(Bloomberg) -- Japanese household product company Kao Corp. had the cleanest of intentions: run a campaign to encourage family members to split household chores more equitably. Instead, the company found itself pulled into a controversy for being racially insensitive over its #BeWhite slogan.The hashtag Kao went with was a play on the term “white companies”, a Japanese moniker given to companies that treat their employees well and encourage work life balance. Companies known for long work-hours and exploitative working environment are labeled “black companies” in the Japanese language.Kao used that context to push out a short video on its Twitter account that showed how homes could be more “white”. It surveyed its own employees on how involved they are in chores at home in nation where long work-hours often force the burden of housework to women.
But it soon got pulled after the company realized that the slogan could be seen as racist; the ad also spurred criticism among Twitter users. Kao’s shares fell as much as 2.4% in Tokyo Friday.
“Our intention was to promote shared housework as a fun activity,” Ryota Ogawa, a spokesman for Kao, said by email. “But we suspended the campaign after realizing that in English the ‘Be WHITE’ slogan could be interpreted in many ways and therefore lacked sensitivity.”
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