Malaysians up in arms over Honda’s LGBT campaign


Honda LGBT campaign( –By: Malati Siniah

In light of the recent mass shooting in Orlando, American Honda Motor Company, the North American subsidiary of Honda Motor Company, posted on a message of solidarity to the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community along with a snapshot of their cars representing the community’s rainbow coloured flag.

Outraged over the move Malaysian netizens took to their keyboards and left multiple messages on the post condemning the brand for supporting the LGBT community threatening to boycott the brand.

honda angrypost2

Honda angrypost

On the flipside Malaysian commenters who were supportive of the brands initiative also made their voices heard on the brand’s global Facebook page

Honda supportivepost2
While Honda has responded to the commenters making it clear that the page was for promotions in the United States, commenters are still sharing their displeasure on the page.

Is Malaysia ready for a campaign supporting sensitive issues?

To Rene Leow, owner of PR agency Emerald Communications the answer was no.

“Issues like this are very divisive and more importantly for Honda, most Malaysians seem to make their purchase choices depending on how they feel about issues like this. As social media is borderless, Honda ran the risk of alienating societies like Malaysia – for a US-based campaign.” He shared.

On Honda’s move Rene added that from a PR perspective people being reactive to a sensitive issue was expected, adding that though the camps might be divided on the issue, the brand had received plenty of attention.

“However, Honda has created some division among their end consumers, and it seems to be hedging their bets more towards the liberal-Western markets. If it was hoping to be more inclusive, this was not a right move.”

So what should a brand take into consideration when addressing sensitive issues on social media?

Issues like LGBT can be very divisive Rene shared. What brands such as Honda need to do is ask themselves if this is something they really want to do.

“Usually, PR norms dictate that sensitive issues like LGBT, politics and religion can be distracting from the core values of your brand. Is Honda a pressure-group for societal issues, or is it into automobiles? Nonetheless, it is easy for people like us to pass comment when we’re not part of their organization and don’t see the whole picture.”

Was the statement agreed by the decision-makers? Or was it a personal view of 1 person who was handling the social media element of the brand? Social media commentary is very important as it reveals your core values and should be carefully planned.” He added.

Echoing his sentiments, Eswari Kalugasalam Lawson, PR Director at Leo Burnett & Arc Worldwide shared,
“It is important to be objective and be mindful of the audience as often emotions get into the equation.
The challenge then is do you have the right response so that you don’t alienate your existing customer base.”

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