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A Field Day For Memes After Cancel Culture Targets Online Retailer 

Activist’s complaint about “offensive” logo forces Myntra to change design.

NEW DELHI — Memes are having a heyday ever since online retailer Myntra changed its logo after social activist Naaz Patel filed a police complaint alleging that the original design was “offensive” to women.

“I have shopped from Myntra innumerable times, but something like this could have never crossed my mind,” said Sanya Kansal, a 31-year-old legal professional from New Delhi. “While every brand should be conscious of how the stakeholders perceive various aspects of the brand profile, they don’t need to succumb to the bullying.”

Soon after Myntra tweaked its logo to resolve the complaint issue, a flood of memes began showing up on Twitter.  A number of those who posted tweets said the entire episode was “nonsensical.” Many took a humorous approach.  Even some other brands, including food delivery services Swiggy and Zomato, joined in the meme fest.

Flipkart-backed Myntra redesigned the logo with a few changes, but retained the original color scheme. The complaint filed by Patel in December had objected to the “overall placement of the color scheme” of the letter M in Myntra’s logo, saying it was “obscene to eyes of any person of normal prudence.”

This is not the first time that a brand has been targeted over its logo or ads.

3M’s home cleaning brand Scotch-Brite came under scrutiny in July 2020 after a communications’ strategy consultant called out the company’s logo on LinkedIn, which had the image of a woman with a bindi.

Myntra’s old logo. (Myntra/Facebook)

Atul Mathur, head of marketing, consumer business, at 3M India, agreed at the time that it was “undoubtedly time to move on from regressive beliefs.”

In another incident, Indian jewelry brand Tanishq withdrew an advertising campaign after backlash on social media. The objections were raised by Hindutva groups in India over the company’s ad that depicted a baby shower in an interfaith marriage.

The brand was accused of propagating “love jihad,” which purports that Muslim men target Hindu women in order to convert them to Islam.

“OTT shows are getting shut down, advertisements are being asked to be taken down, FIRs [First Information Reports] are being launched against films; that’s the environment we live in. Today it’s Myntra, tomorrow it’ll be something else,” said Bodhisatwa Dasgupta, founder of advertising agency The Voice Company. “Either you succumb to the pressures of a certain small group and take something down, or you stand for what you think is right.

“It’s incredibly easy for little things to spiral out into something else entirely within a span of a few hours. So while the creative side of me says Myntra should have retained their logo, the business side of me can’t help but think, what if there was a global boycott of Walmart? Would sticking to the logo have been worth it?” said Dasgupta.

Naresh Gupta, co-founder and managing partner at communications agency Bang in the Middle, said. “The brand is going to lose either way, whatever decision they take.”

“A decade ago, the same happened with the Procter and Gamble logo. People were seeing a devil inside the logo, but the brand didn’t really bother, which is what Myntra should have done. This is one of those things where you really don’t know what to do. Either as a business, you fight a case and incur a huge cost, or you change your logo and incur a huge cost.”

Myntra’s new logo. (Myntra/Facebook)

Sumanto Chattopadhyay, chairman and chief creative officer at 82.5 Communications, has a hunch that the complainant has a backing, which is what prompted the brand to play it safe.

“We live in intolerant times, and brands are soft targets. There are precedents of protests against brands degenerating into vandalism and threats of violence against employees. We do not know the degree of pressure Myntra would have been under. Clearly a lot, because altering your logo is a big deal,” Chattopadhyay said. “Not just in terms of the immediate expenditure of replacing the old one, but in terms of your image as well.”

Meanwhile, Myntra’s quick response may have improved its reputation among women.

“I am sure Myntra analyzed the whole premise and then changed the logo,” said Smita Murarka, vice president of marketing and e-commerce at Duroflex mattress company. “I would really want to applaud them because they have done a great marketing campaign, without investing anything. From an emotional point of view, they have connected well with the whole women audience.”

Murarka also believes that these days it is crucial for marketing teams to take cognizance of public sentiment.

“Conversations are getting very momentary and topical. If you miss out on that, you are not a strong enough social brand. Today, there are so many conversations around women empowerment, so we’d be foolish to ignore something like this,” Murarka said. “The timing of your response is also critical today. Earlier, marketers would react only when things blew out of proportion. You can’t do that anymore.”
(Edited by Judith Isacoff and Anindita Ghosh)