Topless Model Looks Different on a Spreadsheet

The best Lands' End customers received a free copy of GQ's July issue, featuring a nearly naked Emily Ratajkowski.

Lands’ End is encountering angry reactions from some of its best customers after the clothing retailer sent out “gift” issues of GQ featuring model Emily Ratajkowski on the July cover, clearly not wearing garments from Dodgeville, Wis. Ratajkowski was mostly wearing the birthday suit she was born with in the U.K., with the exception of a strategically placed lei.
“The idea was to reward [Lands’ End’s] best customers with magazines ‘highlighting fashion and lifestyle topics,’ ” reports The New York Times on Aug. 13. “Previously, as part of the arrangement, the company had sent readers copies of other popular magazines like Self, Vogue and Glamour.”

In an apology email sent to those outraged best customers, Lands’ End CEO and President Edgar Huber explained the retailer “did not want to exclude our male customers” then said there were no excuses for the mishap, according to the Times.

The email didn’t stop the outrage. At 6:59 p.m. on Thursday, a woman wrote on the Lands’ End Facebook page: “Thanks for that unsolicited soft core porn you sent in the form of GQ. I always love a ‘thank you’ like that after buying school uniforms for my 11- and 9-year-old children. You need a new marketing manager.”

It’s not the first time Ratajkowski’s made American mothers mad, though, considering her rise to fame follows “Blurred Lines”—the video in which she appears while similarly clad.

No one on Google or the visible portions of Lands’ End’s Facebook page is comparing Lands’ End’s faux pas to American Apparel’s deliberately racy back-to-school campaign that includes Lolita references. However, it is glaring that tweets about Ratajkowski’s unwanted appearance in mailboxes are far outnumbering photos of cute kindergarteners in Lands’ End school uniforms. (Guess which ones @LandsEnd is retweeting?) Lands’ End also hasn’t sent out a press release and is letting comments on Facebook go unanswered—including those predominantly from men who are mocking the upset women.

Heather Fletcher is senior content editor with Target Marketing.

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  • Reg Doherty

    Are people upset because she’s “clearly not wearing garments from Dodgeville, Wis?” And obviously the magazine cover’s not tall enough. She could be wearing trousers.

  • Nathanial Poling

    Does it really matter if you think someone is overreacting, the fact is that people were offended and not just any people but customers that they considered to be their top customers. This is a disaster for the marketing department no matter what you think of the complainers, you just may have alienated their business. It doesn’t take a brain surgeon to see that you don’t send a racey magazine to your customers, you take the chance of offending feminists and conservative moms at the same time. Big deal that a few guys liked it, the women still overwhelmingly control the spending in households.

  • Lisa Adams

    Number one rule in marketing…Know your audience. Clearly Land’s End did not know their audience and failed to do the research readily available to them to make a better choice. Not a bright move in my opinion.

  • Ed Lawrence

    This is a common mistake incurred when mass marketing. It is clear that they didn’t understand the demographics of their entire customer base. It is a classic example of why Personalization in Marketing is so important. Yes, they may have saved money by mass marketing with one message….but did they really? What about the angry bunch of customers that didn’t appreciate their “soft porn”. What did that just cost them? This is a great lesson in mining your customer demographics and tailoring your message to the demographics of your audience

  • Stephen Yu

    People are way too uptight about nudity in the United States. That said, marketers must respect such uptightness. Unless their goals is to change the world not maximizing the profit.

  • Stan Brown

    But isn’t Lands End known for pretty good message control and advanced marketing savvy? What am I missing here?

  • Nancy Harhut

    Ha! “Playing with Fire” – What an apt issue choice.

  • Robert Sarrow

    I don’t think Lands’ End has anything to worry about. Even negative publicity is good publicity. I am sure that 99% of the people who got the magazine were thrilled to receive it. Lands’ End cannot worry about those couple dozen women who look for things to get offended by. They will gain more new customers, and more customer loyalty, than they will lose from this campaign.

  • Publishing Marketer

    What I find interesting is that the Lands End folks didn’t ask the GQ team about the cover of the issue they were sending out as a free gift to their customers. This deal had to have been put together weeks in advance, and anyone who knows what a magazine publishing schedule looks like would know that this cover was probably chosen in early June — MORE than enough time to have it looked over by the Lands End team. From there, they could have excluded segments of their customer file (aka the moms buying kids clothes). this looks like a campaign that failed on multiple levels. I understand the CEO did issue a public apology however, so I give them credit for accepting responsibility for the gaffe.

  • Neolithic

    “But isn’t Lands End known for pretty good message control and advanced marketing savvy? What am I missing here?”

    Lands End WAS known for these things. They used to have great brand messaging and sophisticated brand imagery. They also used to have high quality merchandise at great prices. I used to order from them all the time and LOVED their products.

    But all good things must end I guess. In this case SEARS bought Lands End. The same SEARS that bought Kmart, and same SEARS that mismanages their own brand messaging, neglects upkeep of their retail stores, and continues to lower the manufactured quality of their best brands (Kenmore, Craftsman). Have you visited a SEARS store lately? Their stores are dark, dirty, outdated and the merchandise is sad and crappy.

    When Sears bought Lands End I hoped for the best– maybe Sears would leave LE alone. I continued to buy from Lands End for about 2 years… but started to see the selection, quality, and craftsmanship of their products diminish rapidly. I also noticed that the LE brand messaging started to change– from rugged, “New Englandy”. sporty, intelligent to something more like “bland trendy trash for the whole family”. Complaining to LE’s customer service did no good. I finally stopped shopping at Lands End when the quality of the stuff I ordered matched the crap I could buy from Kmart and Sears.

    So its no surprise to me that Lands End branding and messaging is rudderless, and clueless about who their customers really are. Magazines as gifts? Glamour and GQ…really? Just ridiculous. How about special discounts or useful LE merchandise gifts instead? And no LE staff monitoring social media and addressing customer FB posts? Ha! This is SEARS posing as Lands End, “zombie” Lands End… the real Lands End died a long time ago.

    I just hope SEARS or JCPenney doesn’t buy LL Bean next…

  • JoelinPDX

    Much ado about really nothing. You can see this much on network TV. Has anyone watched “Survivor” lately? How about the so-called jokes on “Two Broke Girls” or most any other comedy show? Showing a little “side-boob” is a total non-starter.

  • JAFO

    I think the issue at hand here is Land’s End’s brand reputation. They are known for offering quality, but very tasteful clothing that isn’t very risky. Even their swimsuits are pretty conservative. As a result, when their customers see the LE brand, there are things they unconsciously expect and don’t expect. A topless model in an alluring photo is the last thing most LE customers would expect to see when opening anything from them.

    To put it differently, if you go to Burger King, and there’s a table full of people drinking cocktails and laughing it up (but aren’t outwardly threatening), you’re a little unnerved. If you walked into a TGI Fridays, and those same people were doing the same thing, you wouldn’t think twice. Why? Because you know Friday’s has a bar, and you expect to see people drinking when you go there, even if you choose not to drink.

    I’d guess most people are offended because they got something they didn’t expect or want from Land’s End – save for a few prudes.

  • Der Bengel

    And furthermore, I even wrote a recent car company, the one who allows the skirt to blow up when the car drives by-I am sure many of you saw this. And let’s take this a step further, not all men appeciate such slutty ineundos. There’s always some depraved people out there who cannot be dully satisfied in a decent manner. And I strongly urge people to actually quit complaining and actually put action behind their big mouths and boycott a company until they learn some manners?!?!?! That’s the only thing these ani…I mean people understand-hit them in their pocketbooks and they WILL modify their behavior! Our forefathers would be ashamed of most Americans today who only cry, maybe write a letter, but never “really” do anything about it. (whatever it may be at the time)