Friday, 25 February 2011

United Values of Benetton

In the spring of 1996, billboards all over the world were invaded by an image of three hearts overprinted with the words “White, Black, Yellow” - the new anti-racist message launched by United Colors of Benetton in conjunction with SOS Racisme.
Benetton SpA, a family-run apparel company, initiated a worldwide print advertising campaign in 1982 to promote its chic line of colorful youth-oriented clothing.
Under the direction of award-winning fashion photographer Oliviero Toscani, the "United Colors of Benetton" campaign continued through 1998. Instead of showing pieces of clothes,  Benetton marketers released photographs that were lauded by other advertising agencies, banned by governments, reviled by newspaper columnists and social critics, and successfully created an extremely high profile for the brand.

The first part of the united colours campign was based on confilcts: racial, sexual and moral. All of these conflicts were based on taboos, on the impossibility of co-existence, on a difference that separates rather than unites. The Benetton brand made a commitment to foster the cohabitation of opposites, to break down barriers and ensure dialogue and to unite differences under a single flag, the flag of its own logo.

Luciano Benetton, the company founder, told the Times (London) that "the company's goal is to communicate, to invite discussion and debate about the universal issues and problems that affect us all. Our advertising is designed to overcome at times … the barriers of indifference everywhere."
Instead of reproducing the tired images of glamorous women that characterized the vast majority of fashion advertising, Benetton tried to make the company's image unique going to the heart of society's collective yearning for peace, unity and harmony. People were buying the message, and the image, when they bought the label.

Benetton advertising strategy has aimed to create “value” by capitalizing on an image.
A company that emphasizes value and chooses to create value is no longer communicating with the consumer but with the individual, as a result the brand identified its target on the basis of a shared vision of what is important, starting from a set of common values.

The Benetton campaign was perfectly suited to the audience of 18- to 34-year-olds.
By promoting Benetton as a company concerned about social issues and unafraid to buck the establishment, the campaign resonated with many of their  ideals and values.
Moreover, a sizable portion of the intended audience of the "United Colors" campaign were members of the so-called generation X (born between late 60s and early 80s), who had been raised with television and a steady barrage of advertising messages.
(See also "Generational Marketing"
These consumers were often bored with conventional, "buy this product because… " marketing techniques. To succeed with this group, it was imperative to stand out from the mass of advertising. The campaign's in-your-face attitude was designed to achieve exactly this result by placing Benetton's spots in contrast to some of the more mundane advertising.
The issues explored in the Benetton campaigns that drew the most criticism were those that were the most familiar to generation X consumers.
As the younger audience had grown up in the era of AIDS the prevention was a message they had heard time and again, and they responded to this issue in a way older consumers did not.

Similarly, while the campaign's melting of advertising and journalism was heavily criticized generation Xers, used to hyped "entertainment news",  were more apt to view this as appropriate or interesting.


What are values?
How can they influence a consumer behaviour?

Conceptualization of the term value reflect the interest of several disciplines:

- Sociology: "a value is a concept which groups toghether  some modes of behaviour in our society." (Bronowsky)

- Psychology: "a value is a centrally held, enduring belief which guides actions and judgements across specific situations and beyond immediate goals to more ultimate end-states of existence." (Rokeach)

- Marketing: "a value is the extent to which a good or service is perceived by its customer to meet his or her needs or wants. The willingness to purchase a product commonly depends more on the customer's perception of the worth of it than on its intrinsic value." (Vinson et al.)

Those definitions suggest a close connection between values, beliefs, needs, goals and end states.

Needs and beliefs are closely interlinked in the creation of values (Weller) which will drive consumer purchasing decision.

Maslow created a hierarchy of needs in 1954 in order to explain how people's values and consequent attitudes change on the base of end states achievement.

Having fulfilled low-hierarchy needs, customers will reach the self-actualization stage which is the one in which Benetton adverts operate.

According to the psycologyst Milton Rokeach attitudes can be identified with Instrumental values which are actions needed to achieve terminal values or end states (Solomon et al.).

For a World of peace, equality and inner harmony, somebody would be broad-minded and responsible which are values linked to Benetton products through the United Colors campaign.

Consumers tend to link specific product attitudes to terminal values therefore they value products if they provide the means to some desired ends.

Consumers' associations between specific attributes are through a technique called laddering.

"The Answer to the Great Question, of Life, the Universe and Consumer Behaviour is...The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Customer" said Deep Thought, with infinite majesty and calm.

Hang on to your towel and see you soon Space wanderers!


>Bronowsky, J. (1990) Science and Human Values. New York: Harper Perennial
>Rokeach, M. (1973). The Nature of Human Values. New York: Free Press
>Solomon, M., Bamossy, G., Askegaard, S., & Hogg, M. (2010). Consumer Behaviour: a european perspective.
>Vinson, E. E., Scott, J. E., and Lamont, L. M. (1977). The Role of Personal Values in Marketing and Consumer Behavior. Journal of Marketing. (April), 44-50
>Weller, D. (1974). Who buys: a study of the consumer. London: Sir Isaac Pitman and sons.

The Benetton Unhate campaign 2011

The images are digitally manipulated but they send a pointed message. The newly unveiled UNHATE Foundation seeks to promote a culture of tolerance and combat hatred around the world, the company said in a news release.

“Unhate is a message that invites us to consider that hate and love are not as far away from each other as we think,” the campaign’s website said. “Actually, the two opposing sentiments are often in a delicate and unstable balance. Our campaign promotes a shift in the balance: don’t hate, Unhate.”

The website features photos of people holding large banners of the images “on the walls of locations symbolic of the desperately-needed peace process: Tel Aviv, New York, Rome, Milan and Paris,” the news release says.

Palestian leader Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu kissing in Tel-Aviv
The ads have already become a source of controversy.
After the images went up, the Vatican quickly denounced an image of Pope Benedict XVI kissing Egyptian Imam Ahmed el Tayyeb on the lips.

Vatican spokesman the Rev. Federico Lombardi called the digitally altered image an “unacceptable” and offensive manipulation of the pope’s likeness, according to the Associated Press.
Benetton removed the image shortly thereafter and it is no longer on the website.


  1. Truly excellent - what a great way of discussing values

  2. I have always like the advertising strategy of United Colors of Benetton.