With rising consumer expectations, it is important for brands to reflect the right social values and norms
If anything BBDO India’s campaign called ‘Share the load’ for detergent brand Ariel taught brands, is the need to be gender neutral in the current era. However, not many seemed to have paid any heed to the warning. Yet again, some days back social media platforms were abuzzed with conversation on the role of brands in establishing stereotypical gender roles — this time Voltas drew the ire. Voltas Beko’s ‘Word of Moms’ campaign featured a group of women discussing the pros of owning a dishwasher during lockdown. “Men don’t need dishwashers?,” wrote Faye DSouza, journalist as she took to Twitter to respond to the campaign. Other netizens, too, quickly pointed out how the ad promoted ‘gender divide’ more than anything else and called Voltas Beko’s new campaign ‘sexist’. “As a brand, Voltas Beko has always celebrated the spirit of womanhood in all our campaigns. Our products have been developed to create convenience and comfort for all our customers, and are gender agnostic,” a Voltas Beko spokesperson told BrandWagon Online.
Industry experts opine that consumers today have higher expectations from a brand, hence it is important to highlight the right set of social values and norms at the time of communicating. According to Jitender Dabas, COO, McCann Worldgroup India, the only challenge for companies is that social values and norms are moving targets and keep changing from one set of people to another and from one time to another. For instance, ‘Maa ke haath ka khaana’, is an emotionally endearing concept in one place and time yet can be called out for being something that stereotypes cooking as a role for women. “In a diverse but rapidly changing society the definition of what is acceptable will continue to change and brands will need to respond to that,” he added. Meanwhile, he also pointed out that there is a reference to men in the given commercial which objectifies them but hasn’t created an uproar because in the given times it is acceptable as a joke. “In some other time at some other place a brand will be hauled for that,” he noted.
Advertisers also observe that at a time when the consumer feedback process is evolving and fast-paced with the integration of social media platforms, brands need to be wise in what they are choosing to put out there. “Broadcast days are over; consumers are interested in a dialogue. If brands strike a chord with the consumers and build empathy, consumers will go the extra mile in reciprocating the love,” Titus Upputuru, national creative director, Dentsu One and creative head, Taproot Dentsu, Gurugram said.
For Ashish Khazanchi, managing partner, Enormous Brands, a conscientious advertiser, should take it upon themselves to create a more equal and more progressive vision of what they feel the world should be. “If any brand inadvertently does stumble into a similar unfortunate position, the way to handle it is with sincerity. The key here is to follow it up with demonstrable actions that are in line with your intents,” he elaborated.
Interestingly, a few days back Scotch Brite too was under the scanner for gender-targeted marketing when communications strategy consultant Karthik Srinivasan pointed out that the logo has a vector image of a woman. The company soon responded to the issue stating that the logo will be changed a few months down the line. When contacted 3M declined to comment.