A Krispy Kreme doughnut store in Hull, England made a major public relations mistake by advertising a ‘KKK Wednesday’ this week. The Krispy Kreme Klub was promoted through the company’s Facebook. The club’s organizer obviously did not think about or know about the initials’ historical context in relation to the Ku Klux Klan in America.
A Krispy Kreme public relations manager, Lafeea Watson, apologized later that day, saying:
“We do believe this was a completely unintentional oversight on the part of our longtime franchise partners in the U.K. They have taken quick and appropriate actions to remove the materials online and in-shops, and have wholeheartedly apologized to their consumers.” The company did not release a statement on its website or social media sites about the incident.
But does this apology really resonate with those who were offended by the advertisement? “Completely unintentional oversight,” is really just another way of saying they didn’t do their homework. Advertisements require editing and approval. If a company assigns only a couple of people to be in charge of its ads, they should be qualified, intelligent and mindful of offensive references in other cultures. If the assigned do not meet these standards, then management needs to rethink their placement.
Although it was only one shop in England that advertised this club, Krispy Kreme could definitely lose customers in the U.S. for being so offensive. After all, donuts are not hard to come by.
This brings to light a serious issue in the PR and communications field: a lack of cultural intelligence. International companies, like Krispy Kreme, must be aware of the history and culture in each of the countries that they are rooted. We can see more examples in crises like the Asiana Airlines crash in of Flight 214 and in simple business mistakes across cultures.
Cultural intelligence requires an understanding of your own culture, the foreign culture and your own unspoken biases, a conscious understanding of the differences, and an understanding of how to respect and work with both. Almost every country in the world can see work products from the United States because of the Internet. Therefore, even companies that are not international need to have at least a basic level of cultural intelligence to not offend other cultures.
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