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Fashion Retailers Marketing Campaigns that Killed Sales

Fashion Retailers Marketing Campaigns that Killed Sales

In the marketing’s world any kind of campaign has the potential to blow sales expectations or kill them. Following the same topic as in my previous post I’ve listed below some examples of what I consider to be the worst retail marketing campaigns and what we can learn from them.

1. Bad Marketing Strategy

In the fall of 2011 the most important news within the retail industry was the appointment of Ron Johnson as CEO of JC Penney, former Senior Vice President of Retail Operations at Apple. The retail industry was positive that he is the right person to revitalize the ancient strategy of JC Penney, one of the largest American retailers. But eight months later he was out of a job. So what went wrong?

Instead of reshaping the brand’s strategy, Ron Johnson tried to change it from scratch and didn’t show much respect or understanding for the company’s culture and its traditional customers.  So mistakes like alienating customers by removing coupons and sales (tech consumers from Apple grew accustomed to buying at full price), not understanding customers acquisition behavior, reorganizing shops like Apple stores, a fun place to hang out (while JC Penney is for old-fashioned shoppers) and a chaotic communication and advertising strategy turned everything into a disaster.

Lesson learned: In order for a marketing strategy to be successful it needs to be coherent and unitary. Try to understand the customers’ behavior before making adjustments to a brand’s relaunch.

2. Bad Email Marketing

When Hurricane Sandy, the deadliest and most destructive hurricane in 2012, affected 24 states in the USA many retailers made the bizarre decision to launch sales campaigns for those caught in the storm.  American Apparel was one of those sending an email campaign announcing 20% off to customers for the next 36 hours in case they were bored during the storm. Online negative reactions from social media users appeared instantly, criticizing severely the clothing retailer for its lack of sensitivity.

Lesson Learned: In case of natural disasters indeed people are trapped in their homes. However this is not an opportunity to generate internet sales. Instead of promoting good deals or free shipping respond in a charitable way and highlight your corporate social responsibility business model.

3. Bad Branding

Macy’s, the American chain of department stores, associated their brand in 2012, during the presidential elections, with the public figure Donald Trump. Trump declared his support for Mitt Romney, president Obama’s opponent, and sustained his campaign with charity donations and boycotting Obama’s measures.   This was not a good affiliation for Macy’s as their traditional customers were mostly democratic as Obama’s party.  Negative reactions on Macy’s social media accounts appeared instantly and even a petition was signed asking Macy’s to cut all associations with Trump.

Lesson learned: When choosing a brand ambassador for your retail business it is important to know if that person will truly reflect your company’s culture or else your audience will be offended of what he/she says or does. It is advisable to avoid associations with political causes, minority groups, unreliable NGOs etc.

4. Bad PR

Abercrombie & Fitch, also known as A&F, is an American casual wear retailer. In 2002 A&F released a new line of T-shirts illustrating caricatures of Asian stereotypes. The ads were considered offending for the Asian people and A&F was called racist. Spokesman commentary:  “We personally thought Asians would love this T-shirt.”

One month later they released a collection of thong panties for 10 years old girls. Spokesman commentary: The underwear for young girls was created with the intent to be lighthearted and cute.”


Lesson learned: Not knowing how to manage a crisis situation can cause media criticism, customers’ boycotts and sales decline.  Have a communication expert manage the media relation immediately, think carefully before reacting, reassess your position if needed (the audience will probably forgive an honest mistake than a calculated lie) and the issue will never become a crisis.

5. Bad Advertising

Levi Strauss & Co., the American jeans company, released in 2012 a marketing campaign called “Hotness Comes in All Shapes and Sizes” to promote their Levi’s Curve ID Jeans to women. The campaign experienced an epic fail and became very controversial. Although the jeans came in three different versions all the models featured in the ads had the same body shape, same measures and skin color. Women soon expressed their disapproval and the advertising department was blamed for not knowing the difference between women body shapes.

Lesson learned: If your advertising campaign is mediocre or bad the audience will not perceive the message you want to transmit. The first consequence is people will stop purchasing your brand. However if you release an ad that outrages people better to just say you’re sorry and maintain a good public image.

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