The United Colors of Benetton- Case Study

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The Bennoton case is very original. Their ad campaigns use what they refer to as “shock value” in order to attract customers, not only to their product but to help people focus on global problems. It is a very unconventional method, though I believe it has achieved its goals. Many people have been paying attention to such advertisements and won’t soon forget the Benetton brand. As Toscani said in the case study “Most good ads are forgotten after six months, but who still remembers the Benetton ad with the priest kissing the nun? Ten years later and people remember! That’s mortality!” It makes one wonder as to what was the true goal in advertising, getting their global message across, or selling their brand or their clothes.

This raises an interesting question. Why did Benetton try this route in their advertising slogans? One could say that this approach was a large step forward in promoting global awareness about such issues as racism, poverty and diseases such as AIDS, but what about their clothing?

I think the real question which this case study provokes is what is in it for the company.

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What does Benetton hope to gain from such shocking advertisements? In a bold move such as this Toscani can be seen as innovative and creative or perhaps careless. As the case study suggests, Toscani did seem to overstep his bounds several times, eventually enough to force himself to resign. That aside, in a serious business aspect, Toscani, in my opinion went about this advertising slogan in a peculiar and interesting way though maybe not the best way for the company. Many people were actually offended by these advertisements and therefore would not be even considered to be potential clients. Though the case study seems to suggest that Benetton was hesitant to be conventional, using their clothes in the advertisements, in the end of the day they may want to focus on their actual products.

Though the controversial ads made a large impact on people, many people also remember the young people of all races wearing the colorful clothes as a very memorable ad. The Benetton webpage states that “A company that emphasizes value and chooses to create value is no longer communicating with the consumer but with the individual.” This approach was to focus on diversity and focus on its young consumer base. This was a very unique and new idea in advertising at the time, though in the end it did not accomplish what it wished to do. Though it may have indeed raised awareness, it missed a very important point, its product.

It is important for a business to be socially aware and do its part to contribute to social causes and help the environment but this seemed to not have been the best way to accomplish this. Toscani, though passionate and innovative, seemed to have missed the mark. It became obvious to the public, though their technique may have been respected by many, that Benneton was merely using themselves as a social outlet instead of actually promoting their actual product. It is quite possible that some people did not even know what product Benetton was actually selling. Their new advertising technique, though quite conventional, also use people of different races to promote their brand. The ads are not quite as shocking, though still promote racial awareness and global togetherness.

I personally believe that this will help Benetton to help their brand image as well as do what they originally intended, to encourage their potential clientele to be more socially aware as well as show their own product in their advertisements. Many people could easily argue that this is not the correct approach, that the intensity of Toscani’s advertisements actually gave Benetton a memorable brand name as well as a sense of social responsibility. I believe that the problem with this, in business, is that taking such a risk puts the company’s image at risk as well. This was also mentioned in the case study; the ads which featured people on death row as real people and intended to provoke sympathy. The United States is very divided on such issues and, as stated, the families of the victims were outraged at the attempt Benetton took to humanize the people who were accused of such atrocities. This could be looked at from different angles depending on in which country the advertisement is being published.

For example, the famous advertisement with the priest kissing the nun would undoubtedly not be issued in any magazine here in Mexico. This is due to the large Catholic population here, and would cause, not only controversy, but a possible ban on the brand name. I think it is important, as an international brand, to focus on what is important to the country in which the advertisement is being published. This method could actually work if Benetton focused on each country and what is actually important to that specific country.

Poverty might be a very important issue in Mexico, as well as civil rights. As mentioned before, however, an attack on religion would not result in a great profit to the company. When considering international advertising, you must consider your clientele and, though it may seem original and interesting to generate controversial publicity, one must consider the clients who will also be lost in this mix. While producing a dedicated consumer base, this approach also creates some sort of boycott amongst those who may not agree with their messages. Even in their attempt to create racial awareness, some of these ads actually seemed to portray racism to some people who viewed these ads.

I believe that Benetton made a very intelligent move when they, in order to spread their message about these issues, created a magazine instead of directly making such shocking images to promote their brand. Personally, I think that many brand names should follow suit and periodically include political issues in their advertisements, however I believe they should be used to inspire and not “shock” people. This is what Benetton did in their “Year of the Volunteer” campaign. I believe that this positive light would encourage people to find solutions instead of focusing on the problems.

The United Colors of Benetton. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 June 2010. .

Osbourne, David. "Benetton Death Row Ads Outrage America." The Independent. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 June 2010.

Updated: Feb 23, 2021
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The United Colors of Benetton- Case Study. (2017, Jan 08). Retrieved from

The United Colors of Benetton- Case Study essay
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