OUTsurance, Twitter, Marketing and Cultural Sensitivity

Often it takes a really painful mistake to make us look inward at the very necessary changes we’ve overlooked – through oversight.

This weekend saw OUTsurance showcase a Father’s Day advert with majority white fathers with their children. 19 White fathers and just 1 black father, has been suggested.

The onslaught on Twitter was swift (see below*). Largely negative and critical of being culturally insensitive. Some suggesting the company has a track record of “racism” in its advertising (e.g. Ashley Taylor – black faced painted with black accent, recent, Life unpredictable – white family – www.endings.co.za page, an advert with a white kid and black named dog, a senior management team that is predominantly white – perhaps excellent retention and low staff turnover at the top).

It may very well be the case that OUTsurance is NOT a “racist company”, and a proudly South African company which makes a difference – e.g. pointsmen during congested traffic  – giving back – a wholly black demographic company – BUT if perceptions are created in the minds of a growing few that become many – the company has to respond to this “reality”. Their CEO Willem Roos has had to have difficult conversations to apologise and win back trust (‘media appearance coaching’ like not mentioning a junior staff member responsible could have been wise, or repetition of ‘It is what it is’)

My take is that many companies have not taken into account the context in which we operate in South Africa. It does not matter if your content is right, factual or well meaning. Perceptions need to counter perceptions – and evidence to support the perception is necessary. Just like ‘decolonization’ is trendy in Higher Education – which implies that it is necessary for a curriculum that is transformative and relevant (recurriculation), so too does marketing need its own  ‘recurriculation’ in SA. 

But it’s not just marketing. More diversity and cultural awareness programmes are needed. And it needs to be a strategic issue that top management takes seriously.

Proof below that it hurts the bottom line (yet an opportunity to change in my closing comments below): 


Lastly, it’s not the mistakes that a company makes that we should judge them by – but how they respond to these. For the difficult lessons that OUTsurance will introspect among themselves and the likely positive changes it will make – I shall be willing to give them a chance with my business. 

Anil Salick

Anil Salick

Strategist, Facilitator, Coach, Writer. Shares about inspiration, leadership, critical thinking, fun, sports and current events.