It’s interesting. I’ve been writing blog posts on branding for a few years now but nothing’s gotten the attention, or generated as many comments, as my last post – Did Hitler Wear Hanes?
It seems everyone’s got a strong opinion and those opinions are either black or white. Commenters are either outraged by Hanes’ new campaign (watch it here) or they think I’m blowing a non-issue completely out of proportion:
“MJ is DISGUSTING!”
“You’re reading a little TOOOO much into his moustache… Enough already.”
“Rest assured I will not be buying Hanes products”
“We have worse things to worry about than some underwear jock’s choice of facial hair styling.”
Let’s put aside our personal feelings for a minute and look at this issue from a marketing point of view. If you are Hanes’ marketing director, your job is to sell underwear and build the Hanes brand. Does it make sense to run ads where Michael Jordan is sporting a moustache that will remind some viewers (not all, as a bunch of my readers pointed out) of Adolf Hitler? That’s easy to determine – does the moustache make Jordan more handsome? No. Does the moustache improve the TV spot? No. Does the moustache sell more underwear? Again, no.
The question, then, is why did Hanes do this? Was it just an oversight that no one noticed? One reader suggested, “The Hitler thing… was caused by a dumb… copywriter who will be out on his/her ass soon enough.” Perhaps that’s true, but TV ad production is too expensive and too labor intensive and therefore too well planned for no one to have noticed something as clear as the hair on Michael Jordan’s face.
Can we assume that Hanes executives or Michael Jordan himself are anti-Semites bent on spewing their message of hate? Again, unlikely. Other than this faux pas they’ve given us no reason to believe they’re bigots. Still, as one reader pointed out, “this is hardly the first offensive ad that Hanes has put out. (Hanes’) ads don’t just ‘feature’ obese women — they PROMOTE obesity.”
One person who knows Michael Jordan personally wrote that Jordan wore that unfortunate moustache because, “Jordan doesn’t listen to anybody.” That might be a true analysis of Jordan’s personality but the scenario is still unlikely – I’m sure Hanes’ contract protects them against the personal behavior of their spokesmen.
Finally, was it a stunt created to generate press? I can’t imagine Hanes or Jordan would risk their coveted brands to such potential outcry.
So if it wasn’t incompetence, sloppiness, prejudice, arrogance or a marketing stunt, what was it? I’ve got theories but no good answers. Maybe one of you has an idea? Or maybe someone from Hanes’ PR department will clue us in.