Is MAC Using Inappropriate Cultural Branding?


MAC, one of the Estée Lauder Companies was recently “called out” for using inappropriate cultural branding. The culprit of the complaints is centered around the packaging of the “tribal” collection and the Native American design of the ad campaign.

There has been no issue with the Vibe Tribe colors which are featured in red, coral and gold lipsticks with teal, cobalt, mandarin and charcoal eye-shadows. Some of the collections photos from the MAC collection were leaked and customers were not pleased. Here are some comments that were shared… “The packaging is really pretty, but it doesn’t come close to making up for how gross it is that they’re playing into the ‘tribal’ stereotype.”

A disgruntled woman explains her point of view,  “As a mixed breed woman, I just have to roll my eyes in disgust. ‘Vibe tribe’? Really?” Another woman is very offended by the campaign and shares this emotional story of her own. She says, “I’m really grossed out by the fact that they’ll be benefiting from Native designs and ‘vibes’, and I don’t imagine any of the proceeds will be going to any of the First Nations, and I’d be surprised if there were any Native models in their ad campaigns. Like, there are less than a hundred people alive left who speak my father’s native tongue. It’s a dying language. He wasn’t allowed to speak our language when he was stolen from his home as a child and sent to boarding school, and was vivaciously beaten if he tried. He wasn’t allowed to wear our native garbs, and they withheld the jewelry my grandmother and great aunts would send him. And MAC thinks it’s a cute campaign idea to benefit from? Designs and patterns that my own people, the creators of these designs and patterns, were not allowed to wear? To call themselves a ‘tribe’, when there are less than 4,000 of my tribe left? When 40% of our suicide rate is young Natives 15-24, when we have the highest suicide rates in general, when we still live in incredible poverty and reservations often look like third world nations – MAC really thinks this is acceptable?”

In a statement to, a rep for MAC said, “MAC Vibe Tribe is the summer color collection for MAC Cosmetics. The collection, including the visuals, product lineup and naming, is inspired by art, outdoor music festivals and the colors of the desert.” I watched Coachella and you can see that Native American headdresses and beaded garments are very popular this season. I personally do not think that MAC meant to offend anyone with their ad, but I can see how it might be offensive for some. No matter what you do in life and business it is difficult to please everyone. I am sure they will think twice on the next ad campaign.

Do you think that MAC made an inappropriate cultural ad campaign?