2021 — also known as the year of the brouhaha, when the advertising and marketing sector faced a fair share of storms. Industry vets tell ET what they learnt from some squalls.

1. Myntra‘s abrupt logo change


The controversy: An activist filed a complaint against Myntra in February, saying that the logo resembled female genitalia. Soon after, the brand rolled out a
new version and apologised for “hurting sentiments”.

“I don’t believe there was anything offensive about the Myntra logo. An illustration, a word, a phrase, or even a photograph may throw up some unintentional meanings, especially when they are seen out of context. From a branding perspective, Myntra had built a strong image aligned with its promise. It need not have changed anything. A well-known logo should be changed only when there is a gap between promise and perception,” says Ashwini Deshpande, cofounder, director, Elephant Design.

“Incidentally, the logo clean-up served another purpose. It became mobile-friendly by losing the small, overlapping strokes of letterform. This world is full of all kinds of opinions. A brand can’t control them.”

The takeaway: “Since the Myntra logo controversy, we have started adding one more check before we present any logos.

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2. , Swiggy’s delivery agents protest

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The controversy: Delivery agents took to social media in August
to protest Swiggy and Zomato’s alleged exploitative policies. Complaints included low base pay, rising fuel prices, inconsistent incentives, variable pay, among others.

“I refer to the post-pandemic era as the 3hird Era of Branding, where brands will have to live up to megatrends like sustainability, equality, purpose, transparency and safety… and not just live up to these vis-a-vis one stakeholder, but all stakeholders! Not just customers, but employees. Second, very few service businesses can scale successfully because it needs human engineering at another scale,” says Kiran Khalap, cofounder and MD, chlorophyll.

The takeaway: “The incidents are similar to what happened with Amazon in the US. While they delivered on megatrends for customers, the employees got a raw deal. I also believe labour laws in India need to be overhauled.”

3. SRK and Byju’s trolled


The controversy: Shah Rukh Khan’s son, Aryan’s alleged drugs issue and arrest by NCB caused social media trolls to
harangue brands to drop SRK as ambassador in October. Most demands were made to e-learning app Byju’s.

“One thing that becomes clear from the trolling of Byju’s is that it is no more about whether the trolling was warranted, fair or logical. The truth is that when you’re fighting an invisible enemy, there is little platform for reasonable dialogue,” says Ajeeta Bharadwaj, CSO, Wondrlab.

The takeaway:
“As custodians, take pre-emptive steps to protect the brand. If it’s a celebrity endorsement, make the brand bigger than the celebrity in the communication. Create a community of evangelists who will speak up on behalf of the brand when the chips are down, so there is no build-up of negative rhetoric. The more we build the brand in good times, the more it can defend itself in bad times.”

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