‘What Is That N*gger Doing In There?’ Catalog Triggers Violent Czech Consumers’ Responses
The Retail Store Lidl Czech Republic published a catalog with a black man on the front page, presenting their freshest sports apparel collection. Although the catalog came out last Thursday, disgusted Czech consumers started attacking the company’s Facebook page with their violent posts almost a week later. The responses involved phrases like “Do you think they put white men in catalogs in Africa?” or “Don’t you think it’d be better to use someone of our race?” (Lubos Krnavek).
While one could be legitimately disgusted by the rasist tone of the responses, I think they are part of a wider, cultural, perspective.
Czechs still think black guys come from Africa
The majority of foreigners in the Czech Republic are Ukrainians (23%), Slovaks (20%) Vietnamese (13%) and others, mainly immigrants from the so-called Eastern Bloc. A similar situation is in other European countries, such as Slovakia, Hungary and Poland.
What does it mean for international companies? Be careful about presenting different ethnic groups when targeting a wide audience here.
The good news is that a similar kind of approach to different races exists in Slovakia, Hungary, Poland and, partly, Austria. So, you can easily cover all these markets with a single localization strategy.
Does it always work like that? Not really.
You better know whom you are targeting
Depicting of models of different ethnic groups is pretty common in the sports industry.
Adidas targets a specific audience, sports enthusiasts. Lidl, on the other hand, targets a wide mass of people mainly consisting of lower-educated individuals. Also, geographical location can play a role. In the capital Prague, there is a higher cultural and ethnic diversity than the rest of the country.
Slavic nations are afraid of uncertainty
Similarly as other Slavic nations, Czechs tend to avoid uncertainty and often want to see the bottom line as soon as possible. Oftentimes, especially in lower educated groups, this uncertainty avoidance leads to rejecting alien cultural symbols.
Choosing hatred to integration
Czech Republic has, well not that low, but lower long-term orientation than Germany. This means that there are some individuals, who would rather choose wiping out all foreigners to integrating them and using them to boost prosperity and economic growth. All that despite of the fact that the birth ratio of the Czech Republic is on a decline.
Lidl’s response was by the book, experts say
The company responded in a very calm manner that ‘In our promotional materials, we focus on the presentation of our products and we absolutely deny any manipulation or discrimination based on race. With respect that the Czech Republic is in fact part of Europe, where people of different races and skin colors live, we consider our models absolutely adequate,’ states company’s spokesperson Zuzana Hola.
As CEO of Social Sharks Martin Andrysek says, the whole incident may go down well for the company thanks to their brilliant response and also a wave of new supporters arising from across the country.
A wave of support and satiric comments has risen after the incident. Czech humor at its best. (Dominik Feri ‘The black guy was not the problem himself. The problem was, he was not on sale’)
The point of my post was not to say ‘look how racist we are’, but rather show how different ethnic groups are perceived here and how it could be reflected in marketing visuals. For comparison, there is currently a strong anti-foreign sentiment in the UK as well, but people there would never react like that to a black person in a catalog.
International marketing specialist in me says: Localize smarter.
A human in me says: Screw them.
Image source: www.info.cz