Fortune Foods ad controversy: Did the brand opt right with their crisis management?

Fortune Foods quickly put out an apology, which in turn triggered complaints from Bengalis who pointed out that eating meat during the Puja is not a taboo in West Bengal

e4m by exchange4media Staff
Updated: Oct 17, 2018 8:34 AM
Fortune foods

A cooking oil ad by Fortune Foods caused furore when it didn't go well with the Hindu Janjagriti Samiti who asserted that eating non-veg food during Navratri was prohibited. The Hindu Janajagruti Samiti, a Hindutva group had posted their objections to the advertisement on their website, saying it was an insult to their faith.

The company quickly put out an apology, which in turn triggered complaints from Bengalis who pointed out that eating meat during the Puja is not a taboo in West Bengal. The Bengali language ad titled Pet Pujo, or worshipping the stomach, and subtitled in English here for Fortune mustard oil shows a woman cooking meals for her husband during Durga Puja including traditional Bengali dishes made from goat meat and fish. The accompanying text reads, “For the food-loving Bengali, the Puja is a time to worship the stomach.”

The Hindutva group posted the following objections on their website:
“Along with this, non-vegetarian food is prohibited during Navrati [the worship of the goddess Durga in North India]. In this advertisement, the husband fasts for Navratri but on Navami, the wife feeds the husband mutton kosha and fish made using Fortune Oil. Since this food is so tasty, the husband is forced to break his fast. This is an egregious insult to our Hindu faith.”
Fortune Foods responded the next day, posting an apology on Facebook and Twitter, and withdrawing the video from circulation everywhere except Bengal “where it is common practice to eat both vegetarian and non-vegetarian food”. 

Fortune Foods issued a fresh statement saying, "Over 2 yrs we are celebrating the idea of #PetPujo with Bengali Foodies around the time of Durga Pujo. This year our video touched 1.5+M viewers in Bengal alone, and our brand continues to receive oodles of love on social media. We respect food choices made by every community. And we will fervently guard against accidentally hurting people's sentiment. Our apology for one is not an insult for the other as will be witnessed from the comments that continue to pour in. Do read, watch and show some more love."

Did the brand get their crisis communication right? Should it have apologised? Brand expert Gaurav Gulati feels that the inclusion of religion in advertising is a dangerous act, in most of such cases brand fails to please customers. Citing from the Yankelovich MONITOR report, he says, “Almost 40 per cent of consumers state their faith plays a big role in the choices they make while buying goods and services. So if your brand can maintain the balance that works to get both believers and non-believers go ahead and take advantage of religious waves or else stay away from this space. I think Fortune failed to keep the balance, and an apology is the best option to get another chance from same target customers."

Brandvagon's Abhimanyu Singh also feels that though the apology was not needed, it helped with the damage control. "Considering the stature of the brand, it only makes sense for them to be humane and fix it up despite of it not being entirely their fault. Sensitivity is the pillar that can't be ignored for most brands and hailing from a country with diverse religions and faiths, this must be considered the step in the right direction." 

Says Saurabh Uboweja, International Brand Expert and CEO Brands of Desire, “While the brand didn't have to technically apologise for a mistake they didn't commit, but we have to acknowledge that Fortune is one of India's largest edible oil brands and would be certainly worried about alienating a large part of their consumer base that is predominantly vegetarian. The apology came out of fear rather than the guilt of doing something wrong.”

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