The news in brief from my wife, Kathi Inman Berens' blog:
Urban Outfitters sat on their hands yesterday while their brand equity hemorrhaged cool. In three hours, UO lost 17,000 followers on Twitter; #urbanoutfitters and #thieves became a trending topic. The tweet that started it all from @amberkarnes:
Urban Outfitter’s meager response--this one tweet posted a few minutes after Karnes'--was insufficient to staunch the blood that kept spilling all day:
The @amberkarnes tweet became a “Top Tweet,” and was quickly dispatched to another nearly 1.3 MILLION followers. Boing Boing, The Consumerist and Huffington Post picked up the story. Even Miley Cyrus got in on the act and shared with her one-million-plus followers.
Amber Karnes’ full blog post has all kinds of smart things to say about how her Tribe of 1000 followers turned this into an assault on an incredibly powerful brand.
The big story for brand marketers: every second of delayed response to an accusation creates space for a tsunami of ill will that can wreak havoc with even the most carefully manicured brands.
The indie-cool vibe that Urban Outfitters diligently built by hiring independent designers to craft the in-store brick-and-mortar displays and creating an entire lifestyle from its products--from clothes to furniture to soaps and drawer pulls--is now jeopardized. In less than 24 hours. A slew of “me too” posts on other blogs such as this one about other wronged artists is lending credence to Karnes’ claim that Urban Outfitters is a serial indie art thief.
Read Kathi's whole post here and don't forget to follow her on Twitter.
Brad's Take: As Kathi notes, what is most chilling from an industry perspective is the (as near as I can tell) total silence coming from Urban Outfitters themselves.
The Urban Outfitters website has nothing, yesterday's Tweet on the topic is totally inadequate. Their latest tweet (at the moment of writing) is "Great decorating questions! I will be doing this again soon for everyone I didn't get to. Thanks! Christine." Nothing on Facebook or their blog points to this controversy.
The cardinal rule of social media and marketing is that a brand must be a part of the conversation because the conversation will take place regardless. And that conversation is gathering steam: in addition to the Twitterverse and Huffington Post, a cursory look around this morning shows that CBS News is tracking the story.
Urban Outfitters, please wake up!
The U.S. is bearing down on a holiday weekend and you cannot remain silent on this issue while it festers for three long days. If nothing else, please remember how badly the Domino's brand and shareholder value suffered from the fake boogers in the pizza debacle in 2009.
- Stevie @ Tru.che's original cri de coeur about her design being stolen
- Jason Linkins from Huffington Post jumps on the story early
- Xeni Jardin's Boing Boing's coverage
- Consumerists' coverage
- How the story got picked up by CBS News this morning
- The Daily Mail's verstion of the story
- The New York Times' fashion blog on the story
- Miley Cyrus weighs in from the beach in Mexico, very much against Urban Outfitters
- Amber Karnes "Anatomy of a Trending Topic" blog post-- she is the first person to suggest an Urban Outfitters boycott
- Urban Outfitters website complete with "Community" section on the right… and no comment
- Urban Outfitters on Twitter with no recent comment
- Urban Outfitters on Facebook with no comment
- Urban Outfitters blog with no comment
- CNBC overview of the 2009 Domino's Debacle
- iMedia Connection analysis of Domino's Debacle