Evolution of Communication Strategy

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  • Topic: Benetton Group, Advertising, Oliviero Toscani
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  • Published : October 8, 2008
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Benetton Group:
Evolution of Communication Strategy

This case was written by Senthil Ganesan with the help of Vamsi Krihna Thota, ICRAI Knowledge Center. It is intended to be used as the basis for class discussion rather than to illustrate either effective or ineffective handling of a management situation.

The case was compiled from published sources.

______________________________________________________________________________ © 2003, ICFAI Knowledge Center, Hyderabad, India

The purpose of advertising is not to sell more. It’s to do with institutional publicity, whose aim is to communicate the company's values (...) We need to convey a single strong image, which can be shared anywhere in the world. - Luciano Benetton, Founder and Chairman1

When Life magazine makes a cover about war, it makes the cover to inform, but also to sell the magazine and to sell the advertising pages inside the magazine -- Chivas Regal and all the others. So Time magazine and all the others make a cover to inform and to sell. To do what I do, I do that to sell but also to inform. And as soon as you inform, people point a finger at you and say, "You are exploiting!" No. It's the people who don't even inform [who are exploiting]. I don't care about the rejection; I'm not afraid to be rejected. Actually, it's a big honor in this world

- Oliviero Toscani, Benetton Creative Director and Photographer (1982 – 2000)2
Benetton Group*: Evolution of Communication Strategy
Introduction

Benetton, the Italian retailer was engaged in the manufacturing and distribution of clothing, undergarments, shoes, cosmetics and accessories. Benetton also licensed its brand name to various manufacturers of sunglasses, stationery, cosmetics, linens, watches, toys, steering wheels, golf equipment, designer condoms and luggage. The group’s important brands included United Colors of Benetton (UCB), Sisley, PlayLife and Killer Loop. During fiscal 2002, Benetton reported revenues of €1.99 billion and net income of €128 million. Benetton spent €102 million on advertising and promotion during the year (see Exhibit I for revenue split-up and Exhibit II for financial highlights). In addition to retail outlets around the world, Benetton also operated megastores (3000 square foot stores) in such cities as Paris, Rome, Kobe, Osaka, New York, London, Moscow and Lisbon. As of 2002, the company operated in about 120 countries through its 5000 retail stores and employed about 7250 people.

Benetton was well known for its colorful and provocative advertisements (Benetton termed its advertising and marketing activities as Communication Strategy). The company employed unusual, controversial advertising techniques and themes that used “shock value” and the power of photography to grab viewers’ attention. Unlike most advertisements which centered around a company’s product or image, Benetton’s advertising campaigns focused on social and political issues like racial integration, AIDS awareness, war, poverty, child labor, death, pollution etc. The advertisements initially succeeded in raising the brand's profile, but eventually began to cause dissatisfaction among customers, retailers, government bodies and various international non-profit organizations.

Some of Benetton’s most memorable advertisements were a priest and a nun kissing, a just born baby with uncut umbilical cord, a black stallion and a white mare mating, a colorful mix of condoms, a black woman breast- feeding a white baby, the photo of an AIDS victim and his family taken moments before his death, the bloody uniform of a dead Bosnian soldier (See Exhibit: II for Benetton’s advertisements).

Following the controversy surrounding a particularly provocative campaign called “We, On Death Row,” Oliviero Toscani, Benetton’s Creative Director and...
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