product development department know that “black and tan” also refers to a violent British paramilitary unit. Nike apologised for, er, putting its foot in it.

Adidas – ‘Slave trainers’

Adidas Shackle Trainer

It’s hard to imagine in 2012 a senior executive would ever give the green light to a pair of trainers with a yellow ankle cuff, reminiscent of slaves’ shackles.

Was there nothing to learn from the Nike debacle just months before?

Not only a first degree crime to fashion, the Adidas JS Roundhouse Mid trainer was branded “offensive” and racked up more than 3,000 comments on the brand’s Facebook page, which also remarked on their “ugliness”. Adidas swiftly withdrew the trainers from sale.

Kenneth Cole – Egyptian uprising

Fashion designer Kenneth Cole was forced to apologise in 2011 for tweeting:

Kenneth Cole Tweet

Twitter users blasted the fashion designer and his brand for using the deadly riots as a vehicle to promote his clothes. He later issued a statement saying his “attempt at humour regarding a nation liberating themselves against oppression was poorly timed and absolutely inappropriate”.

Umbro – Zyklon

In 2002 Umbro was forced to withdraw its latest “Zyklon” trainers – yet another example of seemingly innocuous footwear causing major offence.

The sports brand received complaints from a number of organisations and individuals as “Zyklon” was also the name of the gas used by the Nazi regime to murder millions of Jews in concentration camps in the early 20th Century.

Trident – Mastication for the nation

Ads for Kraft’s Trident chewing gum brand in 2007 left an unexpectedly bitter taste with viewers.

The campaign, created by JWT, showed a black man speaking in rhyme with a strong Caribbean accent, shooting the line “Mastication for the nation”. Subsequent spots portrayed white people rhyming with a similar Caribbean parlance.

The activity sparked more than 500 complaints to the Advertising Standards Authority which – in no uncertain words – ruled the commercials caused “deep offence”, presented a “humiliating and negative depiction of black or Caribbean people” and should not be shown again.

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