NEW DELHI :
Kumbh Mela, the world’s largest religious and spiritual event, is an assured marketing congregation for brands. However, the recently concluded event turned out to be a bitter experience for Hindustan Unilever (HUL) which was caught in a Twitter storm over its campaign for tea brand Red Label.
The company’s Twitter handle tweeted about the Red Label Kumbh Mela ad which features a son trying to abandon his elderly father until his conscious tells him otherwise. The tweet stated that
'KumbhMela is a place where old people get abandoned, isn't it said that we do not care for our elders? Red Label encourages us to hold the hands of those who made us who we are. Watch the heartwarming video; an eye opener to a harsh reality.'
The message didn’t go down well with Twitterati who targeted the multinational for being insensitive and disrespectful towards Hindu customs and started attacking the company using#BoycottHindustanUnilever. HUL’s competitor and promoter of Patanjali Ayurved Ltd Baba Ramdev also jumped in and accused HUL for ridiculing Hindu religion and customs and for being profit driven.
“Their only agenda is to make the country poor economically and ideologically. Why should we not boycott them? For them everything, every emotion is just a commodity. For us parents are next to Gods #BoycottHindustanUnilever," Ramdev tweeted.
The hashtag #BoycottHindustanUnilever gained momentum through the day and started trending forcing HUL to withdraw and moderate the tweet which sparked the debate. The company sprung into action and tweeted the ad with a relatively neutral message stating 'RedLabel encourages us to hold the hands of those who made us who we are. Watch the heart-warming video #ApnoKoApnao'
“Through the Brooke Bond Red Label campaign, our intention is to urge people to take care of the elderly. We do not intend to hurt the sentiments of people, and have modified the tweet which could have been inadvertently misconstrued," said a HUL spokesperson in an emailed response to Mint.
According to Saurabh Uboweja, chief executive at management consulting firm Brands of Desire, the tweet was a blunder from one of the largest FMCG companies in the world. “It violates the most fundamental principle of brand building. You cannot build your own equity by reducing the equity of your consumers, in this case by making them appear insensitive, reducing their prestige and hurting their self esteem," he said.
However, Uboweja is quick to add that the tweet might not really have a huge impact on the sales of their consumer brands barring Red Label tea. “Except the marketing elite and a few thousand people on Twitter, most consumers won’t even know this happened. More importantly, consumers don’t easily recognize the owners of consumers brands. This would surely hurt their corporate brand, especially in the eyes of their own people and other key stakeholders directly impacted by the HUL brand," he added.