Two self-inflicted panderings to women blow up in organizations’ faces


These aren’t really crises, unless you work for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers or BIC, the French pen people.

[And thanks to my colleague, Allison Conte, and my wife, Liz Kahn, for waving the H*** S***! flags.]

BIC says it’s sorry for pandering to women in an ill-advised South African pitch.

New York Magazine has the report:

To celebrate Women’s Day in South Africa, BIC — the pen company that once developed pens “for her” — attempted to post an empowering message on the company Facebook page. The message — which encourages all women to embrace being a woman by looking like a girl, acting like a lady, and thinking like a man — reads like a twisted spoof of a Dove commercial, or a 1960s tampon ad. After a barrage of angry tweets and Facebook messages, BIC has already issued a weak semi-apology: 

We would like to apologize to all our fans who took offense to our recent Women’s Day Post. We can assure you that we meant it in the most empowering way possible and in no way derogatory towards women. We took the quote from a ‘Women in Business’ blog site. The blog site explains the quote and what its intentions were when it was written. BIC believes in celebrating women and the powerful contribution women make to our society.

Intentions are fine and dandy, but it’s perceptions that content providers need to think through. Did anyone walk around the Societe BIC offices in Clichy, France asking women what they thought of this campaign? [And while we’re at it, is Clichy where cliché came from? Who knew?]

The same sort of self-inflicted wound on the company’s reputation popped up last week when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers — in part, no doubt, because No. 1 draft pick, Florida State QB Jameis Winston, was accused of sexually assaulting another student — started a women fan campaign.

Image result for jameis winston nfl uniform

While the head of the ad agency that came up with the RED campaign defended it and noted 500 women signed up well in advance of its official Sept. 10 debut, not everyone was pleased. As the Tampa Bay Business Journal reported:

There was an immediate negative response to RED, which the Bucs launched last week. USA Today called it ” embarrassingly sexist” while the New York Times offered a scathing column: “So, ladies of Florida, toss out your dog-eared copies of ‘The Feminine Mystique’ and slip on your Bucs jersey. The team will give you expert tips on ‘rocking your best Bucs gear’ and the kind of cute D.I.Y. designs that will make your girlfriends jealous.”

RED was similarly pummeled by the Washington Post , the Chicago Tribune, the New York Post , the Los Angeles Times, ESPN and the Denver Post, among others.

The motivations behind these two campaigns are fine, maybe even laudable. Their executions created a perception of pandering. Ask around, see what people think, before you hurt your client’s reputation.

The content of this blog is about crisis management and mismanagement in a digital age. It originates with Steve Bell, who spent 30 years as a journalist for the Associated Press and in four top editor positions at The Buffalo News. He is now Partner/Director of Public Affairs and Crisis and Reputation Management at Eric Mower + Associates, one of the nation’s largest independent advertising, integrated marketing and public relations agencies, with eight offices in the East. Learn more about EMA at mowerpr.com/crisisready. Steve’s blog is based on his own opinions and does not represent the views or positions of Eric Mower + Associates.

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About steveoncrisis

The content is about crisis management and mismanagement in a digital age. It comes from Steve Bell, who spent 30 years as a journalist for the Associated Press and as managing editor and editorial page editor at The Buffalo News. He is now Partner/Director of Public Affairs at Eric Mower and Associates, one of the nation's largest independent advertising, integrated marketing and public relations agency with six offices in the Northeast and Southeast.
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