Magazine article Marketing

Dropping the Shock for the New

Magazine article Marketing

Dropping the Shock for the New

Article excerpt

Italy's jumper giant Luciano Benetton is ready for a change. Asked if it isn't time to review the company's long-running, shock-tactic advertising, surprisingly he agrees.

"Yes, it's now the moment for something new," says the softly-spoken Benetton.

Lines of barbed wire and rows of TV aerials have already replaced HIV-branded body parts on the group's shop-fronts and hoardings.

Advertising has long since overtaken fashion design as the company's creative heart. He points out, though, that the latest work is not as hard-hitting or controversial as last year.

This apparent retreat follows less than ballistic results for 1994. An optimistic Benetton puts the very modest rise in profits, from L208bn ([pounds]7.8m) in 1993 to L210bn, down to "cutting back our prices to the bone".

"Our volume has increased by an extra six million pieces, the problem is that our turnover does not match this," he explains.

Nevertheless, the Benetton Group is sticking to its aggressive price-cutting policy - initiated two years ago to combat a slump in demand - combined with a heavy investment in innovative manufacturing technology.

The fashion empire has grown out of a tightly-controlled Italian family company set up in 1965 by Luciano, his two brothers Gilberto and Carlo, and sister Giuliana. But it is first-born Luciano who is the most charismatic and best-known.

Now 60, Benetton is a classic child of the Veneto region, where he still has his home and headquarters today. As well as piercing, pale blue eyes, his singlemindedness and rational approach to business are rooted in the local tradition of successful family firms.

But Benetton hasn't been solely responsible for the eponymous marketing phenomenon. The driving force is creative director Oliviero Toscani, who has found in his boss a modern-day Medici patron and one who falls readily into line with most of his campaign concepts, however outrageous. How many presidents of multinational companies submit to a little fashionable nudity in the cause of advertising, even for a European charity fundraising drive?

Toscani admits: "It took a lot of persuasion to convince him to take his clothes off." Headed "Bring us your clothes", Benetton appeared on posters with his modesty preserved only by a balloon of words.

Advertising is a particularly thorny subject at the moment. The group is taking several of its German franchisees to court over non-payment for goods received. The retailers, meanwhile, are counter-claiming for sales lost because of the shock advertising.

Benetton is quietly confident about the outcome. "I think we'll win our case," he says, pointing out that of the 12 litigious franchisees, "one has now dropped his counter-claim and paid the money owed."

It's hard to associate this genial, casually-dressed corporate president with the parade of images, calculated to make people squirm to "raise their awareness of social issues", that have carved such strong reactions across the world.

"He's not flamboyant," says one insider. "He's a down-home, nice guy and there's not an ounce of pretension in him. There's this real dichotomy between the public image and the real family, just as there is between the advertising and the product."

This too may be about to change. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.