Nikon, already a struggling brand according to our Asia's Top 1000 Brands research, has further damaged its standing by putting forward an all-male lineup of 32 brand ambassadors for a campaign touting its D850 model.
Sarcasm has pervaded the heated response, as critics pan the Japanese brand for failing to find a single female to represent the brand despite all of Asia (including Australia) and Africa being eligible.
In a rather feeble attempt to address this controversy, Nikon Asia tweeted on its account that all the female photographers it invited were unable to attend the event.
Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us. We really appreciate the support from our photography community. pic.twitter.com/e78qp4Q08a— Nikon Asia (@NikonAsia) September 13, 2017
Nikon's lack of foresight is unfortunate, as it easily could have been lauded for championing gender diversity compared to its competitor Sony, which managed to find only eight women out of a total of 58 global ambassadors.
This episode follows a recent debacle involving Levi's Australia, which not only featured solely white male musicians for its Live in Music campaign, but also gave them all the credit for driving the country's music scene.
Paul Galesloot, CEO at Cowan Asia, said that global brands such as Nikon cannot afford to have one-size-fits-all approach towards their targeted audience. Even then, he disagreed that this misstep would likely cause the brand any damage as even bigger scandals have left certain brands unscathed.
"Nikon is a brand proud of its technical performance, actively using words like 'sport optics', 'precision equipment' and 'industrial metrology'. And they have picked '32 creative individuals' to showcase to demonstrate this," said Galesloot. "I think the majority of the audience will judge the photos, not the gender, age, ethnic origin, religion or sexual orientation of the photographers.'
He pointed out that what Nikon has done is not uncommon as the majority of auto and infant formula ads, for example, only feature either men or women prominently although this practice receives less attention.
"Of course there will be people who will passionately argue this is a very poor decision. Gender remains a hot topic, I can empathise with that point, however the question is whether this has significant impact on the brand, not about whether it is a clever or ethically appropriate decision," said Galesloot.
The story has been updated with comments from Paul Galesloot.