Reputation Management Case Study: American Apparel’s “That’s not our demographic” Incident

Reputation management is extremely important. Take the recent American Apparel incident. If you’re not familiar with it, here’s a synopsis:

Plus-size contestants were asked to submit their photos, and the public would vote for their favorite. The top two would become models for the new XL line. Then along comes Nancy Upton. She “entered the contest as a spoof and a satire” because she felt the contest “was being executed in a condescending manner.” In her entry, she said she was “a size 12″ and “just can’t stop eating.”

She won. Well, at least by popular vote. American Apparel, however, rejected her bid claiming they found her entry insulting. In an email to Upton, American Apparel creative director Iris Alonzo told her that she did not exemplify their idea of beauty inside and out.

Then the story went viral. American Apparel got a lot of bad press from a lot of angry women, of all sizes.

American Apparel now has the pleasure of managing its reputation. They have agreed to fly Upton and her photographer out to L.A to meet with the company’s creative directors.

What’s the takeaway?

Reputation is so important. One bad move, one wrong email, one wrong word can be detrimental to a business. The best things to do when faced with a bad situation is to:

  1. Respond immediately to the issue.
  2. Take responsibility for your actions.
  3. Do what you can to make it right.

If you make it right, then the bad press might just turn into succès de scandale (success from scandal).

It’s always a good idea to remember that nothing online is private, so always put your best foot forward. When in doubt, don’t hit the send button. Hit delete instead (or at least “Save as draft”). Close your eyes, take a few deep breaths, and calm down!

And, above all, don’t mess with beauti-ful women.

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