TREVISO, Italy (AP) — Benetton, the Italian maker of colorful knitwear, is relaunching its brand with a gentler ad campaign that ditches shock factor images such as the pope kissing an imam, which once angered the Vatican.
John Mollanger, Benetton's new head of product and marketing, told The Associated Press on Thursday that the brand is integrating its mission to sell clothes and its advertising campaign "for the first time maybe" to make its message to customers more consistent.
"If the communication experience is schizophrenic," Mollanger said. "it's not necessarily good news."
Benetton's brand relaunch comes in a period of renewal for the brand. The Benetton family bought back stock to reprivatize the company in 2012, and a new team of key executives was brought in earlier this year. The apparel company has struggled under competition from fast-fashion brands like H&M and Inditex's Zara.
"From a business standpoint, we are in a situation where the business has been stable, which is very different from the business in the '70s, '80s and '90s when there was exponential growth," Mollanger said, calling the evolving retail climate "a major call to action."
Four capsule collections, including a sportswear first for Benetton, will be rolled out between now and April in selected United Colors of Benetton stores around the world —but not the United States, where the last Benetton store closed this year in New York City. Benetton is evaluating options for relaunching in the U.S. market.
The first collection features graphic patterns from the archives dating back five decades, and is backed by a campaign featuring five women who have overcome personal hurdles.
Mollanger said Benetton was turning its focus away from ads that "points the finger" at problems, and instead was seeking to actively help, including setting up a 2-million-euro fund to help women working in garment factories around the world. That doesn't mean Benetton won't call on its Fabbrica communications research center for social campaigns, but that it is aligning its brand advertising focus more closely with its apparel.
"We have matured and the world has matured," Mollanger said.