In the growing Blogosphere with anyone having he opportunity to post thoughts to a site, the opportunity for brands to have challenging relationships with those bloggers and social media in general.
One that caught my eye was the case of Forever 21 and their antithesis, wtforever21.com, There is a bit of coverage over the past few days about the site that uses its snide humor to mock Forever 21’s products since Forever 21 sent a Cease & Desist letter to the blog’s owner, Rachel Kane. They claim copyright and Intelectual Property (IP) infringment and have asked for wtfforever21 to be taken down. You can check some of the coverage on the Village Voice Blog .
Forget for a moment that Forever 21 is in the business of copying more expensive fashions to make them available to the masses. If the reproduction element was not such a huge part of the fashion industry, Forever 21 would have been sued into submission so long ago.
Rachel Kane is defending her site as satire – which it is by definition in the use of irony, sarcasm, ridicule, etc in exposing, denouncing or ridiculing something. Satire is such a huge part of culture since long before William Shakespeare was around. Sure, it can be a little mean-spirited at times, but it does fall under First Ammendment protection. Ultimately, the site will most likely be taken down due to the fear (and Kane’s lack of funding) for a legal defense. So, that’s too bad, but it seems Kane has a paying gig and doesn’t have as much time to write daily about Forever 21.
Now, let’s look at Forever 21 huge marketing, PR and social media miss. They could have taken an entirely different tack and not have come off as idiots for raising a stink (and awareness) about wtforever21.com. They could have turned it into a huge win.
Rather than combatting Kane and her blog, they should have opened a dialog. In the least, they could have had her as an advocate by welcoming her to visit or give input directly to the buyers and designers. Scratch that – they wouldn’t even have to bring her into the fold – they could have just commented in a good natured way about what she was saying. They could have had someone on their staff take on a good-natured personae and responded with comments on her site – not in a combative way, but as a mea culpa. Remember, they are in the business of cheaper knock-offs! They are, by nature, less than the original designs’ atandard they sell.
They should have also known their customers better and taken advantage of the characteristics and mentality of those teen and early 20-something consumers. There certainly could have been some way to incorporate Kane’s critiques and humor into their marketing. I agree that the term WTF would be a barrier to doing so, but even that is open to interpretation. What’s so bad about What The Forever? You get the point… Ultimately, its an epic fail as there’s got to be a way to turn someone who has made their name and had an influence due to their blog about your store into a voice for your brand and not against it. The psychograph of their consumer is PRIME for the sort of tongue in cheek marketing, communication and social outreach that could have ensued.
There will be no poking of fun at the attorney’s signature on the Cease and Desist that you can see at Tech Dirt in how huge and almost farcical it is – is that really how a lawyer signs documents? seriously? – but one could strongly question the marketing, PR business decisions in this whole thing. There can certainly be something learned here in the opportunites that can come to brands even in adversity if level and creative heads prevail.