Earlier this year, world’s second largest global clothing retailer, Hennes & Mauritz ran into troubling waters with its customers globally over an advert that it ran on its UK e-commerce site where it used five-year-old “Black boy” Liam Mango to model a hooded sweatshirt with the inscription, “Coolest monkey in the hood”.

Advert of controversy: The coolest monkey in the jungle advert.

The social media was awash with rage. Angry customers burgled the company’s South African store. Search engine results still return “Brand image killer” articles and comments about the company. Celebrities lashed out at the company, while the others with running contracts with H&M severed association with the brand among other occurrences.

Generally, H&M lost global goodwill over the avoidable racially insensitive advert. A classic case of an outright brand emotional intelligence aloofness.

What is emotional intelligence?

It is the ability to recognize one’s own emotions and those of others, discern between different feelings, label them appropriately and use emotional information to guide thinking and behavior.

Customers are humans driven by emotions and their purchase decisions are based on same. This makes emotional intelligence a critical aspect of customer communications.

How then can emotional intelligence be incorporated into your brand’s customer communications?

#1. Know your customers

To be able to effectively communicate with your customers without raising red flags, you should be able to thoroughly know your customers. Their age, location, annual income, parental status and every necessary information that fully helps you to get to know whom your customers are.

A thorough knowledge of your customers smoothens communication between both ends and makes it mutually benefiting.

#2. Respect and value your customers’ culture

Culture is a people’s way of living. If any company is desirous of remaining in business, then respect and value for the culture of its customers should be paramount in its communications strategy.

Learning about your customers’ culture helps you understand the norms and guides you in crafting communication strategies that effectively speaks to them without a trigger of bad blood.

If you don’t like your customers’ culture, respect it!

#3. Avoid keywords that evoke negative emotions

In your out-bound communication whether verbal or written, avoid keywords that are capable of triggering negative emotions among your customers.

Keywords about the race, religion, culture and history of your customers.

#4. Hire the right communications team

No business person is supposed to hate on its customers in any form. If dislike for your customers’ culture is consuming you, sooner or later it’ll manifest in your communications. And nothing ruins a business like bad communication.

To avoid the H&M kind of drama, hire a communications team with a culture of respect for diversity like Wildflower PR to handle your communications.

Wildflower PR manages some of Africa’s biggest brands. See some of them here.

Your turn

How do you feel about cultures that are completely different from yours? Have you ever had a case of a customer reacting badly during communication? How did you resolve the matter?

We would love to read your comments. Share them with us in the comments section.