I saw a news report about a brand that got in hot water for a free concert they threw in Brooklyn. The concert was sponsored by Levis, the jean company, and the “price” of admission was to wear an item of Levis clothing. The news report said “dozens” of fans were turned away for not wearing Levis.
Okay, I thought, another example of a campaign gone wrong. People must have been all up in arms over this. Social media must have been buzzing with negative comments. The brand probably reacted. But no, not really. And that has turned out to be the real lesson here.
Here are the facts: Levis sponsored a free concert in Brooklyn, NY, with popular indie rockers Haim and Sleigh Bells to launch a new marketing campaign “Live in Levis,” where consumers are asked to upload images or write posts about their favorite moments wearing Levi’s products. On ther website, Levis said that in order to get in to the outdoor concert venue, you had to wear Levis clothing. The concert was a huge success, with big crowds and big buzz for the brand. But unlike some other marketing promos we’ve seen, Levis actually enforced the “wear Levis or else” dictum and did turn people away who weren’t sporting their brand.
One (and I repeat, one!) news report in the New York Daily News, mentioned that “fans were upset…to find that they were denied entry…because they weren’t wearing Levi’s jeans…observers told the News scores of ticketed fans showed up without the prescribed attire and were denied entry. They were surprised the corporation so strictly enforced the ban.” A teenager was quoted:
“One guard at the door said ‘I might as well be a CEO. I’m saying ‘you’re fired, you’re fired and you’re fired,’” says Dylan Kelly, 16 of Manhattan. “I saw couples being turned away because the guy wore Levis but the woman had a skirt. Or, if a group of guys had on Levis but one didn’t, they would turn them away.”
The News found two critical tweets quoted. And those weren’t even all that intelligent or critical. I looked all over the interweb to find other critical tweets, but not a one could be found. The only thing I did find was several PR or marketing sites quoting the Daily News article and calling it a “PR nightmare,” saying “Levi’s has landed itself in a little hot water,” “worst possible scenario,” and “sponsorship gone wrong.”
But was it any of those things? I think not. Brand fans were thrilled, if the concert reviews and positive posts from the few days around the concert show. The only ones saying it wasn’t a great experience were a handful of turned-away fans in Brooklyn and the Daily News. Oh, and of course all those PR and marketing critics out there.
I applaud Levis for not caving to these few voices and making more of it than it really was. If this was a genuine backlash, with real media (mainstream or social) reaction, then the company should respond and manage the media crisis. But if the reaction is this small and controlled, sometimes you gotta let the critics have their say without responding, and just rock on.