Saturday, November 19, 2011

United Colors of Benetton - Unhate Campaign

"Make love, not war" seem to scream United Colors of Benetton's new advertisement campaign. The brand was created in 1965 by an italian family and has always been the cause of controversies because of its campaigns (photographed by Olivier Toscani). However, the Unhate campaign seem to be growing in importance more than the others. Indeed, it shows the leaders of our world kissing one another.


United Colors of Benetton has always bet on diversity for its campaigns. They choose models from all around the world and their campaigns push the pieces of clothing into the background in order to praise humanism.

In 1991, multi-culturalism and tolerance are in the place of honor.

In 1993, Benetton launches a campaign for AIDS awareness and the problem of the exclusion of the H.I.V positive persons. 

In 1996, the groupe chooses to fight against death penalty.

In 1997, the brand fights against world hunger.

Et en 2003, Benetton supports the World Food Program.

But then, Benetton quieten down. It may be because of the several lawsuits or because Toscani left the group. And recentely, the brand decided to revive its subversive side and launched the Unhate campaign. The boards had to be taken down after the violent reactions from the Pope and the White House. 

Supreme leader of North Korea (Kim Jong il) and the Président of South Korea (Lee Myung Bak)

President of the United States (Barack Obama) and Président of Venezuela (Hugo Chavez)

The Pope (Benoît XVI) and the egyptian imam

But from a marketing point of view, the campaign was (almost) perfect ! First, the name, « unhate » and not the usual « love one another » that has become so cliché nowadays. With that one word, they managed to introduce a new concept of tolerance in a strained political climate.
The pictures are strong. One cannot stay impassive in front of them. They destroy the "sacred aura" of these well-know figures. And the couples aren't trivial but bring together political opponents. That is why the boards specify the function of each person but not their names (wich is not relevant for the add). We are shoked and that is the point. To catch our attention, provoke us to have us react.
And we are all concerned. The brand carefully targets diverse people: europeans, asians, muslims, catholics... 
The violent reactions  were very quick but went in Benetton's direction. Everybody is talking about their campaign, starting with these well-know figures themselves. The Pope and the White House communicating about Benetton could not be a better publicity for them.
I will add that this campaign is more politically incorrect than offensive to these well-known figures and what they represent. After all, the photos only ask them to stop hating and fighting against each other, to put aside their rivalries in order to set the good example by respecting each other. Of course they also infringe on the right to their image, but these kisses only seem to be the expression of a strong friendship (like people do in Russia for instance).

But what about the clothes ?? We understood that the brand wishes to give priority to an ethic that can serve its image and the image of their products. And one could almost forget that Benetton is a fashion brand rather than an NGO. There lies the genius of the brand. When we enter their store, we could almost have the impression to be doing a good deed by leaving with a dozen of bags full of Benetton's clothes. And God knows how much the shoppaholic that we are need not to feel guilty about buying.
It is hard to leave the store with more than one piece of clothing at a time though. Because even though the brand chose not to include its products in its photos, the campaign could have been effective if their collections were creative and edgy enough. But Benetton's collection gets boring. Admittedly, the pieces are colorful and of very good quality, but the designs are insipid compared to the advertisement campaigns. They look like basic items that are far too expensive. .

Therefore we lament the fact that the designers do not have as much to say through their creation as the brand's marketing director. Because even though it's mostly about marketing, the intention is there. We cannot deny all these years of humanism and tolerance awareness campaigns that are very relevant in nowadays context. 

Absolute B.
Rendez-vous sur Hellocoton !


  1. aww, this is such a great cause, i'm sure it must have inspired a lot of people!


  2. I agree, they're much more famous for the shocking adds than for their clothes. It's kind of odd, but I guess it's a good selling strategy too. For me, Victoria Secret is something similar. Their designs & quality are not remarkable at all, but their campaigns & catwalks are so much famous than they're probably the most famous underwear brand in the world.

  3. I could not agree more with what you write. The campaign is a genius move. I don't know who exactly is responsible for the marketing at Benetton, but he/she/they really should get credit for their innovative way of branding (they probably do already). Benetton, next to Apple, is the prime example of selling an image, a way of life, a feeling. It's all about the connotation. Even though you might not be attracted to the product, you'll still have a positive feeling towards the brand. I'm sure other companies have learned from this (for instance Dove and their campaigns with real women). On top of that, the campaigns generate a LOT of free advertising.

    like you, I think the design is a bit boring. I rarely visit Benetton. I bought a basic black skirt there about a month ago, but it was probably the first time in years I set foot in a Benetton store. It would be cool if the design would evolve a bit - but then again, I don't think the target audience of Benetton exists of fashion forward people.

  4. If they didn't inspire a lot a people I am sure they shocked them.

  5. Their advertising is amazing! Love 'em all :) About the UnHate, I guess you already know my opinion :p


  6. Thanks for stopping by my blog. Definitely send me a link when you make your book clutch. I'd love to see it!


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