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Public Relations: Hits & Misses

2018 was an epic year filled with successful PR campaigns as well as some PR disasters. From leading fashion and travel brands, to political figures and athletes, we saw a lot of bold moves that either propelled or totally deteriorated brands. These efforts played a defining role in shaping the way consumers interact with a brand. So, who did a great job in 2018? Who dropped the ball? There are lessons to be learned from both successes and failures, and below are some noteworthy examples that made us say “Wow!”

Lacoste’s ‘Save Our Species’ campaign. The fashion brand said goodbye to its iconic 85-year old crocodile logo, all for a good cause of course. Lacoste’s campaign supported the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) with the goal to make way for animals who needed more visibility.

Lacoste replaced its crocodile logo with logos of 10 at-risk animals, as an effort to help save some of the world’s most endangered species. The number of shirts available for sale represented the number of endangered animals remaining in the wild. To paint a picture, 350 shirts featured Sumatran tigers, while just 30 shirts featured Vaquitas (porpoise). The limited edition collection, with just 1,775 shirts, sold out within 24-hours of its release. Each shirt sold for about $183 and all sales went towards the preservation of its species.

Lacoste was able to take their brand and tie it to a relevant issue, which generated positive brand awareness—even with the absence of its beloved crocodile logo. The campaign was covered by media outlets all around the world, bringing attention to its efforts to save the species. Simultaneously, it helped develop awareness for IUCN, increased donations for IUCN and increased traffic to

Honorable Mentions
NikeColin Kaepernick campaign.
REI#OptOutside campaign.

Brand reputation takes months or even years to build, but can be destroyed in an instant. In 2018, H&M was a perfect example of this. The fast-fashion retailer was called out for a racist ad which used a young black boy to model a sweatshirt with the phrase “coolest monkey in the jungle” written across it. And of course, the image went viral on social media:

“Woke up this morning shocked and embarrassed by this photo. I’m deeply offended and will not be working with H&M anymore…” – The Weeknd

“U got us all wrong! And we ain’t going for it! Straight up! Enough about y’all and more of what I see when I look at this photo. I see a Young King!! The ruler of the world, an untouchable Force that can never be denied! We as African Americans will always have to break barriers, prove people wrong and work even harder to prove we belong but guess what, that’s what we love because the benefits at the end of the road are so beautiful!!” – Lebron James

How does a brand properly respond to public and celebrity outrage?

Well, H&M’s first attempt to address the public on this issue was poorly executed and the public was not impressed. An H&M spokeswoman said in a statement that the image had “been removed from all H&M channels.” This didn’t go over well as the hoodie was still for sale on its U.K. website. Awkward.

The spokeswoman continued, “We apologize to anyone this may have offended.” This definitely was not the best choice of words. This unapologetic response was not received well from the public. Instead of apologizing for the misstep, H&M apologized for “offending people with this image.” H&M should have taken ownership and apologized for the inappropriate and offensive action, rather than apologizing for hurting the public’s feelings.

Apology, take two. H&M ended up releasing a more comprehensive statement stating:

“We understand that many people are upset about the image. We, who work at H&M, can only agree. We are deeply sorry that the picture was taken, and we also regret the actual print. Therefore, we have not only removed the image from our channels, but also the garment from our product offering. It is obvious that our routines have not been followed properly. This is without any doubt. We will thoroughly investigate why this happened to prevent this type of mistake from happening again.”

Even though the second apology was better than the first, the apology should have been executed by someone at the executive level, like the CEO– especially with an issue this detrimental. Now, this negative label will most likely follow H&M for years. Will this affect the fashion brand’s overall performance? Only time will tell.

Honorable Mentions
IHOP – International House of … Burgers
Facebook’s ongoing crisis communications

Who’s looking forward to more head-turning PR campaigns in 2019? We know we are!