Ana Bisciello

Nightmare on Nivea Street

Ana Bisciello
Nightmare on Nivea Street

Welcome to Nightmare on Nivea Street, where a public relation nightmare can poison a brand's image.

In today's news, headlines have never been more controversial and consumers have never been more engaged. Between politics, race and pop culture, the conversation never ends. Social media platforms have not only become news outlets, but they have become an outlet for consumers to express their opinions. Brands need to take this into consideration when launching an edgy or controversial campaign. This year, major players like Pepsi, Dove and Nivea have experienced their own social media crisis, where they have been labeled tone deaf and racist – not a good look for three major players in the market. So, let's take a stroll down the Nightmare on Nivea Street. 

Nivea experienced their own social media crisis when they launched a campaign for their new deodorant, Invisible for Black and White. To support the launch, Nivea targeted followers of their brand in the Middle East with Facebook ads stating, “White is Purity."  The caption to this ad read, “Keep it clean, keep bright. Don't let anything ruin it, #Invisible." It is also important to note that this campaign launched simultaneously to the rise of the white supremacy conversation in the United States...try not to grind your teeth with this one. Needless to say, it was obvious that Nivea was not paying attention to the socio-cultural and political conversations occurring – and people quickly noticed.

For those who saw the ad, they expressed their reactions on their social media platforms. Some of the comments read, “What the HELL is this? White Purity? Shame, Shame, Shame on you. Fire your marketing person and anyone who approved this ad."  ..sucks to be that marketing person...

Other comments said: "Wow @NiveaUSA. This is horrendous. Your comments are FULL of society's refuse. This cleared your marketing department? #prnightmare" Nightmare, disaster, hell? Yep you guessed it - all of the above. 

In lieu of this online controversy, Nivea released a statement saying, “We are deeply sorry to anyone who may take offense to this specific post. After realizing that the post is misleading, it was immediately withdrawn. Diversity and equal opportunity are crucial values of NIVEA: The brand represents diversity, tolerance, and equal opportunity. We value difference. Direct or indirect discrimination must be ruled out in all decisions by, and in all areas of our activities."

You may be thinking, "Wow, this was a hard hit - how can Nivea recover from this?" I was thinking that too, but apparently this isn't the first time they've received backlash for their controversial campaigns. Most recently, their new online promotion of their skin-lightening cream, Natural Fairness, caused a similar uproar. This promotion was aired in Ghana, Africa and soon became viral after William Adoasi, a London entrepreneur, shared it on Twitter. 

You know as the old saying goes, "Fool me once, shame on me. Fool me twice, shame on you." Shame on you Nivea. Shame. On. You.

In cases like this, I believe that the PR team and Marketing team should work in conjunction to create a message that can be pushed out on all channels to effectively communicate the crisis and how they will move forward. With Nivea's situation, it is clear that their original released statement did not hold true for other controversial campaigns. I believe it could have been avoided if more research was conducted regarding the socio-cultural and political climate and the timing of the ad. Being that the topic of white supremacy was at it's peak during this time period, they could have pulled the ad prior so it avoided this exact situation. In addition to their White is Purity uproar, Nivea should have took the consumer's feedback into consideration for future campaigns, like Natural Fairness. It seems to me that Nivea is completely misaligned with their product, message and mission. It's 2017 - let's get it together. 

People often tell you that when walking alone late at night, you have to be aware of your surroundings. This analogy holds true for brands, as they have to be aware of their surroundings not only in the marketplace, but in the world.