02Mar

Clothing retailer Lands’ End found itself between two fires recently after it faced criticism from both pro- and anti-abortion activists for printing and later removing an interview with Gloria Steinem from company catalogs.

Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images

Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images

When the interview featuring a famous women’s rights activist with a well-known record of advocating for women’s abortion rights was first mailed out last week, it immediately triggered a backlash from numerous anti-abortion activists. Many of the company’s clients threatened to boycott its products altogether.

Being a large supplier of school uniforms to a number of Christian schools, Lands’ End hurried to remove the interview from its catalogs, issuing the following apology:

“It was never our intention to raise a divisive political or religious issue, so when some of our customers saw the recent promotion that way, we heard them. We sincerely apologize for any offense.”

Instead of ending the controversy, however, Lands’ End’s statement prompted another backlash from people who saw the company’s actions as a betrayal of women’s rights.

The main takeaway from this story is that brand managers should always pay close attention to who they choose as brand ambassadors. Even though Lands’ End’s interview with Steinem did not touch on the topic of abortion, the company should have foreseen how a large segment of its customer base might react to the chosen speaker.

When discussing important issues it becomes crucial to identify and evaluate potential reaction both the media and public might have in response to every statement or action. By failing to prepare for potential criticism, Lands’ End put itself in a very vulnerable position, potentially alienating customers on both sides of the issue.

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