Even if you are not a regular Twitter user, you must be aware of the power of social media outrage. It's nothing new. Controversial columnists have used Twitter and other social media platforms to spread articles, and let outraged people to the work for them. Sometimes it is hard not to see the racial dimension to these sorts of mechanisms. However, more recently, it seems that brands have been involved in the same processes.
We are absolutely appalled by this racist advertisement attributed to @HM which strips the child in the green of basic human dignity. While we note the apology as necessary we cannot accept that it's sufficient based on the amount of damage it has caused. cc @HMsouthafrica pic.twitter.com/TqSRn164xJ— Min. Nathi Mthethwa (@NathiMthethwaSA) January 9, 2018
Yesterday, Swedish clothing brand H&M apologised after causing shock and outrage by placing a black child model in a hoody that read 'Coolest Monkey in the Jungle'. They took down the offending photo, but not before it had become a trending topic and had prompted several articles.
The Weeknd announced that he was cutting all ties with them due to their ill-advised photo, a reaction which garnered yet more publicity and awareness.
H&M is not the only brand to face a social media backlash in recent months or years for moves that have proved offensive. But some are questioning whether these are oversights, or concerted efforts to court outrage in order to generate further awareness.
there is cycle— UKafrolista (@UKafrolista) January 8, 2018
- do something to upset black people
- black people get outraged
- people click the link
- traffic goes to them which equals coins
- 2 weeks later... everyone is no longer upset
We need to be serious with our outrage and coins people
Back in October last year, beauty brand Dove was criticised for releasing an advert that appeared to show a black woman turning into a white one after using their body lotion.
Again, there was a social media backlash, the brand apologised, but not without inflaming tensions and tempers yet again.
Black outrage is profitable for a lot of these brands— UKafrolista (@UKafrolista) January 8, 2018
they know how easy it is to get black people upset
In both cases, people have debated whether or not these were done intentionally to provoke outrage. As companies with millions of existing customers, some argued that announced boycotts would cause little harm to their bottom line - and the publicity itself could actually increase their sales. Some wondered that such mistakes - if they were indeed unintentional missteps - would have been avoided with more diverse teams involved in decision making.
If you want to be a global brand, you have to be attuned to global nuance - and have diverse, empowered decision makers who can stop you making infantile mistakes like this : H&M’s Apology For Its Racist Catalog Pic Isn’t Enough For The Weeknd https://t.co/m5aWwJaX7O— Afdhel Aziz (@afdhelaziz) January 9, 2018
@hm I wonder how many black people work for H&M in senior level positions? Perhaps hiring minorities throughout various levels of the company will provide you all with diverse perspectives & prevent a situation like this from reoccurring. #JustAThought #ActionvsReaction— MoosheeRozay (@MoosheeRozay) January 9, 2018
Of course some people clapped back with satirical images.
What’s happening there by H&M 🤔 pic.twitter.com/aZUD0C2z0a— Zweli Mbhele 🇿🇦 (@TheZweli) January 9, 2018
4. Lastly @hm this world has blacks like US now not our ancestors who were afraid to call you out because of the intimidation and injustices they went through we are NOT afraid of you and we are not afraid of poverty, we live with it and still thrive and succeed. #ghettoking pic.twitter.com/f3qVzYN3qs— Love, Light & Music2 (@ZakesBantwiniSA) January 9, 2018
His parents response.
But the question still remains, and this won't be the last time it is asked.
What do you think? Do brands provoke outrage on purpose? Is it just a consequence of not having enough diverse voices?
Let us know what you think in the comments and on Twitter. Let's keep this discussion going.