Living in South Africa, you may not have heard of the clothing company United Colors of Benetton, but this Italian fashion brand that is a global phenomenon is worth mentioning. Whether it’s their online marketing or their provocative print adverts, we thought we’d give them a nod on their marketing in this article.
Although they sell clothing across the globe, United Colors of Benetton have a totally unique take on their marketing. Rather than just punting their products to all and sundry, they try to “make people talk, to develop citizen consciousness.” This is what Luciano Benetton, one of the founding members of the business, has said about their controversial ads.
Although we love most them, without further ado, let’s take a look at our four favourites.
Immediately arresting, the grotesque and all-too-real nature of these hearts shows that, no matter what race or culture a person is, we’re all essentially the same. The political correctness of the titles of Black, White, and Yellow themselves may be up for discussion, but the message is still immediately apparent.
Another image that brutally commands us not to take our eyes away, this advert depicts a newborn baby and takes on new meaning when we look at it in context. It was part of a campaign in 1993 that tackled the issue of HIV and Aids, which was still extremely controversial then. The baby is lying in an almost deathly repose, and the message here is clear: a child born into HIV is between two worlds – life and death.
United Colors of Benetton is well-known for supporting the World Food Programme, which aims to end world hunger, and the brand took on the issue in 1997 with this startling image. Rather than depicting a starving individual, they show a human body that would be perfectly healthy except for the missing limb. Replacing the man’s hand with a misshapen spoon extension, the advert says that hunger takes just about everything away from a person.
Out of all of them, this one is our particular favourite. In an instant, it smashes racial and homosexual stereotypes to pieces. The fact that the women’s hands are clasped together, around the baby, is what truly makes this advert so powerful. This ad is from 1991, proving that the fashion brand has been ahead of the curve for a long, long time.
All images: United Colors of Benetton