“Shave Your Beard, Man” Backfired. Just 3 Letters Misspelled.
I just finished my online classes, had a shower, didn’t have lunch yet (not even breakfast today), went for prayer.
I check Discord, our team communication server after prayer. The designer shares a poster. He needs a caption.
I thought for some time and shared a caption in the doc, followed by our brand hashtag:
Shave Your Beard, Man.
This was intentional.
I went to sleep.
The designer posts it on all social media at 3 p.m.
Two people in the team message me regarding this when I woke up at 5.27 p.m. One asks “What’s the reason behind the caption, bro?” with a screenshot of the post. Another one ensured the post is deleted and reposted with another caption. He asked me the reason behind it too.
People aren’t taking the old caption well.
This was after a recent incident with another big brand just two weeks ago.
Big showrooms hire excess salesman during Ramadan, a whole month when Muslim’s fast. Ramadan is near, coming in around 15 days.
A University student, Imran wanted to support his family. He has holidays for Ramadhan, plus it’s a part-time job, he was happy about this. He applies to a few different brands after spending quite an amount of money on writing the CV.
Only one brand replies. He gets a call for an interview. He comes here after around one and a half hour journey. He’s in the room. His qualifications were excellent, it seems with the interviewer’s look and talks.
He was sitting straight. Everyone has a mask worn. They might have not seen his beard yet. He gets up to leave. They ask him to kindly open his mask. He does. “We’re truly sorry,” they tell him.
“What happened brother, what’s wrong?”
“We can’t finalize you. Not exactly that we can’t do it, if you can shave your beard, you’re welcome. Your qualifications are great.”
He didn’t get it. He asks to please repeat.
“The rules here are every salesman should clean shave before they can work here.”
He got shocked hearing this. In Islam, Hijab is women’s pride. Beards are men’s.
After returning to his senses, he tells them: “A million thanks to Allah the Almighty for sending me here as a Muslim in a Muslim family. Brother, I won’t do the job then, no worries.”
He then starts leaving. But stops and tells them “I am a needy brother. I badly need this job. Is there any other position or any compromise you can have, please?
“Sorry, that’s not possible. It’s a rule here.”
He leaves the room happily. He doesn’t want to do a job that disrespects Islam.
He records a video with no intention. Just wanted to let everyone know his pain. “Bangladesh is always the first one to stand for Islam. They might have stood with hashtag BoycottFrenchProducts as well, still how can they have this rule?,” he was upset. It was the first time he was getting out from his parent’s support to find a job to support them. It hurt him. He uploads in on social media. Boom. Everyone got crazy to boycott the brand. Muslims can go to any extreme if they see something wrong happening to Islam.
Now he’s getting countless offers from other big brands with more than twice as much salary. That’s the power of Islam.
Our posts were a religious poster as well. We had Shab-e-Barat. It’s an Islamic night for “Fortune and Forgiveness.” People pray all night and read the Holy Quran and asks for forgiveness from Allah the Almighty. They get it if done from the heart.
We are an app teaching programming in a fun way. We just wanted to greet our users on this Holy occasion.
My idea behind the caption was this:
Shab = Show
E = Your (E-ur)
Barat = Beard
Mubarak = Man
Shave Your Beard, Man.
The last part, Man after comma sounds funny. I kept it.
Our brand’s mission is to make learning fun. We try to come up as humorous in every content we post, from our app contents to social media posters.
I’m 17. I don’t have a beard. I forgot Muslims keep the beard. It’s mandatory and a habitual practice of our Prophet Muhammad (SAW), our religious leader.
It was a normal one-slide poster. I partially-forgot it’s an Islamic poster. I thought it’s a normal kind of celebration poster because we usually post carousel content for main educational contents. I wanted to be funny with this post’s caption. People trim hair for celebration. I needed something with S of Shab. Shave sounded cool. Shave goes well with Beard. Beard goes well with Barat. In mind: “Voila, let’s go with it.”
You Can’t Give Excuses in Marketing
I can’t say I’m 17 and made the mistake.
I always believe doing something wrong for the first time is fine and ethical in marketing. But, we can’t give excuses for our mistakes in marketing. You’re responsible for whatever action you take. Apologies are fine, not excuses.
People Back You When You Gain Trust
When I woke up from sleep, I changed it to “Show Your Beard, Man.” from “Shab-e-Barat Mubarak”, which the team member updated to avoid controversy.
Most people got it now.
I saw two users posting on our community group. They start with “I love this brand” or “I love what this brand does” and then tells they think this might be a mistake. If it is, well. If not, they want us to apologize. Another person wants us to be careful before posting anything.
Other users jumped off commenting this was a spelling mistake. “They fixed it now.” “I was shocked. It’s fixed now. All cool.”
We didn’t have to talk. They became our voice. They trust us from start. We ensured that.
Be Careful With the Spellchecker
I see any written content at least twice every time before posting. There might be no mistake but a spellchecker can fool you sometimes. One mistake by a spellchecker can boycott you forever.
Silence Can Be the Best Marketing Move…for a Fix
Amazon updated their controversial logo quietly. The controversy calmed down easily.
I too didn’t want to speak up or apologize (yet). Apologies oftentimes backfire, I saw. People think our apologies are fake. Or they complain about the way we apologized in this kind of situations.
Some team member did apologize it in some comments. They didn’t tell me about it otherwise I would say no.
I silently updated the text. Our loyal users did the talking. People got it.
One Person Can Damage Anything
I only saw two people complaining about this. Then some agreeing with whatever they have to say in the comments — most of them supporting us, however. But, one person is enough to damage everything you have built. That’s why the foundation should be stronger always: through honesty, loyalty, personality, and commitments — from the beginning.
One Mistake Can Bring Out the Other Bad Sides of You
Our users don’t complain much about anything. That sucks.
After this Shab-e-Barat mistake, a dude wrote last few days our actions (content postings and captions) are making him rethink about our brand. We knew this. That’s a feedback we were waiting for. I usually experiment with things like crazy to see what people think. Most don’t open mouth, however.
What this means is, if you have a bad foundation from the start, one small mistake can backfire huge, mixed up with all the rage for your bad foundation they kept hidden.
You Better Be Careful Playing With People’s Emotions
We didn’t want to play with our user’s emotions or use controversy as a marketing gimmick. We just wanted to be funny and get the point of celebration across.
Employees, including the founder of another brand in Bangladesh, got death threats just because some former employee supported non-Islamic something and another employee agreed. This had nothing to do with the brand but people wanted to boycott the brand.
Emotions are powerful. Emotions drive feelings. Feelings drive everything.
Honesty Rocks, Always
We might have been saved. This was a religious attack which was bad from our side. If I do get death threats, nobody knows my face. I don’t take pictures. I simply use an avatar. That’s bad of me as a marketer as well. I’m not completely transparent as a marketer.
I’m thinking of finally opening my camera to take a picture of mine and upload my profile pictures. Now might be the worst time. I don’t know whether the controversy is over yet. I might get the death threat but that’s true transparency and the true promise of every marketer.
That’s Why Learning Is So Crucial
I didn’t know much about those incidents happening with the other brands related to Islamic attack, especially the one having to shave his beard before he can be hired. I just heard the news but didn’t go in-depth. Maybe knowing about it would hit me consciously when I was writing the caption.
But, I wouldn’t learn what I now learned after making the mistake.
Mistakes are fun.