Marks&Spencer: Listening or Caving In?
With so many incredible causes that never gain enough traction, it always fascinates me how certain topics will always get an undeserved amount of press coverage especially at a time when journalists and editors fight to save the establishment on the premise that amateurs are taking over leaving journalistic integrity to die a slow painful death. How’s that for drama?
Enter the Becky & Beckie “Busts 4 Justice” action group, most probably inspired by the Victoria & Beckam duo who have made a living out of exposing the lowest level of ignorance ever witnessed. They formed a “protest” group on Facebook which presently “boasts” an incredible 17,350 members. I wonder how that compares with M&S´number of customers which may have more pending matters at hand.
Hats of to the Becky & Beckie show – they showed an impressive capacity to mobilise traditional media. Where is the journalistic integrity that only traditional media is supposed to have? I wonder what Andrew Keen would have to say about this.
It’s not that I am not sensitive to women’s needs or to the fact that women who have to buy bras, large ones in this case, should have to pay more than other women. To me that’s not the issue at hand. It’s the fact that once again Social Media commentators jump on the bandwagon in an effort to show the importance for brands to listen to their customers. But did M&S actually listen to their customers? Not really. They just panicked and ended up looking pathetic.
Listening, as others have pointed out, does not imply that you have to agree. After all, are we not in the era of the conversation? Or has that been substituted by succumbing to every protest group that cleverly manipulates traditional media? I wonder what agency was “helping” M&S through this – no doubt ensuring that this did not turn into another Domino’s episode – as if.
This story should never have made it to television or radio. There are single women on welfare; women with cancer; women battered by their husbands; women sold for prostitution; women who are sexually harassed at work; etc. Yet suddenly the bra war seems all more important.
Where was M&S’ PR department throughout this episode? Were they too scared to explain the economics of retail, ensuring that shrinking margins are not eroded putting at risk many women’s jobs at M&S? This raises another issue – if their corporate head office did not comprise of mostly men, like most other companies, they would surely have found internally, far more credible women to argue the case and engage in the conversation. Is this what Social Media is all about? I hope not because I have spent the last four years convincing large brands of the need to engage in conversation. But it takes 2 to tango...
So did Marks & Spencer listen to their customers? Not in my opinion. They simply backed down with little confidence in the women that work for them or in their PR department. As Shel pointed out, will women with very small breasts now protest against the fact that they have to pay the same for a much smaller product?
I hope the B&B duo take this opportunity to fight for a more worthy cause, and there are no shortage of them – if not they can always wait for the next Big Brother season – imagine the potential there!