A department store in New York City at the East Houston Street location of American Apparel, notorious for turning heads has done it again!
This controversial retailer is well known for getting its customers talking. This time, adorning the store window mannequins with; guess what? Answer ‘pubic hair!’
A spokesperson for American Apparel is known to have said ‘We created it to invite the passersby to explore the idea of what is ‘sexy’ and consider their comfort with the natural female form.”
Really? What’s the point of this raunchy exercise in publicity apart from titillation do you suggest? (And yes the manikins’ do have nipples!)
Well, the company points out that this outrageous window display is aimed at boosting sales around Valentine’s Day, and it appears it’s already really working! Curious customers and media huddle round the shop window in their droves snapping pictures and creating a stir.
The manikins dressed in revealing shirt dresses, perms and skimpy panties and masses of pubic hair leave nothing to the imagination and impact of the Customer Experience at this touch point.
It’s Not Their First Time
This is not the first time by any stretch that American Apparel has used scandalous imagery and publicity to attract its customers. The retailer has had its fair share of lawsuits along the journey of its rise to success. The company has also a troubled past dealing with Securities Fraud and the supposed sexuality of young models. And even more than this in 2011, An employee died after an industrial accident as a result of being crushed by a circular knitting machine. What a terrible way to go!
American Apparel spokesperson Peter Schey is known to have said that all these past incidents have only strengthened this company and lead to the improvement of the lives of its roughly 10,000 employees. The company now has employee policies that go above and beyond what the law in the US requires.
“It’s not like mistakes have been made and we’ve ignored them and made things even worse, it is a situation where we’ve tried to learn from those mistakes,” said Schey, “Every mistake is an opportunity to learn how to do things better from the standpoint of the workers.”
Here are JUST SOME OF THE previous adds that totally rocked American Apparel:
Even, if it’s only diversity in the pubic region with the express purpose of causing a little ‘buzz’ are these mannequins a step too far? Or are they demonstrating a realistic view of the female body as a customer would like to see – real people, warts and all?
Just as customers may like to see mannequins depicting people of different race, people with disabilities, people of different sizes, heights…
Is simply putting sex into advertising provocative and erotic and just specifically designed to arouse an interest in a brand, product or service?
Sex Can Also Turn Off Customers
Do these mannequins make you want to buy American Apparel clothes?
Surely there is a fine line drawn here and just as in the media all too often brands can be seen as stepping way over the line.
There is always a difference between what you want your customers to see and what they actually prefer.
People may find American Apparel’s clothing erotic as any other, but if the product isn’t great, they won’t hold onto the customers for long whatever image they portray.
Company leaders really need to take a solid look at the way they promote their products or services and this often requires getting naked in front of the mirror, but surely only figuratively?
The use of sex in advertising has important social, managerial, and public policy implications. These implications hinge, of course, on the desired portrayal of women in contemporary society, the conditions under which advertising and marketing managers must consider.
Despite the importance of sexually-oriented advertising and its increased use, little research has been directed towards measuring the impact of such advertisements on consumer awareness, attitudes, or behaviours
As a result of these shortcomings, very little is known about sex in advertising and how it may be expected to interact with other variables to arouse, motivate, offend, or otherwise affect target and non-target consumer populations.
American Apparel has a history of using such hair in its imagery, potentially for shock value. Just last Autumn, the store sold a graphic T-Shirt containing an image of a menstruating vagina with pubic hair, which caused an online stir. Before that, they released an Ad featuring a model in sheer underwear with once again visible pubic hair!
‘The Bottom Line’
Is American Apparel delivering the wrong kind of customer attention, and does this line of thought ultimately lead to a bigger and better brand?
People hate being misled, when advertisements are full of untruth and as we know this is part and parcel of the overall Customer Experience. If you use taboo subjects in advertising, but the rest of your product and service is not risqué, you’re running into trouble.
Surely sex, used sparingly and judicially, is a strong selling tool. But abuse it, and you will ultimately lose out?
But now consumers are left to decide for themselves whether or not the advertising message and product match – or if that even matters. Your views?
“Anybody can be a waiter, not everyone can be an excellent one” said the waiter as he set our drinks on the table and arranged the small bowls of nibbles alongside.
This was the answer I received from a waiter named Pepe, serving me on a cruise I took recently. I’d chatted with him to find out a little more about life aboard his ship. I’d asked him for how long he’d been a waiter and his answer included the comment above. And what a great observation too, one which applies to all walks of life.
I met Pepe three weeks ago when I spent five days aboard MSC Fantasia,
the recently launched flag ship of Italian cruise line MSC Cruises. My time was spent conducting a customer experience audit for the brand, part of a process I’m going through in order to become a provider of training and consultancy services. See it as part of my induction. My
brief was simple – “explain how the customer experience can be improved, where are the opportunities, what’s being missed, where are the WOWs?”
Trying to find ways to improve the experience of a premium brand is always going to be difficult. If you were carrying out an audit of your own business or brand where would you begin? Well start by standing in your customer’s shoes.
Pepe told me how he was passionate about doing his job and serving guests the best way he could. But Pepe wasn’t alone in his eagerness to please. Elton my cabin steward also adopted a positive and helpful attitude throughout the trip. In fact Elton went beyond expectations.
Passionate Pillow Talk!
I was not alone during the trip as my husband and partner Mark accompanied me and assisted in the process of standing in the customer’s shoes to review the MSC brand experience from a male perspective.
Before we go any further let’s be clear, it’s not that sort of pillow talk!
One of the first things we checked out when we arrived in our cabin were the pillows. Were they too soft, too firm, too thick, too thin – it was like traveling with Goldilocks. As it happened even I found the pillows to be too soft so we asked Elton if he could replace them with some firmer ones.
Now I was surprised when Elton said they had no alternatives but he would see if he could find a way around the problem by asking his supervisor. But later that evening he returned to our cabin with a frown on his face only to tell us that his supervisor had failed to find anything better. So Elton suggested we fold some towels around these soft pillows in an attempt to firm them up.
We tried this improvisation but it didn’t work. An uncomfortable night’s sleep left us both waking with stiff necks. Once again we spoke with Elton who was very empathetic but could offer no alternative.
During the night the ship had arrived at Naples so after breakfast we disembarked for a tour ashore. We were not the only ones. We didn’t know it at the time but Elton had also left the ship as we learnt later that evening when he explained how he’d found four new pillows for us.
This young cabin steward had decided to take the pillow problem and own it himself. With some time off that he was due he left the ship and purchased the pillows ashore in Naples. He was able to claim back the cost from his supervisor.
To say that we were impressed would be an under statement especially as it was Elton that had initiated the errand not his supervisor or the ship’s Guest Services Dept. Elton had bothered, because Elton cared.
Another great example of AOK in action (attitude, observation, know how).
In Conclusion Then…
So consider these three questions:
1. Who are the ‘Eltons’ in your organisation and how do you reward them? I made sure Elton’s work was reported to the ship’s master and in the feedback that will go to MSC Cruises in the UK when I meet with them.
2. When was the last time you looked at the customer’s experience and stood in their shoes to feel what they feel as a result?
3. If one of your employees were faced with an opportunity to resolve a customer’s issue, would they be empowered to do so, could they act without referral to their supervisor or manager?
If you’d like to fill your tank with great ways to improve your customer experience and need to rev the team up then why not invite us in to run a session for you to kick start the process – just get in touch!
I read a fascinating article by Dan Solomon, a regular contributor to FastCoCreate.com. He comments on an interview with Sleepy Hollow creator and executive producer Roberto Orci and how Orci managed to turn it into one of this season’s best new shows.
This is an interesting topic that companies and customers have to deal with all the time. Your brand, its story and what you want to accomplish, and how to personalise this to suit your customer’s experience.
Figure Out What You Really Want To Accomplish In Your Customer Experience
What’s your company’s strategy for delivering great experiences to your customers?
If you really want to achieve a great Customer Experience, then you’re going to figure out a way to make the customer the most important element of your organization,
How important is it to make the Customer Experience part of the company’s culture?
It’s both very challenging and very important to have a powerful message to get across and a story to tell with your customers
Having a relationship between your customers at all steps along the way and keeping a record of the customer’s interactions and journey within your organization will allow you to treat your customer with ultimate personalization—which is really where you are going at all touch points of that journey.
Don’t Be Afraid To Think Big
Although it can be the small things that make a lasting impression in any walk of life, especially in the customer arena, we still need to think big and have audacious goals.
A question I frequently ask my clients is, “What would make this a WOW?” So, thinking big, “What big things could you do to WOW your customers?”
Just as the film Sleepy Hollow is decidedly epic in scope and bold in its storytelling, there are no half-measures on show in any part of the film experience and its production.
Just as in the customer journey the approach is a fundamentally important way to understand how an organisation needs to work. How departments need to work together, what content you need to develop, what technology you should invest in, what people you need, what metrics you need to track, and, ultimately, how much you want to expand and think big.
“The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do.” ― Steve Jobs
Make Sure Your Big Idea Is Grounded In Something Real
How many times have you been in a meeting and someone has said to you; “That’s a great idea, you should take the initiative and make it a reality.” What typically happens?
Most of the time – nothing!
Most great ideas remain dormant because people don’t have the courage, resources, time and or money to take appropriate action. And for those who do take action, most are unprepared and thus find themselves spending valuable time and money on a dream that simply goes astray.
Converting any idea into reality is never an easy task, here are a few tips;
- Believe in yourself
- Embrace risk as your best friend
- Be patient and appreciate the journey can be hard and slow.
- Learn to sell your vision to others
- Be passionate with your ideas
- Make sure your ideas are purposeful and have meaning behind them
- Stay focused and stick to your plan
Extend Your Bold Vision By Embracing Diversity
The concept of diversity encompasses acceptance and respect. It means understanding that each individual is unique, and recognizing each other’s individual differences.
Organisational diversity occurs when there are a variety of people with different backgrounds, nationalities, and ages in the workplace.
Being able to embrace principles of diversity does require your whole team to put this strength into practice. That ultimately means reworking plans and ideas and encouraging any new activities,
We cannot ‘embrace’ diversity by remaining set in our ways, beliefs and thoughts. Often, this will mean removing old practices, altering traditions and modifying points of view. Creating a climate of diversity often can mean radically altering the way your organisation does things and how your Customer Experience will be perceived.
Learning to understand others and move beyond simple tolerance to embracing and celebrating the rich dimensions of diversity contained within both you and your team can lead to making it a success.
In the article Orci explains that committing to diversity opened up the whole storytelling potential for the show’s creators, as well as just providing a more realistic look at an America that’s full of more than just white people. For them, it wasn’t just about having diversity, it was about using it, and about making a point of the fact that, when you are someone of colour or a minority, it actually had effects, and there’s was commentary about it. If you put it into the DNA of the story, it can actually become fascinating, and a great, honest lead for storytelling.
Commit Fully To What You Are trying to Achieve
Every time we do something, whether it succeeds or fails, we try to learn what it was about it in each case,
Orci says. “If you are really interested in what you’re doing, and you really do love it, you will go the extra mile and it’ll just make it better”
There are several ways you can tell just how fully committed your team are to any project you are working on.
Firstly you need to ask yourself: are your people willing to go that extra mile if and when the situation demands it? At such times, when the pressure is on, will your Customer Experience Team be willing to pull out all the stops and get a result?
As a Leader, if you have both solid and motivated staff who are completely committed to the cause and fully understand the aims of the business, then the solution has already been solved.. I have always said that one of the most important jobs of a leader is to get everybody else to buy into your vision for the company by developing and sharing an inspirational vision that is stretching and adds value to an employee’s life.
All leaders have to be capable of winning and maintaining team loyalty and must ensure everyone is working together for the greater good of the organisation.
As Dan Solomon says in terms of being idiosyncratic, “I think we’re just following where the characters take it. We start with this incredible premise–let’s not water it down.”
Do you make your Customer Experience Team feel fully involved or do you ‘water it down’?
Perhaps you should take the director’s cut and remember your purpose is to create a team that is pulling together in the same direction with the same passion and drive as improbable as in ‘Sleepy Hollow!’
Attraction marketing is the clever trait you can use in any business to bring your customers to you, rather than them having to find you, either by chance or by searching for you.
To give an example; If you are a retail clothing company and your shop window was full of frumpy boringly plain attire, as a customer you would doubtless spend little or no time peering in, and probability is that you would not even step inside. However, if the window display was bright, upbeat and bold and the shop oozing an atmosphere of welcoming stimuli to enhance all your senses you would quite probably step inside!
What happens when a well dressed person male or female enters a room? People look usual lift their heads and look the person up and down and then keep trying to catch a further glimpse.
It’s a simple fact we are drawn to attractive things. Our businesses are attractive because they captivate attention in the first place.
All the most successful organisations use this power of attraction to attract their clients, social media followers, and ultimately all their customers!
The Vital Pointers
Here are 3 vital pointers I use in my company to make my team fully aware and use Attraction marketing at its best;
1. Use Mystery; Tell great stories by using imagery and inspirational advertising.
2. Use Sensuality; All the senses must attract your customers, sound, sight, smell, touch and taste
3. Use Intimacy; Use your 100% commitment, empathy and passion
I love to visit the dizzy markets of Istanbul. Here people have a passion. The bazaars offer a fabulous rich tapestry of a shopping experience. Although at times, a little ‘scary’, I am drawn again and again the pungent smells, open sacks filling the air with the deep fragrance of spices and fruits.
A conglomeration of noises, calls to attract attention, exchanges of bartering, visual richness and the touching of flesh, as you wander through. If we were to take some notes in the western world about how to attraction can work, then these markets with their diversity of senses can teach us a great deal.
“Imagination is everything. It is the preview of life’s coming
attractions.” Albert Einstein
A good book to read on the powers of attraction: ‘Top Professional Networking and Attraction Marketing Secrets from the Real World’
Firstly, I will explain for those unfamiliar to biking terms that ‘Bonk’ is cycling’s classic term for hitting a brick wall.
My eldest son is into Mountain Biking in a ‘big’ way. Not only does he ride downhill extensively in Europe, but he has his own company specialising in titanium suspension springs for Mountain Bikes and nearly new bike parts.
Recently he noticed that easyJet have changed their sports equipment weight allowance for passengers with bikes impacting their customer experience.
Previously, with an appropriate 32kg maximum weight, a bicycle could be well packaged and transported in a padded bicycle bag.
Unfortunately, they have now have reduced the maximum weight by 9kg! The maximum weight is now just 23kg, meaning it’s almost impossible to pack a bicycle without coming in over weight!
We are exactly not sure why easyJet have reduced the maximum weight allowance for a bicycle or even why they have reduced the maximum weight by so much?
We would assume that the majority of customers who travel with bicycles are either mountain bikers going on holiday, or cyclists with touring bikes. We are not sure if they are precisely aware of how much a bicycle weighs, so here are so facts and figures;
- A full suspension mountain bike on average will weigh around 18kg.
- A touring bike with panniers on average will weigh around 23kg.
Now, with the 23kg maximum weight, for a full suspension mountain bike, that leaves just 5kg to package and securely box the bike, which is required as per their criteria which states:
5kg to package and securely box a bike is simply not enough. The average bicycle bag will weigh around 7kg on its own!
Let me break it down for you..
18kg mountain bike + 7kg bicycle bag = 25kg (2kg overweight!!)
A 2kg overweight bag will incur a £20 penalty fee at the airport, each way swell!
The easyJet Experience Begins
So, imagine you are going on a mountain bike holiday to the Alps. As a Customer of easyJet you will have to pay £70 return alone just to take the bike, then you pay an additional £40 worth of penalty fees at the airport for being 2kg overweight! This will surely encourage passengers (customers) to drive to their holiday destinations instead of flying or choose another carrier.
Because of the new maximum weight allowance, many of easyJet’s customers will have to replace their bicycle bags for a cardboard box instead, which offer little or no protection if mishandled.
In turn, surely they will most likely see an increase in damaged bicycles, insurance claims, complaints and unhappy customers, which can only be bad news for their Customer charter, something that they surely don’t want?
My son a regular easyJet flyer recently averted incurring the £40 worth of overweight baggage penalty fees on taking his mountain bike with him by resorting to using a cardboard box – which has resulted in a slightly damaged bike.
He also removed some of the parts from the bike frame itself and put carried these in his hand luggage instead. (Surely more dangerous than in the hold – but ‘still’ on the same flight!) He actually removed the bicycle from the box at the check in desk and did this in front of the check – in assistant to make a point of how ridiculous this whole thing was.
Unless they decide to increase the maximum weight allowance for bicycles back to a reasonable weight, they are going to notice a decrease in customers during the summer season if they have to spend extra for those overweight baggage penalty fees.
At the time of writing this post easyJet have acknowledged the issue on their Facebook page so it will be interesting to see how this develops. We’ll keep you posted.
But it does beg the following questions for other CEX managers:
- What policies have you changed that are causing a negative impact upon the customer’s experience?
- When you change policies does anyone actually consider the impact upon the customer journey?
- Are you about to make any policy changes and if so who is standing in the customer’s shoes to consider the impact?
This change in policy has so far earned easyJet our One Odd Shoe Award the first of 2014. Let’s see if they resolve it and win a GoldenShoe Award instead.
It Didn’t Take Long For easyJet To Back Pedal
Since releasing this post we have received an important update from easyJet which we received this within 24 hours of our post being published.
Their bike weight limit is being raised to 32kg from Saturday 11th January. Although it will take a number of weeks to be applied to their systems no customers will be charged an excess for bikes between 23kg and 32kg.
Thanks to easyJet for taking the trouble to let us know of their change of heart, this moves them into our category of a Golden Shoe Award. On this occasion it’s awarded not for back pedalling (no pun intended) but for the rapid response they took and the fact the change is in-line with customer feedback.