The Gap’s MLK Advertising Gap Hurts Reputation

Jonathan Bernstein crisis communications, crisis management, Crisis Prevention, crisis public relations, Crisis Response, Erik Bernstein, internet crisis management, internet reputation management, Jonathan Bernstein, online crisis management, online reputation management, PR, public relations, reputation management, social media, social media crisis management, social media reputation management Leave a Comment

Another social media #fail from a big brand

It seems every holiday brings new mistakes from retailers who seem hell-bent on using them to promote product, hurling common sense to the wayside in the process, and then acting shocked when they’re forced to do crisis management in response to a furious public.

This year’s Martin Luther King Day was no different, as many organizations across the States embarrassed themselves by completely missing the point of the holiday, shoving sales down the throats of stakeholders rather than recognizing the contributions of the civil rights leader.

GAP became the poster child for this one after sending out an email blast advertising “The MLK Event” that had absolutely nothing else to do with the man or his legacy, but rather advertised “up to 50% off” on various types of denim.

Social media users laid into the brand with posts ranging from comedic to downright furious, and reporters and bloggers (us included!) had a heydey ripping the horrible decision-making behind such a campaign.

News anchor and longtime reporter Sharon Brody actually called The Gap to ask how nobody on the MLK Event team had managed to consider that they might be making a mistake, and documented the conversation on her blog:

When the mind boggles, trying to unboggle never hurts. I called The Gap. The corporate spokesperson with whom I chatted could not have been nicer, and she allowed as how she was not surprised by my concerns being as, in fact, she shared them. She hinted that an awful lot of customers had already made their displeasure known. The word tone-deaf came into play. And although she could not answer my questions about how many folks on the Gap payroll had been involved in planning and designing and approving this EVENT, she did offer an official statement:

“Celebrating inclusion and diversity is an important part of who we are at Gap brand and something that we strive to reflect, not only in our marketing, but in everything we do. We fell short of this in our recent marketing email and missed an opportunity to celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s legacy with our customers. We are committed to doing better in the future.”

Corporate speak without an ounce of compassion.  How many times is this same pattern going to be repeated before brands realize that, while some holidays are all about retail, many others, especially the ones celebrating people who met with an untimely end, are simply off-limits for selling?

The BCM Blogging Team


Leave a Reply