News & Views

Opinion / Staying Faithful

by Silvia Antunes

Apparel retailer C&A courts controversy in Brazil with its latest campaign, but wins by staying faithful to its purpose, argues Contagious Senior Consultant, Silvia Antunes

In March, apparel retailer C&A launched a campaign in Brazil introducing its new perspective - moving away from big fashion icons, instead suggesting a creative, original sense of style, free from impositions and standards. Created with AlmapBBDO, the ‘wakening’ film suggests a genderless brand, positioning fashion as a means to self-expression and experimentation, a process that should be fun and liberating.

The beautifully produced spot received praise from the industry and (more importantly) from the general public. The 4 million views that the spot has received so far indicate that something has resonated with the viewing public. But it has also received its fair share of criticism. In a country where gender-fluidity is a grey area, C&A is making a big statement and taking a big risk with their recent initiative.

At Contagious, we are constantly urging our clients to remember the power and importance of finding their brand’s true purpose - and sticking to it. Figuring out the reason why your company exists will help to guide your brand through tough times. Making sure you know exactly why you’re doing what you’re doing is the backbone of good positioning.

In a time when pretty much every product feature will be copied sooner or later, people are looking to buy something else; to connect to your brand at another level, to identify with what your brand is offering – way beyond any product or service. It’s really difficult to defend yourself when you don’t know what you are fighting for. And this is why choosing a cause that truthfully relates to the brand’s heritage, building your communication around it and making sure your public understand what you stand for is what gives you a fighting chance in the super competitive scenario.

Just two months after the release of the first film, C&A demonstrated its commitment to its ‘Mix it up, dare, experiment’ positioning, which invites people to express themselves and welcomes diversity. For this year’s Valentine's Day (celebrated on June 12th in Brazil) the brand released a similarly well-produced film, ‘Mixed-up Day’, showing couples exchanging clothes and playing with their identity – eliciting even more controversy.

Brazil’s underlying issues with gender fluidity were famously demonstrated by Ana Paula Valadão, a national gospel star, who posted an outraged reaction condemning C&A’s campaign. Her Facebook post received more than 500k reactions, many agreeing with her sentiment and displaying hashtags such as #womensoulddressaswomen and #thatshowGodmademe. The proposed boycott suggested by the singer backlashed: it actually helped the brand stay right in the spotlight, ensuring the campaign was discussed in both traditional and social media. C&A became a trending topic, with many people defending freedom and free will - as well as the brand.

 This past week C&A wrote a statement:

"The new campaign ‘Mixed up Day’ has as its main theme the celebration of love and continues the new vision of the C&A on fashion, launched in March with the campaign ‘Mix, dare and have fun’. Free from all and any kind of prejudice and stereotypes, the new film, which celebrates Valentine's Day, makes a new call to the mix of attitudes, colors and prints as a form of expression. C&A reinforces the respect for diversity, including the diversity of opinions, since respect has always been one of the principles of the brand."

Even in a complicated context, the outcome here is a positive one. By having a big, mainstream brand bringing up this kind of conversation in a creative and respectful way, society wins. Even if the reactions are mixed, these kinds of actions help to draw attention to the nation’s evolving attitudes. And the brand’s allegiance to its purpose gets the public undivided attention for a while, helping to build a whole new set of advocates.

So, this Valentine’s Day, stay faithful to your own values and purpose. It pays off.