Benetton was started in 1963 as a small Italian company that produced hand-knitted wool sweaters in classic colors. To appeal to the rapidly growing youth market, the company decided to produce the sweaters in bold, bright, fun colors. To go along with this new image, the company name was changed from "Benetton" to "United Colors of Benetton."
Recently, however, United Colors of Benetton has become more famous for its radical and innovative approach to advertising than for its clothing. Past campaigns have used very graphic images and have focused on such controversial issues as the death penalty, AIDS, race relations, cultural conflicts, world hunger and child labor. Benetton feels that "the purpose of advertising is not to sell more; it has to do with the institutions' publicity, whose aim is to communicate the company's values (19)."
In addition to the advertising, Benetton launched an international magazine, Colors, in 1991, that is dedicated to its multi-racial and multi-cultural attitude. Colors is published in eight bilingual editions and sold in 120 countries around the world.
The success of the magazine, catalogue, and provocative advertising has turned a small, family-owned business into a global, 120 country-wide franchise, with clothing taking a definite backseat to lifestyle (3).