Can Clicks win back the public's trust following their hair ad fiasco?

10 September 2020 - 09:08 By Thango Ntwasa
Clicks needs to work hard to restore its reputation following an offensive advert on its website, say experts. File Photo.
Clicks needs to work hard to restore its reputation following an offensive advert on its website, say experts. File Photo.
Image: Gallo Images/Charles Gallo

While Clicks may not be the first company to find itself in the trenches after publishing an advert that was seen to be racially insensitive, the situation highlights how hard it is for even the most beloved brands to win back the public’s trust after making such a blunder.

As trends analyst and cultural strategist Nicola Cooper puts it: “If consumers are going to spend their money with you, they want to feel respected and represented. If you have lost that, undoing [the damage caused] is far more laborious than the incident [itself].”

The health and beauty retailer has faced a fierce backlash since Friday, when an offensive advert created by haircare brand TRESemmé was published on its website. It included visuals of white hair marked “normal” and “flat and fine” and of African hair labelled “dry and damaged” and “frizzy and dull”. 

Media strategist Tshego Mosiane believes that to win back the public’s trust, Clicks “really needs to go above and beyond to show” their inclusivity.

“For instance, [they] had the Natural Hair Festival, they need to bring that back times a hundred,” she says, adding that the company also needs to highlight its sensitivity and growth.

Clicks 'really needs to go above and beyond to show' their inclusivity
Tshego Mosiane, media stratergist

“A lot of brands have had racist incidents and have been able to come back, but they have to double down on the diversity, inclusivity and transparency,” she explains.

“When [Clicks] hire a hopefully majority black women digital agency to help them with their e-commerce site and then make that announcement, that will be the best PR move.”

When brands misstep, they “need to offer actionable points that they can be gauged and measured against,” says Cooper.“ That is the only way to regain trust with your consumers. You need to own your mistakes.”

Here's how Clicks has handled the situation so far:

FRIDAY

Following the public outcry, the company removed the advert from its website and issued a public apology on social media.

Members of the EFF, led by deputy president Floyd Shivambu, protested outside the Clicks retail store in Sandton City as part of a nationwide protest on September 7 2020. This comes after the retail group released a TRESemmé advert on its website that has been condemned by the EFF as racist. Meanwhile, police are investigating several incidents across the country where stores were vandalised.

MONDAY

Clicks announced that it could not close its stores for five days, as demanded by the EFF, as they provided a “much-needed healthcare service to South Africans”.

TimesLIVE reported that the party had called for the company to do so because, it claimed, the apology it issued was not genuine.

The company said it had put plans in place to ensure the security of its staff and customers in response to the EFF’s threat to shut down its stores nationwide.

TUESDAY

Following protests around the country in response to the advert, Clicks said it had accepted the resignation of a senior executive who was responsible for it and that the staff responsible for publishing it on their website had been suspended.

It added that it would remove all TRESemmé products from its shelves and replace them with local haircare brands.

Clicks representatives met with a delegation from the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation. According to the foundation's antiracism manager Busisiwe Nkosi, they were informed that “Clicks would be implementing a number of proactive measures to prevent incidents such as this from recurring”. Read more here.

WEDNESDAY

Clicks closed its stores for the day to provide counselling and support to staff affected by the protests.

Additional reporting by Toni Jaye Singer.

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