CEO and Co-Founder

Last week, high-street retail giant H&M found itself in the middle of a race controversy.

It faced a backlash after it emerged that its website carried a photo of a black child model was wearing a hoodie with the words "Coolest monkey in the jungle" featured on the front. 

H&M swiftly apologised, removed the image from its website and withdrew the item from sale. However, famous names from sport – such as Manchester United striker Romelu Lukaku – condemned the brand on Twitter. American music star The Weeknd, who had a clothing line with the retailer, severed ties with the company.

The incident has been labelled as a PR disaster for the retailer, but what does YouGov BrandIndex data tell us about how the brand has been damaged?

Since the story emerged, H&M’s Buzz score (which measures whether someone has heard anything positive or negative about the brand in the past two weeks) has dropped sharply, from +1 to -8.

There has been a similar impact in the US. There, H&M’s Buzz score has declined by 11 points (from +5 to -6).

The story has got people talking on both sides of the Atlantic. H&M’s Word of Mouth Exposure score (whether someone has discussed the brand with somebody else) rose from +3 to +9 in the UK, while in the US it jumped from +5 to +9.

Of course, adverse headlines do not necessarily alter a consumer’s perception of a brand, especially if it has been well-regarded until that point. In this respect there is positive news for H&M in the UK. Its Impression score (whether someone has a positive impression of the brand) has barely moved since the story broke, and remains around the +17 mark – a score which compares favourably with its high-street rivals.

However, this is not the case in America, where its Impression score has fallen from +15 to +9. While this drop is not disastrous, in order to win back consumers that have changed their minds the retailer may need to stress that the incident was a genuine mistake, and that it has learnt from it.

Image Getty

Learn more about BrandIndex

This article originally appeared in City A.M.

Discover more about YouGov research

Fill out the form below and one of our experts will be in touch.
Related Content