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Marketing Communication in Benetton Evaluation Essay

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The advertising objectives of the two companies

The advertising objective of Benetton group was to create awareness about the brand and at the same time inform potential consumers about the ideals that the company supports.

This strategy was supposed to evoke emotions and to attach them to the company’s brand so that consumers can see it either as an agreeable personality or as an offending one or even a controversial personality.

In this strategy, the objective of the company, which was to create awareness and imprint its logo in consumer’s memory, would be realized easily. Benetton used its controversial approach to advertising as a way to appear unique among its competitors.

On the other hand, the objective of Yeo Valley was to inform customers of its products and to demystify the notion that organic foods must always be expensive and only to the rich.

Several theories can explain the way advertising works, and these theories are useful for understanding the objectives of the two companies and their reason for the particular advertising strategies that they chose.

Theories can either be on a singular version relating to the notion of hierarchy-of-effect. They can also be considering a multiple process approach and at the same time highlight the importance of location or brand attitude as the main communication objective.

Irrespective of the underlying theory, communication ideas for advertising usually require companies to include six steps in separate or combined form. The steps are to become an advocate of the product, service or cause and then learn everything about it before going on to create an ad.

The second one is to learn about the target audience in conventional and specific terms that relate to the business such as their location and their opinion about the competition.

The third step is to take the information learned about clients and target audience and to use it to come up with ideas and philosophies or techniques that can work.

With several ideas in place, the fourth step is to expand on a few main ideas to ensure they communicate the message well. The next step is execution of the ideas and the last one is to collect feedback about the advertising.

Based on the above six steps, the two companies appear to have met the criteria and this enabled them to achieve their objectives. For example, Benetton first defined its communication message and then proceeded to come up with advertising ideas that would help it create the relevant ads.

The use of an internal ad team allowed it to control the process and to use ads that were coherent with the intentions of top management at the firm.

The company collected feedback through media reactions of the ads it ran. In some cases, the feedback was bad and required public apologies from the company. Overall, Benetton could tell the success or failure of the ads by its performance in the market (Wardle, 2002).

Yeo Valley also followed the steps to achieve its objective of reversing misconceptions about organic food and to promote its organic milk product.

It collected feedback through surveys and was able to engage consumers using social media, which helped Yeo Valley to determine whether its strategy was working or not. This came after extensive research into consumer trends and opinions on organic foods (Tiltman, 2011).

Discussion on advantages and disadvantages of the advertising campaign used by Benetton for many years

Benetton opted to capture social issues and highlight them in its advertisement for company values of promoting equality for all. When evaluating the ads in a postmodern society, they appear suiting to the characteristic of restlessness and use of an uncertain environment.

They show that the company is not taking a business as usual approach and instead is trying to rearrange social power though advertising activism. In society, advertising works as a source of propaganda and people gain satisfaction when they purchase.

Advertising at its core tries to sell a product by associating it with a particular socially efficacious characteristic such as what Benetton did with its “united colours of Benetton” ad campaign.

The ads point to a preindustrial age where the object was to focus on events rather than objects where consumers would look at particular events such as arrival of ships and remember that it was time to make particular purchases.

Today, the same would be applicable when talking of the arrival of new stock or holidays that come with massive sales from most companies (Bernardin et al., 2009).

Advertising as Benetton case showed is a powerful social force but it caters mostly for mass consumers and does not actually change their attitudes and behaviours.

The disadvantage of the Benetton historical approach is that it was concerned with changing people’s opinions about social issues that may or may not relate to the brand (Tungate, 2007). Although the brand would benefit by staying in the news for various reasons, it also clearly demarcated itself.

In one communication, it would appeal to a segment of consumers only to lose them in another communication attempt. The campaign failed to realize that people harbour different sentiments on different social issues. Thus, being controversial alienates some of its customer bases (Tiltman, 2011).

The ad campaign did well in packaging people’s emotions and selling it back to them in a classic sense of what advertising is supposed to do (Wardle, 2002). Good advertising works as a mirror to society where individuals see their fears and aspirations and channel the feelings into consumer choices.

Thus, by using already existing social concerns, the ads excelled because they functioned by redirecting issues that target audiences already shared. For example, some ads by Benetton used images that highlight social attitudes about poverty and homosexuality as cues to sell to people.

Since the ads were using contrasting images, they were very attractive and the social nature of the contrast created enough interest to cause viewers to take more time and analyse the ad. As they did, they internalized the message and the slogan of the company.

They would recall it later when making purchases. The same would happen whenever they interacted with the company slogan again. This method allowed ads by the company to remain timeless as compared to the competition (Sutton, 2009).

A disadvantage of controversial advertising strategy is that provoking thoughts of consumers does not always work as expected. It can backfire not only on the company’s reputation but also on its finances. In the US, Benetton had to pay fines and it was banned in Germany (Ganesan, 2003).

These outcomes can create adequate public hype about a company or a brand, but without access to particular markets, they end up being advertising funds spend for no monetary benefits in return (The Economist, 2004).

The ad campaigns by Benetton were also not working because the company was relying on one strategy when pursuing a global brand building campaign. It should have recognized differing cultures, ideologies and opinions among and within countries (Percy, 2008).

Disadvantages of overlooking cultural and market differences in advertising arise when words have different meanings to different people yet the company persists with one slogan and communication method.

For example, the company sought to express its values of equality using images, but the same equality message would be empowering to some people and disempowering to others.

Instead of noticing these differences caused by people’s culture in some countries, it went ahead to create additional ads with the same underlying message. This only worked to alienate some people from the brand.

Those oppressed because of allowing equal access to dangerous people or groups in society would not take the message well (Phillips, Doole & Lowe, 2008). A universal approach fails to recognize the predominant stereotype that could be influencing perceptions of equality (Pincas and Loiseau, 2008).

In predominant white populations as in most of the Western world, minorities are interpreted in the mainstream according to the way the overall white population accepts and views them.

Thus, in advertising, equal representation will seek to make minorities of race, economic states or cultures achieve similar standards as the dominant population. However, since the view used is the one popular with the majority, it may not capture the actual wishes of the minority.

In the Benetton case, a disadvantage of its adverting approach was that, the message communicated to the majority in any particular issues was not the same as the one communicated to the minority despite the use of a universal message.

For example, some African-Americans felt offended by an image of a black woman feeding a white baby, and some white people may be offended by the same image for its associated corruption of the white race.

Nevertheless, these sentiments belong to minorities, but highlighted them can have a negative impact on the overall association of the ad communication strategy of Benetton (Ganesan, 2003).

Although the appeal by Benetton was well intentioned, its effect could be fearful and tormenting to some audiences.

The emotions evoked could linger in the target person’s memory for long after viewing the ad and can even spark social discussions on the issues to arouse additional negative emotions that will channel back to the brand.

In the end, the brand becomes very popular, but rather than promote equality, it creates more animosity for those who like it against those who do not agree with its adverting principles (Nan and Faber, 2004).

However, there is a benefit associated with controversially separating the target community.

The ad ends up creating a community of loyal followers and defenders of its ideals, which translates to brand ambassadors that act as key influencers in the rest of society and help the company to achieve its objectives of growing sales or increasing awareness without incurring additional costs.

Controversy is an essential element for making advertising messages go viral (Scott & Scott, 2011).

Types of companies that might find the type of advertisement effective

The mandate for companies to support social and environmental issues is loud and comes from increasing global consumer awareness and activism practices. Companies have to embrace social issues as part of their business growth strategies (O’Barr, 2010).

Therefore, embracing social issues as part of advertising can be a welcome twist that connects them well with their target consumer communities. Nevertheless, the suitability of a given advertising strategy to controversial social issues remains limited to particular industries and nature of business together with company objectives.

In this regard, the following are some of the companies that are use the model of Benetton in advertising and be effective (O’Barr, 2007).

Companies believing that there are only shocking realities and no shocking pictures could include advocacy and consulting companies seeking to promote corporate or individual behaviour change.

Here companies seek to make subsequent images of their advertising unique so that they can be provocative and create a scandal (Moriarty et al., 2015).

A company that is entering a highly competitive market can benefit greatly from shock advertising because it will be able to create a lot of buzz in a short time with a limited budget.

Companies dealing in high street fashion are an example, because they need to create hype about their new clothing lines just in time for a particular season and use up the generated attention to make sales before rivals react to the marketing strategy (Schultz and Schultz, 2004).

A company that is seeking to promote an alternative product to an addictive product is also a good candidate for shock advertising. A company that is making electronic cigarettes can use shocking images of traditional cigarette smokers or associated effects of the smoking to pass its message (Mooij and Hofstede, 2010).

Another good candidate for shock advertising is a children’s home, a charitable organization or a company that is carrying out social sensitive corporate social responsibility projects such as feeding the homeless.

Concordia Children’s Services, an organization from Philippines in 2008 carried out a print and online ad campaign showing pig breastfeeding human babies similar to the way it would breastfeed several piglets concurrently.

The ad was controversial and included a copy message of “if you don’t help them, who will?” It also included a number and the name of the organization. The contrast was interesting and thought provoking just as Benetton ads are (Bashin, 2011).

Analysis of Yeo Valley’s 2010 campaign

The Yeo Valley’s 2010 campaign was successful in its attempt to create seek attention, create interest and drive through a particular communication to compel viewers to act in a certain way.

With the hierarchy model of advertising, which contributes to the hierarchy-of-effects theory, a consumer moves through three main stages namely cognitive stage, affective stage and finally behavioral stage. An effective ad is the one that allows consumers to transition smoothly through all the three stages.

Ads that fail and lose consumers in any part of the process will not succeed overall. Therefore, every part of the model is essential. In the actual hierarchy-of-effects theory, consumers move from awareness to knowledge and this are all parts of the cognitive stage (Ganesan, 2003).

In the Yeo Valley’s 2010 campaign, consumers already first become aware of the farmers and the musical nature of the ad and then they realize that is actually farmers who are rapping. The ad uses their knowledge of hip-hop culture of rapping and they might have seen in popular hip-hop music videos.

The ad combines it with their awareness of farmers and the familiarity of a farm with its machinery and buildings. Shooting the video in a farm quickly places the ad in context.

The controversial image of farmers rapping creates interest, but to sustain the interest, which comes as the next step in the hierarchy-of-effects theory, the farmers mimic actual hip-hop videos and glorify their farm equipment, their clothing and the product, which is Yeo Valley’s yoghurt.

There are scenes of cows with tags and neckbands that mimic scenes in actual rapping videos where rappers show their chains and glamorous wristwatches. There is a repeated scene of a tractor lifting itself on its back wheel and excavator (Covert, 2011).

The interest in the ad is sustained by actual lyrics of the ad that communicate the brand message, informing people about the culture of consuming organic milk products is cool just the way hip-hop and rap music is cool.

The strategy is appealing to a young population that is the target market, and this makes the ad effective (Barker & Angelopulo, 2006). The final steps of the advertising model are evaluation, trial and evaluation.

The ad succeed in making customers evaluate its products, and try them from stores then evaluating the product in relation to its advertised ideals as captured by customer feedback on the ad and on social media (BBC, 2011).

The source of the ad communication is Yeo Valley and its message is that the company is capable of coming up with slick products and practices that make its customers appeal cool. In addition, the company is passing on the message that it is in harmony with nature.

Customers receive cues about Yeo Valley showing the company following natural farming practices in a passionate way to make a difference in people’s lives. The channel for communication was online video, traditional media and social media.

The traditional media airing of the video helped to create awareness, while the other two channels allowed the company to benefit from the awareness through sustained word-of-mouth referrals for the ad and adequate sensitization of the brand and the product.

This eventually compelled people to try the product and evaluate it (Scott and Scott, 2011).

Effect of marketing communication strategy of Benetton and Yeo Valley on the society

The communication strategies of the two companies create new goals for advertising because they shatter social expectations. They increase the achievement threshold of advertising by extending the scope of traditional channels and designs of communication brand awareness beyond features that already familiar to consumers.

On the other hand, the brands make it possible for companies to change consumer perception about particular social issues that go beyond a particular product or brand. Benetton succeeded in highlighting plight of the minority and needy is several aspects of conventional stereotype images.

Yeo Valley succeed in changing perception of its target community about organic foods in general and to increase support for natural farming practices by dissociating the practice with wealthy consumers and instead attaching it to a sustainability cause for the environment (Acton, 2011).

Advertising that breaches social norms ends up creating more fear as the ideal method of advertising and the overall effect is that companies heighten fear levels in society than may work in the short term but alienate consumers in the end.

Society ends up getting used to more stimulating images and videos of advertisements and immunity to advertising increases overall. Even with shock advertising, there is always a better and more effective method of arousing interest and causing scandal compared to what currently works in the market.

Therefore, firm are always playing catch-up to each other, and end up desensitizing consumers on the issues that they are supposed to arouse caring feelings (Batra, Myers and Aaker, 2006).

However, the advertising strategy of the two companies also demonstrates the capabilities of non-verbal communication as an effective way of penetrating particular messages to consumers without risking alienation.

It also shows that advertising is merging with other traditional forms of marketing to become a continuum rather than discrete segments.

With interactivity built into advertising, the society is getting powers to shape advertising by companies through real-time reactions that defend a brand or tarnish it in public. Thus, companies are able to embrace advertising as a cyclic process in their marketing communication strategy.


The marketing communication strategy by Benetton and Yeo Valley is unique because it relies on novelty of concepts and communication messages. This paper analysed the two company marketing communication strategies to show some similarities sand unique features.

The two companies succeed in different ways, but the turnaround in the Benetton strategy as explained in the case study shows that a shock-advertising model might not work so well for many companies.

The controversies created by ads require additional marketing campaigns to correct and this can defeat the purpose of going with the strategy in the first place.

Reference List

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Barker, R. and Angelopulo, G. (2006). Integrated organisational communication. Cape Town: Juta.

Bashin, K. (2011) , 16 July, Web.

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BBC (2011) , Web.

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Percy, L. (2008). Strategic integrated marketing communications. Oxford: Butterworth-Heinemann.

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Sutton, D.H. (2009) Globalizing ideal beauty: How female copywriters of the J. Water Thompson Advertising Agency redefined beauty of for the twentieth century, New York: Palgrave Macmillian.

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Tungate, M. (2007) A global history of advertising, London: Kogan-Page.

Wardle, J. (2002) Developing advertising with qualitative market research, New York: Sage Publications.

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