Editorial: This country is multi-cultural; businesses should know that

Social media networks have been alight in the past week with many people venting their indignation at what they saw as a poor advertisement that showed little care for racial sensibilities.

The origin of the web furore was a high-end clothing store in one of Kigali’s newest shopping malls that has giant posters of models wearing the brand’s signature wear. The models were the source of the entire hullabaloo; they were all Caucasians.

The argument was not the skin colour but the lack of diversity in what was surely an advertising campaign that misfired. While Rwanda is a multi-cultural society, its market is predominantly black so part of the advertised target audience should have reflected that fact.

What most people were saying is that the shop in question portrayed that its target market was white only. The business owners added salt to injury when they said customers should focus on the clothes and not the posters!

The operators of the store also failed dismally in damage control. The management said their mother company is based in Hong Kong which is predominantly white, their target audience, therefore the advert was relevant.

If there ever was a lame argument, that was it; Rwanda is not Hong Kong and its market is multi-racial. Any new entrant seeking a footing in a new market usually avoids rocking the boat, an elementary fact any rooky advertising executive would have known in advance.

Bossini did more than that, it failed to get the whole picture. Instead of rushing headlong in justifying their actions, incoherently, it could have simply apologized and said it was an unfortunate oversight and promised to do the right thing.

Otherwise, it risks antagonising potential target clients, who, incidentally, are among those raising hellfire on the internet. 

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