Companies

HUL in deep water over Kumbh-theme ad

Meenakshi Verma Ambwani New Delhi | Updated on March 07, 2019 Published on March 07, 2019

Marketeers are in for some tough times ahead as brands are now under constant scrutiny on the social media.

On Thursday, FMCG major Hindustan Unilever ran into trouble for a tweet and its Kumbh Mela-themed campaign for Brooke Bond Red Label brand. Many Twitter users criticised HUL for referring to the Kumbh Mela, which is the largest religious human congregation, as “a place” where “old people get abandoned”.

The screenshot of a tweet from the company’s official Twitter handle went viral. The Tweet stated, “#Kumbhmela is a place old people get abandoned, isn’t it sad that we do not care for our elders? #RedLabel encourages us to hold the hands of those who made us who we are. Watch the #heart-warming video, an eye opener to a hash reality. #FatherSon #Bond #Oldage.”

Company clarifies

The company deleted its original post, but reposted the Red Label ad, with another tweet.

The ad depicts a son abandoning his father in the midst of the mela crowd but after observing the bond of another father-son duo, he realises his mistake and rejoins his father over a cup of tea.

A spokesperson for HUL told BusinessLine, “Through the Brooke Bond Red Label campaign, our intention is to urge people to take care of the elderly. We do not intend to hurt the sentiments of people, and have modified the tweet which could have been inadvertently misconstrued.”

Baba Ramdev, one of the fiercest critics of multinational companies, also took a dig at HUL. He tweeted, “From East India Co to @HUL_News that’s there true character. Their only agenda is to make the country poor economically & ideologically. Why should we not boycott them? For them everything, every emotion is just a commodity. For us parents are next to Gods.”

Brand experts had mixed reactions to the backlash and outrage faced by the company over Twitter.

Brand expert Harish Bijoor said that brands often run into tough terrain if their messaging and campaigns toe a slightly different line than the traditional thinking. “These are sensitive times and marketers need to gauge the mood of the audience. The audience could be the real consumers or trolls. The challenge is sometimes when trolls start a trend, real consumers get roped in. At the end of the day it is about commerce and commerce should not get impacted.,” he added.

Meanwhile, N Chandramouli, CEO at TRA Research felt the ad campaign was a “blatant piggybacking” of the brand to a social cause. “The campaign has been poorly executed and force fits the brand to a social cause in a bid to make it look socially responsible,” he added.

From Snapdeal to Amazon, brands have been increasingly running into trouble over social media, in the past few years and often being forced to retract their posts.

Published on March 07, 2019
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