In 1955, Luciano Benetton, saw a market for colourful clothes and began the company by primarily selling sweaters that he knitted.Benetton ad campaigns were then created, that contained striking images unrelated to any actual products being sold by the company. These graphic, billboard sized ads depicted a variety of ‘shocking’ subjects such as a deathbed scene of a man dying from AIDS, two horses mating, close-up pictures of tattoos, a collage consisting of genitals of persons of various races, a priest and nun about to engage in a romantic kiss and pictures of inmates on death row. The company's logo served as the only text accompanying the images in most of these advertisements
The ads raised the company's profile with their motto as “We decided to do something very controversial that people would pick up on” - 50% of people thought it was great and 50% thought it was awful, but it made everyone talk about Benetton. “All the Colours of the world” was one of the first slogans to appear in Benetton ads, and was later altered to “United Colours of Benetton.” For the first time in the history, the slogan “United Colours of Benetton” became a commercial trademark.
The process of building the Benetton brand took place in three separate phases as the cycle of difference, the cycle of reality and the cycle of free speech and the right to express it. Benetton ads used media, design, music, cinema, photography, and publishes on the internet to show the marrying of culture and industry.
Luciano Benetton and his photographer Toscani are maybe now too clever for the European press. The “united” colours of its sweaters soon became a metaphor for the united skin tones of the youth from many different countries and as the markets expanded, Benetton became a global force in just a few years.