In the world of marketing and advertising, audience perception and reaction is crucial. What people think of your ad, product, or video can be the difference between absolute success and running yourself into the ground. You would think that by now companies would be more aware and mindful of how they promote their products, but nope. Just look at how H&M has been publicly destroyed in the media in only 48 hours. Now that takes skills.
H&M recently released a jungle animal line of hoodies for children. Sounds harmless right? Well their execution was not on point. Look at the product in question, notice anything odd?
The fact that H&M thought nothing of a little black boy wearing a hoodie with the text “coolest monkey in the jungle” across his chest raises a huge red flag! From the 19th century up until now, many white racists have used the word “monkey” in reference to black people as a derogatory way to put them down. Trust me, if you know anything about US history, this shouldn’t be a surprise to you. Which is why the whole internet exploded in rage at the apparent racism.
Really @hm I just want to know why the black boy is wearing a hoodie that says “coolest monkey”, & the white boy is wearing a hoodie that says “Expert”. The Art Director behind this is trash. pic.twitter.com/2VsBc9D4Vw
— Baker (@BuzyBakerr) January 8, 2018
This is disgusting & degrading putting this little boy in a hoodie that says coolest monkey in the jungle! Knowing the history of people associating black people with monkeys! Who approved this? @hm @hm @hm pic.twitter.com/W4boZFx4Fs
— gaby💋 (@loveegaby_) January 7, 2018
Really @hm? Who sat in the product development meeting for this concept? Clearly, you thought it was “cool” to put a Black child in a hoodie with the term “monkey” on it juxtaposed to a White child with “survival expert” on his. #sHaMeful (see what I did there?) pic.twitter.com/YPlCNmjLNE
— Kaye Cole, PhD (@KayeColePhD) January 8, 2018
Celebrities such as the Weeknd and G-Eazy have also made their outrage know at this advertisement and have decided to cut all ties with the clothing brand. G-Eazy was working with H&M to launch his clothing line with them in a few months, but after seeing the images, the musician has to immediately end the partnership, stating “I can’t allow for my name and brand to be associated with a company that could let this happen”.
— The Weeknd (@theweeknd) January 8, 2018
In regards to H&M pic.twitter.com/EuvWMmZ6XA
— G-Eazy (@G_Eazy) January 9, 2018
In response, H&M released an extensive apology statement. The brand takes full responsibility for the issues that have arisen due to the sweater, and state that “[t]his incident is accidental in nature, but this doesn’t mean we don’t take it extremely seriously or understand the upset and discomfort it has caused”. The product has since been removed from the site and the company states that it will be recycled.
We’d like to put on record our position in relation to the controversial image of our hoodie. Our position is simple – we’ve got this wrong and we’re deeply sorry. https://t.co/M9j5Fh2WxR
— H&M (@hm) January 9, 2018
Though we appreciate the apology, how is it that this sweater got through the design, production, marketing, and advertising departments without at least one person bringing up the fact that it is completely wrong? This brings up the bigger issue of diversity in the workplace. Would this have been allowed to go through if there were more diversity in the company’s departments? H&M is definitely not the first company to come under fire over racist or discriminatory advertising. However, how many more PR scandals and sales lost does it have to take for companies to become more socially aware?