When corporates try to own a nation’s values.


Yesterday the manufacturer of the skincare brand Nivea, managed to show their facebook fans just how venal a corporate can get. What they did was publish a photo of an ANZAC Day poppy, in the foreground of a New Zealand flag, and insert their Nivea Creme logo into the middle of the poppy.

What the hell were they thinking? For a start, let’s overlook the complete lack of connection between skin creme and the disastrous Allied WW1 campaign that saw nearly 70,000 allies and 60,000 Turks lose their lives. It was a military fiasco of dreadful proportions: a combination of appalling strategic thinking from the British High Command, enmeshed with sheer guts and courage at the troop level.  The courage and heroism of those poor soldiers, damned to die by poor planning is rightly remembered on ANZAC day in my country and in Australia.  But what has this got to do with skin care? Nothing whatsoever – so what was Nivea trying to say?

We’ll ignore the fact that they commandeered a trademarked logo of the RSA (the Poppy) or that they they used a national flag to herald their brand.

What really stinks is that here is a corporate who think that nationalism, remembrance and other important values that have helped define our national culture are somehow up for grabs by the corporate sector.  Their Facebook stunt showed utterly no respect for the individual feelings of families who lost grandfathers at Gallipoli. Nivea showed a shameless, venal motivation simply to appropriate our community of feelings, and hijack these for the purposes of branding. They found a parade and stuck their big banner in front of it.  I can almost hear the PR and marketing team right now. “JB, sir…we can own this event.”

Well they can’t. Brands are mighty powerful things, but the moment they start trying to own deeper and sacred national values – and by sacred I do not mean sporting – then they cross the line which all brands must respect. Authenticity.

Nivea skin care and ANZAC Day. An inauthentic relationship. The only connection I can see between the Gallipoli campaign and Nivea’s Facebook stunt is that both were epic fails.

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