Women come in all shapes and sizes and have huge differences in physical experiences. The main goal of Livi Rae Lingerie in Kennesaw, Georgia--known from Lifetime's hit series Double Divas--subsequently has been to make beautiful, high-quality everyday underthings that address a huge range of preferences and body types. But as Elise Sole of Yahoo Style reports, when the store revealed new ads on Valentine's Day, their property management company told them the ads would have to come down.

The problem with the ads reportedly wasn't that the models were showing too much skin or posed inappropriately, as might come to mind given the intimate nature of the products. The problem apparently was that the ads featured a woman in a wheelchair, a woman of color and two plus size women.

How trouble began

According to Gillian Fuller of Allure, the issue started when the property management company started receiving complaints about the ads. It's not exactly clear what those complaints included. But one possible explanation is that individuals who contacted the property management company thought that advertisements sent the wrong message about obesity, telling the public that being overweight is fine despite the health issues often associated with more pounds. There's even the possibility that current racial tensions might have contributed. But that doesn't fully explain the take-down request, given the inclusion of a disabled model, as well.

"We were told the ad is in 'poor taste,'" co-owner Cynthia Decker told Sole, "but no one has explained what that means."

Additionally, although Livi Rae's lease does have a statute requiring ad approval, the property management company previously hadn't had a problem letting Livi Rae display unapproved ads featuring thin models. As a result, people couldn't help but translate the request as general body shaming, the idea being that the models in the ads just didn't fit the cultural ideal of beauty.

The purpose of the campaign, according to co-owner Cynthia Decker, was simply to send a message of inclusion and acceptance. The company's tag line, after all, is "No bust too big or small, we fit 'em all."

"We wanted to show people that they didn't have to have perfect skin, bone structure, or bodies to feel beautiful," Decker told Sole.

Likes, shares and tweets translate to victory

Following the property management's request, Livi Rae stood its ground and refused to take down the ads. The refusal resulted in an outpouring of support on social media, particularly Twitter, with users showing solidarity through the hashtag #noshamelivirae. At least in part because of this customer response, the property management company walked back their instructions and told Livi Rae's representatives the display could stay.

One short-term dilemma, three long-term takeaways

What happened with Livi Rae demonstrates three key lessons for anyone in business, the first being that companies shouldn't be afraid to create ads they feel are in line with their business vision and underlying philosophies. Deviating from your message at the first hint of disagreement or differing viewpoints can make customers wonder where you really stand. Consistency, however, builds trust. Secondly, customers have a voice when it comes to determining the ethical or cultural standards under which a business will be allowed to operate. They are active participants in the operational process, and business leaders need to respect the reciprocity in the company-consumer relationship. Had shoppers not shown their support and banded together against the initial complaints, the property management company might not have reversed its position. Lastly, social media can tell your story--for better or worse--in real time. Always assume that your issues will be seen well outside of where you're based and conduct yourself accordingly.

Published on: Mar 17, 2017
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.