THE BLOG
17/01/2018 11:38 SAST | Updated 17/01/2018 11:38 SAST

Dear H&M, We Need To Talk

The retailer has made a couple of faux pas over the past couple of years, but their last one broke the camel’s back.

Luke Sharrett/ Bloomberg/ Getty Images

My wardrobe has generally loved H&M. Their clothing is trendy, relatively affordable and easy to wear. The retailer has made a couple of faux pas over the past couple of years, but their last one broke the camel's back.

Please fam, it's 2018! How are they not woke?

The ad that ran as part of their online children's campaign, featuring a black child wearing a hoodie bearing the slogan "Coolest Monkey in the Jungle", was absolutely inexcusable.

H&M online store

As a person in the PR world, a couple of things baffle me.

First, we all know what vigorous approval processes big corporates have in place for content that represents their brand. So how did this ad get approved? From internal agency to client approvals, how did no one think that this might cause issues?

Second, with racial tensions running high in almost every part of the globe, H&M's lame excuse that their processes weren't followed properly doesn't hold water for me. It begs a question about the company's brand values that would inform the conceptualisation and execution of marketing campaigns. It is also highly unlikely that the whole campaign was shot in one take. The creatives must have had a choice of other pics of the boy wearing different clothes.

And lastly, their PR team should have warned H&M of the reputational damage such a campaign can cause.

2018 will be the year where we see the ever-blurring lines between PR, marketing, digital and advertising dissolve.

This also raises the question of whether H&M consulted with their PR team at all? We see time and time again that PR teams are forgotten when it comes to advertising and digital campaigns – when really, they're an integral part.

Brands need to realise that all teams should be involved when it comes to any form of public communication. It's paramount for reputation management.

2018 will be the year where we see the ever-blurring lines between PR, marketing, digital and advertising dissolve.

Brands need a holistic communications approach in order to anticipate the full extent and impact of their actions and thus avoid reputational damage.

This means that brands need communications partners who will assist them from start to finish: i.e. content creation, distribution, engagement and consumer relations. With these, much more accurate predictions can be made and strategies formulated using data collected throughout the process to create consumer-centric campaigns.

Anne Dolinschek, head of consumer PR, Conversations Group