Old Amsterdam makes very tasty old cheese. And it’s a brand that from day one understood its marketing. That is, if misleading the consumer is understanding marketing; officially the cheese is not from Amsterdam and not ‘Old’ – since the maturing process is artificially shortened. Nevertheless, it is a very popular cheese – even among the Dutch.
At the moment Old Amsterdam is running an ad in which it promotes putting its cheese on a burger. A great product ‘innovation’, since not many people use old cheese for their burger. Not much R&D budget spent on this product introduction! Except for the advertising, of course.
Speaking of the advertising. Normally we wouldn’t write about it (it’s quite a regular commercial) but Nicollette Lazarus (AD freelancing at Design Bridge at the moment) pointed us in the direction of the proposition in the tag-on: “Win a Black Bastard BBQ”.
Black Bastard is a BBQ brand that clearly took a wrong turn in the naming process. They thought: black is the colour, tough is the target; voila “Black Bastard”. The BBQ brand didn’t realise, however, that this name could be offensive outside of the Netherlands. Or, to an Anglo-Saxon expat, in this case.
Lazarus responded on Old Amsterdam’s Facebook page: “I cannot believe as a brand, or as a group of individuals, you feel it is appropriate to market or even talk about anything using the term ‘black bastard’. Do you have any idea how offensive that term is, or do you really not care? I’m guessing you’re also strong supporters of Zwarte Piet? As an expat in your country I’ve tried not to comment on your tradition. But this is equally as appalling and offensive.”
Old Amsterdam answered: “Black Bastard Barbecue in our campaign is in no way meant to be offensive. (…) We chose this barbecue for its capacity and not for its name. We didn’t create the barbecue nor its name. Of course, we recognise that the name can be experienced as controversial in a certain context, but let’s be clear that we are not in any case referring to a person, but to a barbecue.”
When we told Lazarus that’s it’s probably naivety – if anything – rather than racism, she answered: “Prejudice of any kind is not just conscious hate, it is a deeply ingrained and complex system that continues working to the detriment of a race, religion, sex… It manifests itself in many ways.”
Fair enough. A good reason for Black Bastard to change its name. Or for Old Amsterdam to next time do a joint promotion with the Big Green Egg.
Update (July 24): Old Amsterdam has taken Lazarus’ comment very seriously. This is what they wrote to her:
“Dear Nicolette, our reply was in no way meant in a patronising way. We’ve taken notice from the fact and acknowledge that the brand name Black Bastard can be experienced as offensive. We’ve made a mistake in using this for our promotion in Holland. (…) We take your complaint very serious, as we don’t want to harm anyone with our campaigns and are extremely sorry that we’ve upset you and others. As a result we’ve chosen to take the following actions: 1) In future communication we will only talk about a barbeque and don’t mention the brand name anymore 2) In current communication we will take all measures possible to ensure that the brand name is no longer mentioned 3) We learn from our mistakes and will not do any follow-up promotions with this brand. Best regards, Team Old Amsterdam.“