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Lands' End & Gloria Steinem

The Huffington Post The Huffington Post 2/03/2016 Jim Joseph

As Kenny Rogers says, "you've got to know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em." (sorry, just dated myself there!)
Seems as if Lands' End decided to fold 'em ... fold on a new and perhaps unique marketing point of view, that is.
Long story short, as a way to start to become (and to be perceived as) a global brand, the CEO launched an interview series called "Legends" featuring iconic figures in our culture and living history.
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One installment features Gloria Steinem and was met with immediate controversy...including many groups threatening a boycott and some Catholic Schools threatening to stop buying their uniforms from the brand. The reaction was pretty swift, even in this digital age.
As a result, the brand swiftly pulled the interview online and in an Easter catalog. The brand also decided to pull its support of the ERA's Coalition Fund for Women's Equality. All in an instant.
And then the backlash from that move kicked into gear in response, in an instant, when other shoppers threatened to stop shopping Lands' End for pulling the interview.
Surely, you can't please everyone and no brand should try.
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I'll be honest and say that I didn't read the interview. I don't need to because I'm not commenting on the content itself. I'm looking at this from a marketing perspective. When you're a global brand and you're trying to connect with a global audience, you have to know when to hold onto your point of view and know when to fold. Unless you've made a colossal and offensive mistake, in my mind you have to take a position and you have to stick to it.
It's proper branding and in my book proper targeting. You need to understand your core audience, what's important to them, and focus on it...all the while sticking to who you are as a brand. You can't roam around and then expect that consumers understand how to engage with you...or expect them to buy into your brand. Not all of them anyway.
Witness Tylenol with #HowWeFamily or Honey Maid with #ThisIsWholesome or Cheerios or Expedia or all the other brands that have made a statement and stuck with it despite controversy and criticism.
There's a lot to be learned here, not the least of which is crisis/issues planning for when you launch any marketing campaign. Any brand needs to anticipate the market's reaction and plan out response scenarios. I would advocate that immediately pulling the campaign with an apology isn't necessarily a issues management plan.
We live in a marketing world where being focused and bold gets rewarded by consumers. Whereas trying to please everyone with everything is nearly impossible.

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