Is Tony taking the wrong turn with Akwasi?

Tony’s Chocolonely shows off Akwasi for them on Linkedin Tony’s FAIR – Let’s Raise the Bar for Social Change! which took place on December 3 this year. The same Akwasi who earlier this year publicly incited violence against Zwarte Piet and made half-hearted apologies months later. Akwasi regularly sows unrest and is also a foreman at #BLM.

The fact is that Tony’s and Akwasi have been supporting each other for years in the fight against slavery on the cocoa plantations in third world countries.

The fight against slavery in those countries is certainly justified and noble. In the Netherlands, slavery is fortunately very far behind us and was abolished many generations ago in 1863.

Tony’s has a great concept and an appealing approach, namely having people produce their delicious chocolate by people who receive an appropriate fee for it. And fair is fair: the chocolate is to eat your fingers. LinkedIn is an important stage for Tony with more than 65,000 followers and it has a large and direct reach.

What you now see from the many and sometimes fierce reactions on LinkedIn is that a large number of fans, who have been praising Tony’s for a long time, love this combination with the erratic Akwasi.

On the other hand, there are also enough people who do not like this combination with the activist at all and give up on the brand.

This varies from mild reactions like “a pity about this choice” to very outspoken reactions like “I’ve always been a big fan of yours. But the fact that this man gets a stage with you, I find deeply sad. Very sorry”.

The choice of a person like Akwasi who calls for the use of aggression and violence and makes incendiary statements is not understood by many and certainly not appreciated. That is on balance loss of fans and users for the brand. I am afraid the brand strength will not grow further because of this.

Brands & Celebrities

Working with celebrities is attractive to many more brands, think of the many years of campaign by Nescafé and George Clooney. Or closer to home the long-running HAK campaign with Martine Bijl and more recently with Ronald Koeman. Or Jort Kelder for the Friesland bank. It is smart of Tony that for the same event they roped in the internationally renowned actor Idris Elba to plug this Tony’s Fair worldwide.

There are many appealing examples of brands that work with a celebrity for a long time and thus please their target group. An advertisement with a celebrity has potentially quite a bit more impact, because it is more talkable than a commercial with an unknown actor. The commercial is usually also better remembered. Celebrities can be a nice showcase.

But there is always a risk of damage, as in this case with Akwasi. Or think of that long line of celebrities, led by Martien Meiland, who have been nominated for the lead lion. A celebrity can also unexpectedly run into a scandal. Moreover, there are celebrities in the advertising who know outspoken fans and at the same time also outspoken haters, think of Jort Kelder and Ali B. Then make the right choice that suits your target group. Perhaps a large advertiser like Aldi is right by deliberately not wanting to work with celebrities in advertising, whereas competitor Lidl does with Frans Bauer, Thomas Acda, Gerard Joling and George Baker.

The most important lesson is that the celebrity or celebrity has to fit well with the brand

Until this year, the combination between Tony’s and Akwasi will have worked quite well, but since activist Akwasi’s controversial appearance this year, it might have been smarter to say goodbye to him and refer him to another stage.

Did Tony’s take the wrong turn anyway?


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