Apology over Dove’s racist ad ‘went down like eating airplane food in coach’, says marketing guru Eric Schiffer

Controversial advertisements and campaigns have been run by brands for decades – and they always end with serious backlash from consumers.

With numerous advertising flops in the past to reference, we thought that brands would have learnt how to avoid such mishaps by now.

But with huge fast moving consumer goods companies – including Pepsi and Dove -releasing infamous ads that fell flat on their faces recently, we were clearly proven wrong.

In an email interview with Business Insider, Eric Schiffer, who is chairman and CEO of Reputation Management Consultants and Patriarch Equity, and chairman of DigitalMarketing.com, laid out two tips that brands should follow to avoid such backlash.

Companies should have “brand checks prior to public messaging”, and hire the right people.

And by right people, he means “people who have cultural awareness and solid emotional intelligence that won’t create a marketing disaster over outlandishly poor judgement”.

Following these two steps will ensure a strong brand image, and that will build trust between brands and their consumers.

That seems simple enough.

But of course, this trust “can be destroyed when brands act in ways that breach principles that are known to the public”, says Schiffer who also serves as a trusted advisor to multiple Fortune 500 CEOs, foreign business leaders, and Forbes 400 billionaires.

Dove’s recent faux pas serves as a classic example of such a case.

The advertisement released by Dove earlier this month for its body lotion saw a black woman turning into a white woman. It ended on a low note, with the company apologising to its customers for “missing the mark”.

The advertisement itself was “an epic failure in internal checks and balances, and showed their marketers have the messaging acumen of a sea monkey”, said Schiffer.

And Dove’s apology was no better.

Schiffer says the apology “went down like eating airplane food in coach. It was canned, disingenuous and admitted to gross incompetence”.

He says: “Dove took a firm known to embrace diversity and women and initiated brand suicide starting with their well cleaned middle finger at a large swath of their customers”.


But yes, we agree that there’s no way around it – it was a marketing disaster.

Instead, the company should have taken time to rebuild its reputation with the affected communities and made an example of the people who made the “flawed choice that led Dove to experience an international embarrassment”, said Schiffer.