H&M faces backlash over recent ad

Mikayla Williams
By Mikayla Williams
January 11th, 2018

Another day, another brand faces the wrath of social media users.

H&M recently designed a sweatshirt with the phrase, “Coolest monkey in the jungle.” The twitter reactions varied from complete disdain to more nuanced responses.

In addition, H&M is also losing the support of influencers such as The Weeknd and LeBron James.

While these are problems for the H&M brand, this blunder represents a much larger problem in the marketing industry.

The bigger problem is that H&M is one of many brands to face this kind of backlash over the past couple of years (think Pepsi and Dove). It seems like brands haven’t learned from others’ mistakes.

Whether the brand was right or wrong, or the audiences are being oversensitive, is a different discussion, but brands do need to be cognizant of their target audience and how they may react to advertising.

So, what can we do as marketers to make sure that this kind of thing doesn’t happen again, number one because it’s the right thing, and two because we don’t want our clients’ brands to suffer?

There is no right answer, and it’s a discussion every company should be having. Here are some ideas:

  1. Encourage a diverse work force – Diversity in the workforce has many benefits. It brings people together who think differently, which improves the quality of ideas, gives employees a new appreciation for various cultures other than their own and avoids turnover (for more benefits read this article from Entrepreneur).
  2. Seek approval at various stages – Getting a group of people together from various backgrounds in a focus group to give honest feedback early in the process to a product or advertisement could save brands a lot of headache and backlash later.
  3. Do your research – The reason people are up in arms about the H&M ad is because of the historical significance of the word “monkey.” If H&M had done their research, they would know that it was a derogatory term used for African Americans and that people of African heritage all over the world have been compared to apes. A little research could have gone a long way.


By | 2018-01-12T14:21:38+00:00 January 11th, 2018|Uncategorized|Comments Off on H&M faces backlash over recent ad

About the Author:

Mikayla Williams

Never a wallflower, Mikayla applies her creative energy and way with words to social media and content marketing campaigns. In addition, she supports many of our client teams through managing the details that keep projects moving in the right direction and creating exciting content. Mikayla is HubSpot Certified in Inbound Methodology and is Vehr’s resident Google Analytics expert. Outside of work, Mikayla is involved in HYPE Connections and can be found trying out local restaurants.

Mikayla is a Xavier University graduate with a degree in PR and minors in business and psychology. She started at Vehr as an intern, and after graduation she joined the team as an account coordinator. Prior to joining Vehr, she interned at Just Fabulous Inc., where she monitored social media, created media stylebooks and sent apparel samples to stylists and magazines across the country.