A Terry White chemist in Toowoomba has swiftly apologised for an in-store display of golliwogs as businesses are warned about the importance of understand community sentiment when stocking products.
A customer spotted a display of the dolls alongside promotional material that features the words “white Christmas” at the Clifford Gardens store at the end of last week, causing upset among some consumers and activists, who branded the town the “most racist” in the country.
However, the store manager moved quickly to address the issue, promising to remove the dolls from store and acknowledging the “regrettable error” in the first place.
Meanwhile, those on social media clashed over whether golliwogs were acceptable in Australian stores, with many bemused that another store had been caught out by stocking or referring to the dolls in advertising when they cause such offence among some shoppers. This morning a Terry White spokesperson told SmartCompany there was nothing further to add on the issue now it had been resolved.
— Helon (@__Helon) November 29, 2016
In July confectionery business Beechworth Sweet Co withdrew television advertising that featured a golliwog, which had been part of the company’s branding since the 1990s, after a viewer complained to the Advertising Standards Board.
“In 2016 the image of a golliwog on television is completely inexcusable. I truly believe casual racism like this is so damaging to the community and this commercial should never be aired again,” the complainant said of the advertisement.
Ricky Muir, who was at the time a federal member of parliament representing the Australian Motoring Enthusiasts Party, then called out the complaint as “political correctness gone mad”.
The Terry White franchise might have responded quickly to the concerns last week, but that hasn’t stopped customers fighting among themselves on Twitter and Facebook about the brand’s responsibility to shoppers in the event they are offended. Those who believe the dolls are offensive have clashed with other shoppers that do not, with complaints continuing to flow to the chemist brand on social media – both for the initial sale of the products, and the removal of them.
Quick action is good, but beware the echo chamber
Marketing expert Michelle Gamble, founder of Marketing Angels, told SmartCompany the chemist branch might well have learned from a number of high profile instances of products being pulled from shelves for causing offence this year, but some businesses still have work to do when it comes to community awareness.
“Chemists are about wellbeing – that’s a brand that really does need to think about this,” she says.
“But [the store manager] has done the right thing, and people make mistakes.”
Despite the quick action, Gamble says it’s a worthy reminder that some businesses are still unaware of what will cause upset to their broader customer bases.
“People are in a bit of an echo chamber, so they might still not know what others will think,” she says.