Friday, July 8, 2011

Cultivate Controversy Carefully

Fashion retailers thrive on controversy. Pastry sellers, maybe not so much. Or maybe just as much.
     Baked goods company Entenmann’s tweeted, “Who's #notguilty about eating all the tasty treats they want?!” This on the day that endless tweets of outrage were circulating about the acquittal of Casey Anthony on charges she had killed her 2½-year-old daughter.
     Entenmann’s soon deleted the tweet and then issued a new tweet: “Our #notguilty tweet was insensitive, albeit completely unintentional. We are sincerely sorry.”
     Likeable Media, the social media consultants to Entenmann’s actually did the original post. They were tracking the #notguilty tag as a trending topic, so hopped on board with its use, but say they failed to first investigate why the tag was suddenly so popular.
     The “insensitive” apology tweet was retweeted nearly 100 times and the Entenmann tweet roster ended up included countless thank you responses to those who said they understood.
     Although it turned out quite nicely for Entenmann’s, I suspect that the controversy here was not intentional. But I much more than suspect that there are retailers and other marketers who carefully cultivate controversy.
     Back to the fashion retailers: American Apparel’s sexually-charged advertising that has sometimes used pornographic film stars generated not only outrage, but also rapt attention. Even some praise. In a week when the American Medical Association urged advertisers not to digitally distort images of female models to make them look unrealistically skinny, American Apparel could point out how their models are shown without imperfections Photoshopped out.
     Even when you as a retailer allow controversy in order to be socially responsible, take care. Analyze the values of the culture in which your business operates. Research indicates people with backgrounds in collectivist cultures, like those in many Asian and Pacific Island areas, Greece and Portugal, are more likely to embrace social responsibility than those who identify with individualist cultures such as Great Britain, Canada and the Netherlands.
     At the start, you might choose to take on social responsibility issues that will bring largely supportive attention. Almost everybody supports reducing the trash we generate. So your first social responsibility initiatives might involve exploring ways to sell products that use refillable containers, favor vendors that minimize packing, and accept old products as recyclables.

For your profitability: Sell Well: What Really Moves Your Shoppers

Click below for more:
Apologize to Customers for Retailing Errors
Profit by Showing Social Responsibility

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