PR Nightmares of 2013
Ooooops!JPMorgan ChaseSephora LululemonBeyoncéNutellaUS AirwaysApplebee'sKlearGearAbercrombie & Fitch
Every so often, a company makes a mistake so massive and so offensive it gets the attention of the national media. For the company, it's humbling. For the rest of us, it's a lesson. Here are some of the most cringe-worthy, eyebrow-raising, public relation snafus of the year.
In mid-November, in an attempt to boost social media engagement, the bank (while the subject of at least eight Justice Department investigations) asked Twitter followers to post questions with the hashtag #AskJPM to open conversation between customers and an executive. After six hours and substantial backlash from the social media community, the bank ended the initiative and tweeted “#Badidea! Back to the drawing board,” reported Bloomberg.
The beauty product giant faced an outpouring of negative responses from consumers after releasing a lipstick named “Celebutard” as part of celebrity Kat Von D’s makeup line in early November. After numerous Change.org petitions and irate social media posts attacking the company for its choice, Sephora pulled the color from the line and apologized, reported Time.
In response to complaints about some of the company’s pants being see-through, co-founder Chip Wilson told a reporter “some women’s bodies just don’t work" for Lululemon pants. In mid-November, Wilson posted a video online apologizing to his employees for his comments but did not apologize to Lululemon customers, reported Time.
Though not a company, Beyonce's career is a money-making enterprise for sure and she was actually the subject of two PR blunders in 2013. The first came in January, when it became public that Beyoncé lip-synched the “Star-Spangled Banner” at the Presidential Inauguration. The second occurred in early February, when her publicist asked BuzzFeed to replace some “unflattering” photos featured in a post that covered her Superbowl halftime performance. Lesson learned: the outlet followed up with the post “The ‘Unflattering’ Photos Beyoncé’s Publicist Doesn’t Want You to See,” reported Slate.
In 2007, an enthusiastic Nutella fan named Sara Russo created World Nutella Day. In August of this year, the company sent her a cease and desist letter asking her to take down her website dedicated to the holiday. Once Ferrero--the company that owns the Nutella brand--realized it was essentially shutting down free publicity, the company announced that it would stop action against the Russo and the holiday, reported Businessweek. World Nutella Day lives on… thank goodness.
A US Airways airline crew removed a blind man, Albert Rizzi, and his service dog from a flight traveling from Philadelphia to New York in November over concern that his dog was out of control. After the crew asked Rizzi to get off the plane, 33 other passengers on the flight became upset and the flight was cancelled. US Airways then organized a bus to take the passengers to their destination on long island, reported The Washington Post.
In January, an Applebee’s employee, Chelsea Welch, posted a photo of a receipt from a customer on Reddit that went viral. On the receipt in question, the customer, a pastor Alois Bell, crossed out the suggested 18 percent tip listed on the receipt and wrote “I give God 10 percent, why do you get 18?” In addition to firing Welch, the chain apologized to Bell for violating her privacy, reported Business Insider. Of course, this didn't sit well with the public and the company received an outburst of anger from social media.
The retailer of desk toys and gadgets, gained brand recognition after it charged a customer $3,500 for posting a negative review. The customer, Jen Palmer, posted the review in question three years ago on the complaint site RipOffReport. In November, KlearGear responded to the complaint and cited a disparagement clause. After internet backlash, KlearGear protected its Twitter account and closed its Facebook page to the public, reported Tech Crunch.
Mike Jeffries, CEO of the apparel company, faced public outrage in the beginning of May, when a Business Insider story shed light on the fact that the clothing company doesn’t make jeans for women larger than a size 10--and that Jeffries was totally okay with that. The BI story referenced a 2006 Salon article in which Jeffries was quoted saying A&F was exclusionary and he implied that young, thin people were the company’s target demographic, reported the Washington Post.