Brands are Working Hard to Trigger Outrage and Harvest Social Media Reaction
Nordstrom became the latest company to trigger an outsized social media reaction to what many perceive as “branding gone wild”. Carl Jr’s, Pepsi and United Airlines have been at the center of the digital universe this year, but in the case of UA they did not seek the attention.
The luxury retailer launched a new item – the “Barracuda Straight Leg Jeans” – that come with a fake mud substance caked all over them. Nordstrom is selling the “mud-stained” jeans for $425.
The jeans were designed by PRSP and sold direct to consumer on Nordstrom’s website, which describes them this way:
Heavily distressed medium-blue denim jeans in a comfortable straight-leg fit embody rugged, Americana workwear that’s seen some hard-working action with a crackled, caked-on muddy coating that shows you’re not afraid to get down and dirty.
Needless to say the social media reaction was swift, fierce and rightfully pointed out that hard work cannot be purchased; it’s earned by individuals who actually work in “dirty jobs” everyday.
However, this is not the first time Nordstrom has received publicity for what appears to be questionable fashion decisions – some may have forgotten the “clear knee mom jeans” that were announced earlier in the year for $95, jeans with square-cut holes at the knee, then covered in clear plastic.
Or what about last year when the company marketed a “medium leather wrapped stone” – basically a medium-sized stone wrapped in leather for $85. The product sold out last year.
In an age where traditional media no longer dominates the conversation, many brands are strategically finding ways to slice through all the noise by triggering “outrage”, which often earns free media and public attention for the company.
I first learned about the “mud-stained jeans” during a report on CNN this morning. Of course the story has dominated feeds on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter – exponentially increasing brand awareness and visibility – with no significant impact to the company’s marketing budget.
The chatter throughout the marketplace is much louder in our new digitally connected environment, so nowadays the greatest challenge for a company is to be at the center of the social conversation, which gives the brand a unique opportunity to engage customers in powerful ways. But companies must be careful not to alienate potential customers in their growing quest to generate outrage that promotes the brand.