Hasbro's Gasping (Suggestive) Trolls Doll and H&M's Nigga Lab Beanies - Why are consumer brands getting "Designing for Inclusion" wrong? And, what can they do right?

Image Source: Walmart/Hasbro, CNN
Hasbro has pulled out their Trollsdoll from store shelves after the ChangeOrg petition with over 150,000 signatures accused the toymaker of promoting child abuse by placing a button on the doll's private parts that make gasping (suggestive) sounds. This is what can happen if the inclusion of the consumer's voice via research is not part of the standard R&D process. There is no way this product had any solid concept or design research conducted and certainly, there were no moms given a voice in the boardroom and in the entire process of concept to reality and concept to consumer. Inclusivity of the customer's voice is critical for ensuring these potentially damaging products stay off the shelf. 

Frankly, our blog is full of the good, the bad and the ugly product strategies of some of the world's most-consumed brands be it clothing. accessories, toys, etc. etc. We've got it all covered. Well, almost :)

Our editor and Inclusion guru Amit Anand has conceived messaging strategy for a close competitor (of H&M's) and his first impression of the way such brands operate is that despite having diverse teams (supposedly that is the basis of an assumption that there shouldn't be any impropriety) they have a method of working in silos where the concept-to-consumer teams often work against each other than with each other! The resultant downside is that lack of cohesiveness also leads to poor products and services. Also, some brands may just be culturally ignorant that is if we go by the cultural navigator methodology, there are many stereotyping challenges a brand would usually face right from the concept, on the drawing board to the eventual launch...They either fail to understand the new market and its cultural elements. Or, they understand it a little too much than needed!

A customer’s beliefs powers their perception. Their perception powers buying behavior. Perceptions vary from customer to customer. Different customers perceive different things about the same product. Empowered brands empower their customer by not generalizing, by valuing differences, by including and hence they attract diverse customers, they innovate, they grow, they expand, and they retain!

At Diverse Customer, we go beyond the demographics of categorization and generalization. We give a voice to inclusive brands and experience to diverse customers in formats as varied as them, visual, auditory, and kinesthetic.

Coming back to the main topic:

H&M has come under fire yet again. This time around, the Swedish clothing giant Hennes and Mauritz, popularly known as H&M had to take out a racially insensitive product described in the overview as 'Nigga Lab Beanie'.

In the recent past: H&M's collaborated with Italian designer Giambattista Valli accompanied by a tagline – 'I ❤️ GBV’ – the initials of the designer did not go well with women’s rights campaigners because the initials of the designer as GBV is also a widely used acronym for "gender-based violence". H&M said the association is unintentional. But Women’s rights activities demanded that the products be withdrawn. Then there was, H&M's "Coolest Monkey in the Jungle" sweatshirts. Infamous!

One thing that has been consistent here, we notice, that when a brand 's advertising and branding process lacks Diversity Of Thought on the drawing board, this sort of insouciant messaging is the most likely outcome which in turn leads to poorly thought-out abbreviations, slogans, product descriptions and in some cases the product itself.

Like in the Beauty and Skincare business Colourism seems to be a huge problem as some keep coming up with racist campaigns without giving inclusive messaging much thought!
It's a problem we've discussed over and over again in our blog:

Hoodies, an Israeli clothing company's latest commercial shows a woman (Bar Refaeli) ripping off a niqab showing off the brand's Winter '18-19 collection. 

Dolce & Gabbana, The Chopsticks Controversy, and The Ethnocentrism Row. Why #ChinaHatesDG

Gucci advertised for a Diversity and Inclusion job in the wake of Blackface controversy shortly after their black $890 balaclava sweater with red lips became a viral sensation for the wrong reason of course.

Why would responsible consumers want to spend money with brands that consistently get it wrong? BTW, using the word "Nigga" is not just insensitive - it's ignorant and speaks to the heart of those using it because they also commit domestic violence, are misogynists, anti-semitists, homophobic, and anti-anything because when you feed hate, you nourish it and it takes over. That narrative also becomes the brand's default DNA.

Inclusive messaging and Inclusive Products & Services are interrelated.  Read on as we explore the connection:

Redefined aspirations are transforming the ways organizations deliver value for their diverse customers. Organizations need to reflect on a truer representation of the diversity of their customers and a diaspora of identities -professional ethnic/ racial to gain a diminished groupthink and, genuine brand value and customer orientation. 

There is a new paradigm shift to go back to the roots and basics and reconnect with a value-driven inclusion-sensitive and highly evolved consumer of today.

Everything related to diverse customers is encompassed in a layer of Inclusion and brands are coerced to review their inclusive touch-points in the wake of this disruption. This is a classic conundrum faced by many products and services organizations, mostly Tech companies that have predominantly been late adopters and are still eschewing large-scale diversification of thought in their products and services portfolio in the weight of its implications.

Organizations are facing other challenges as just having a D&I strategy isn't enough anymore as their efforts seem akin to blindly throwing darts at a board missing the target and not producing the desired results. The right messaging strategy has become the deciding factor of the tenacity to survive for a brand. There must be a huge emphasis on making content that is as diverse and inclusive to all as possible. This is our tuppence-worth observation.

❂Diverse Customers

 are a lot aware and value sensitivity because they can share online reviews and make deep-dive comparisons via user-generated-content that makes it all possible with a click of a button. In a matter of few dislikes, a brand's image can come crashing down.