Anyone who reads our public relations blog on a Friday will know that we take it upon ourselves to highlight media, PR, and marketing related highs and lows from the week prior. But, whilst this would certainly be a contender, we thought the example at hand was worth expounding on a little, as it highlights just how much care and consideration needs to be shown when dealing with customers and consumers.
As reported on in many publications yesterday, including The Drum, a situation has unfolded involving John Lewis, that most upstanding of British department stores, its Indian suppliers, and a UK overseas territory. The crux of the stories being that a globe showing the Falkland Islands as Islas Malvinas was found in a Sloane Square branch of the aforementioned retailer. That’s the Spanish translation, and given Argentina’s claim over, and 1980s invasion of this Atlantic archipelago understandably people have got quite worked up about the blunder.
Labelled as un-patriotic, and disrespectful towards the military men and women that fought (and in some cases lost their lives) in order to keep the islands under British protectorate, apparently the mistake came about when an approved design (containing the correct reference; Falklands) wasn’t used on a batch of stock at source. Once this was discovered, replacements were issued (with the right information on them).
Whilst this is no horse meat, given John Lewis’ reputation and projected image, the fact it uses suppliers capable of such a cultural faux pas is somewhat damaging, even if the initial cock up will be forgotten in a relatively short amount of time. Here at Smoking Gun PR we continuously reference the importance not just of creative brand storytelling and messages, but also consistency within those. Still, though, accidents continue to happen (albeit thankfully not amongst our clients), and this is a classic example. The actions- in terms of manufacturing, and wholesale quality control- didn’t match the corporate message, which is very much focused on attention to detail, trustworthiness, and respectability.
Of course nobody’s saying the highly regarded employer isn’t still one of the most ethical in the country, but nevertheless there’s no accounting for double-checking quality and accuracy. Least of all when you’re serving customers with a bit of disposable money to spend, who can afford to shop elsewhere. Granted, there are so many demands on businesses in 2013 there’s always a risk of oversight, it’s just that with more choice and voice than ever before, the public as a whole has never been more vehement in its reaction to such slip-ups.