Tweaking of pack design, ads, and logos after criticism has become common. Are brands too quick to respond?
Myntra was in the news quite a lot this week. The e-commerce platform tweaked its logo after a written complaint was filed against the original logo, which was called offensive.
Social media was flooded with thoughts on whether the brand’s knee-jerk response to the criticism was right or not. While many say that Myntra should have responded differently, others say that now that the complainant has brought the obsceneness in the old logo to their attention, they can’t unsee it.
While the debates on the controversy are on, the brand’s quick response reminded us of a similar incident recently where another brand took note of a consumer’s feedback almost immediately and promised to work on it. A communication consultant on LinkedIn highlighted that the logo of 3M’s cleaning brand Scotch-Brite helps reinforce existing gender stereotypes and sexism in society, and that cleaning isn’t a woman’s job alone.
The brand’s India logo includes an image of a woman with a ‘bindi’ who is presented almost like a mascot. It didn’t take long for 3M to respond. The brand’s marketing head revealed that the work on changing the logo is already underway and the new logo would be unveiled in a few months.
Similarly, when netizens called for a boycott of jewellery brand Tanishq after it released an ad portraying inter-faith harmony, the brand was forced to take the ad down. While the film did not mention any religion as such, it was called ‘anti-Hindu’ on social media for showing what appeared to be a Muslim family throwing a baby shower for their Hindu daughter-in-law.
These recent episodes got us thinking if brands are being too quick in responding to such social media backlash. Is this the way forward, or is there another way around it? Here’s what industry experts have to say...
Varun Duggirala, co-founder and chief content officer, The Glitch
The digital economy has enabled a fast-paced feedback loop between the brands and their consumers. In many parts, this loop has allowed the brands to understand their consumers and their needs to evolve both their product and communication at a faster pace than ever before.
In recent times, however, it’s also enabled consumer backlash. In some cases, relevant and sometimes, overstated to gain widespread traction and amplification.. this negative outflow does demand brands to have a filter of contingencies in place and a faster response mechanism to address any potential issues that arise.
So, is this here to stay... unfortunately, yes. However, it will also make the brands look at how to build elements into branding, packaging and communication in a better way for immediate changes. That will cause a fundamental shift in systems and processes, and a dramatic shift in the pace of functioning.
Pragati Rana, GM, mcgarrybowen India
The brands now acknowledge the power of the digital collective. What would come as a small newspaper article on one day can now be amplified and circulated in the social network for days, resulting in snowballed opinions and tainted brand image (or so the marketers think!).
The bright side is that the reaction time of the brands to such events has become phenomenally quicker. Their intent to solve the problem fast has pushed through the hierarchy to arrive at solutions.
But sometimes, this swift response comes at a price.
And the price is the inability to think of the brand's point of view on the topic. Whether it was an ad or a logo, it is born out of a perspective. And if certain people find it unpalatable, the brand should take the opportunity to explain or reiterate its point of view, because that itself is a strong message of how true the POV was in the first place.
The fear of social media lynching or hooliganism shouldn’t be… and can’t be… the driver of creating a powerful progressive brand. Brands need to be crystal clear in their purpose, and be brave and quick if they truly need to be future-ready.
Disha Daswani, creative director, Schbang X, Schbang (Schbang X is Schbang’s offering pertaining to creative work in art and music)
There's a fine line between pleasing your target audience versus the audience targeting you. In the case of brands responding to feedback, you have to hear people's views on what brands put out. Definitely listen and hear them out.
Making a decision to take down an entire ad or change your logo, that's on the ability of the brand to stand for what it believes in. Personally, I felt it was needed for Scotch-Brite, with years of regression trapped in that seemingly harmless vector that did more harm than good!
But when it comes to brands like Tanishq actually putting out the reflection of society, i.e, intercaste marriage, why shy away from it?
As for the Myntra logo fiasco, sadly it's the men who sheepishly giggled at the logo around Naaz Patel (the woman who reported it) that led her to report the logo. Myntra should have not paid much heed to it, but smartly played it with a quick-witted designer at its end!
The world we live in is always going to have things to say about what we and our brands put out, some good, some bad. It's our belief as people, and as brands, to stand by our truth and stick to it.
What will you fall for if you don't stand for anything, eh?
Tufayl Merchant, co-founder and business director, Howl – a full stack e-commerce and digital marketing solutions company
It's a difficult question to answer, especially considering the kind of times we live in, where certain sections of society seem to get offended way too easily. But here's the way forward. I call it the A3 or A cubed:
1) Acknowledge: I think it's very important for the brands to acknowledge feedback, good or bad, that comes their way. So reach out, engage in dialogue with the concerned party and see what the problem (if bad) could be.
2) Assess: Go back and assess the situation at hand. In the case of Mantra, it’s a creative call. While a million women users transacting on the site have never viewed the Myntra M as offensive, you have someone who probably has never even used the platform (do a fact check here) taking offense to the logo.
3) Action: For the Myntra team, it was about making a small change, and moving forward.
What brands can learn from this exercise is to figure out a solution that can deliver the highest impact with the least amount of effort. Myntra assessed their situation well and was swift in deploying the new logo (which really isn’t any different from the older one, but gives the illusion of change).
However, that being said, it’s all the values that the company has been built on. In the case of Myntra, it wasn’t too difficult to solve the problem it had on hand. In the case of the Tanishq ad, one would expect a legacy company like Tata to take a moral stand to showcase what it really stands for, like some have in the West.