Now I don’t make a habit of criticising other companies’ marketing output, unless its a global brand and they should know better. Part of it is my one woman quest to make social media a kinder place. Partly is the awareness that we’re all just doing our best, and largely making it up as we go along so there’s no need to publicly shame people for their mistakes. This morning though, my hackles were hoiked so high I consider this more therapy than a public service – but maybe it’s both.
(On the upside, it involved being called a Feminazi which always makes my day. You know those sales teams that have a bell they can ring whenever they land a contract – that’s me.)
I bang on repeatedly about knowing your market and speaking directly to them. I also emphasise your social media being your authentic voice, about it representing your values and beliefs and showing your customers who you really are.
Ladies and gentlemen, allow me to introduce to you Skinnypigs, a fitness company in the North East.
Now I’ll set my stall out here. I don’t know them, I’ve never had any dealings with them, they are hundreds of miles away so don’t know anyone who does. Their branding is strong, their website looks impressive and they seem to be very popular. I’m giving them the benefit of the doubt and assuming that they have called themselves ‘skinnypigs’ with a degree of tongue in cheek humour, and had probably already dismissed ‘fatf$&kers’ as an idea. I’m also assuming they are probably not avid readers of Susie Orbach. They could be the greatest company in the world to the people that are their actual customers. I only know what they show online.
The story starts with a local poster campaign that they were running outside schools, presumably to target the ‘Mums who want to shed a few pounds’ market. We’ve all been there.
I also would be the first to do the trolls jobs for them. I’m not exactly Kate Moss but luckily have the marvellous encouragement from Dan & Rhys at New Leaf Fitness to encourage me to their classes on a (would love to say) regular basis in an effort to get me to look and feel better, with or without trousers. I’m not one of nature’s athletes but I give it a good go.
Anyway, I digress.
Someone complained to them that they found the ad offensive, primarily because it was posted outside a school where children would be able to read it or at least understand the pictures. It’s not that obesity is an aspiration, or that a healthy lifestyle isn’t to be encouraged – it certainly is. It’s promoting a message specifically aimed at girls (and by default boys about girls) that the main aim here is what you look like with no clothes on. Never mind your health, fitness, mental wellbeing etc, nope, just the naked flesh. With levels of depression, anxiety, eating disorders (and obesity for that matter) rising amongst children at record rates, it was misguided at best and irresponsible at worst. And I mean, dear God, children aside, there is enough body shaming going on without the people who are supposed to help you getting in on the act. You don’t have to be Naomi Wolf to see her point. Maybe they only want the super confident ones who are mainly concerned with their own looks. Maybe they only want the ones with such low self esteem that they’ll buy their meal replacement shakes whatever the cost. Maybe they just don’t care.
I have no idea how long this ad has run without complaint. I have no idea how many people know the brand and understand the nuances of their message or their particular brand of humour. However, the actual ad is not the issue.
There was a moment on Twitter, after the woman who had objected post the ad, for a discussion. There was a moment when they could have talked about whether the humour justified the outrage, or that they had listened to her concerns and would look again at the placement of the ads. Or a respectful, ‘that’s not what we are about, please find out more about us before you judge us’ Personally I still think the issue would have remained but it would at least have been civilised. They could have agreed to disagree.
This is not what happened.
This is what happened. Actually I can’t post all of the tweets so here are just a few highlights. These are screen grabs as some of them may yet disappear.
So, accusing your critics of being stupid. Classy.
There’s the ‘Feminazi klaxon’ 10 points.
and it goes on.
I could keep going but I won’t – oh go on then! If you insist!
Lovely use of the word pussy there, but then again I do love a Maverick. He also refers to having balls later on, just to be clear.
Different pussies I’m assuming.
He’s keen to state that he ‘loves women’ apparently and employs loads of them – ergo he must be feminist. Case closed.
However, he then got a bit fed up and said people were trying to ruin his business and bring a great man down. I think you’re doing that all by yourself love.
Some people did defend him – although I’m not sure these really are his core market.
What one earth was he thinking? Now it’s clearly a successful business and many clients (well a few) have come to his defence, which he has been retweeting like a demon. However, this has nothing to do with how effective his classes are in making your arse smaller. This is everything to do with how he views and treats ALL women, and anyone who disagrees with him for that matter. You certainly wouldn’t be confident that he would treat you with respect if you ever had a complaint or issue in person. He’s hardly likely to be willing to listen to feedback and respond accordingly.
I think Salome put it best.
I’m sure, for all the people screaming PC Brigade, there are an equal if not larger number of clients cringing with embarrassment, and dedicated class trainers furious that he doesn’t speak for them.
Now I would love to discuss this with him in person but when I tried he blocked me so, sorry no can do. I’d be more than happy to give him the following advice though.
- Humour is humour if it’s funny. If someone doesn’t find it funny, that’s OK, they are probably not the client for you. However smile, apologise and move on.
- Don’t throw personal insults at people, even if they are not your clients. How you treat your critics says more about the kind of person you are than how you treat your supporters.
- Listen to your critics. You might learn something.
- If you want to grow your business, alienating and insulting people who aren’t yet your clients and showing a complete disregard for their opinions is not going to help.
- There’s no use just retweeting people who say nice things whilst still abusing the people who are challenging you. I mean, you can do that, some people have made a living out of it
But maybe I’ve got this all wrong. Maybe this is just a massive publicity stunt – I mean, I’ve spent the last hour writing this and I can’t remember the last business I did that for. Maybe there really is no such thing as bad publicity after all. Haters gonna Hate and all that.
I like to think not.
I don’t think he will change his views, or his mind, and I hope his clients find that he has slightly more respect from him that it would appear. If that’s how he treats a stranger, that’s how he’s more than likely to treat you.
But it’s not big, and it’s not clever. Enough with the rude, obnoxious people who think that just because they employ and sell to women they automatically represent them. Enough with the people who think free speech gives you free reign to say what you like and no one is allowed to mind.
I wave my feminazi flag with pride in your face.
What do you think? Do you think this exposure will have benefited or harmed his business? Would I have been better to spend the last half hour doing bench presses? I would love to know your thoughts