In mid-January the clothing retailer H&M was in hot water with its social media fans. The furor began when a local Atlanta artist raised a flag to H&M that one of her paintings was being duplicated on their products without approval or compensation. The initial response from H&M to the artist apparently read like this: “We employ an independent team of over 100 designers. We can assure you that this design has not been influenced by your work and that no copyright has been infringed.”
You can imagine how the artist felt after this retort from a major retailer. So, the artist took to the blogosphere and social media to complain. Soon there were blog posts and various twitter and Facebook feeds on the situation at hand. Her friends sent complaints to the retailer and also received less than positive responses: “Thank you for your email regarding our “You Look Nice Today” items. We are sorry to hear that you will no longer be shopping with us. Kind regards, H&M Customer Services.”
Many felt the response from H&M customer service was condescending. From a strategic standpoint, many felt the response lacked some of the basics of corporate reputation management.
In our business, we often see marketing teams and customer service lacking in the area of reputation management. There may be the occasion where these types of responses are left only to a few junior-level employees, without a thought beyond answering an email in as little time as possible.
H&M learned quickly that this was a mistake, and the Web community was strong. Eventually they posted their response (but only after a full day of deleting negative Facebook posts):
“We apologies [sic] if anyone should think we have copied, which has never been our intention and also not allowed. We have merely been inspired, after seeing many different varieties with different text messages, to create something similar in a different font, with the use of big and small brackets and the placement of the shaped heart. We are truly sorry if we have led someone to believe that we intentionally should have copied someone else’s creation.”
Still not a particularly strong response, especially if you look at the original artwork versus the H&M products. The buzz on Facebook remains, but it appears H&M has closed the books on this social media hiccup.
1. Reputation Management has a place in all aspects of your business, but especially those that interface with actual people.
2. If you are accused of copyright infringement or wrongdoing, research the accusations before you respond.
3. The social media world is strong and your seemingly small mistake can quickly become a big story (even if media never says a word).