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.
"GQ stands for Gentlemen's Quarterly," a man writes on Thursday on the Lands' End Facebook page. "So dear prudish moms, please pass your free GQ magazine to the nearest Gentleman, and give it a rest."
Marketers: What should Lands' End do about this? Can partnerships and/or list rental get otherwise responsible e-commerce and direct mail marketers in trouble? Is this a role for a customer experience officer? What can marketers learn from this situation?
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