Branding lessons learned from Boohoo x Kardashian Faux Pass
Photo by Harrison Haines, modified by author
What do Kourtney Kardashian and stability have in common?
Exactly: nothing. There isn’t even a 0.005% overlap in values.
Yet a fashion brand appointed her sustainability ambassador, reportedly paid her a salary of millions, and is now promoting its upcoming sustainable fashion line to the press.
Is this a planned PR stunt? Perhaps. Should you as a solo entrepreneur, startup or small business owner take this as a best practice and copy the idea? You might guess it isn’t, but do you even know why?
In this case study, I’ll give you a perfect example of how greenwashing — or nicewashing — can backfire for your brand.
Put differently: How to build your reputation and brand as a solopreneur in very little time.
Plus, I’ll share six important brand-building lessons you’ll want to keep in mind when planning your communication activities.
One thing is clear: This fashion retailer and Kourtney Kardashian will probably avoid their marketing follies, but we — individuals or small businesses — are unlikely.
By now, even the sleepiest company must have understood that being proactive in terms of social or environmental sustainability is essential if they want to have a future-proof business.
So did Boohoo, a US fast fashion e-tailer that has a long history of being constantly criticized for its poor business practices in the news and on social media. More recently, global outrage against its immoral workers has made its way into online and offline newspapers in the UK and around the world.
No wonder, they decided to do something about their scratchy reputation after being named as one of the least sustainable fashion brands by the UK Parliament’s Environmental Audit Committee in 2019. In the end, they have to change something, we would think. Yet his next move couldn’t have been more wrong.
Earlier this week, Boohoo announced Kourtney Kardashian Barker as its new sustainability ambassador. Together, they aim to make a positive environmental impact and raise awareness of more sustainable practices in the fashion industry. It was strike number one.
In their collaboration, they plan to create two sustainability-inspired capsule collections “created in tandem with an investigational journey of opportunities to create a more sustainable fashion future.” That was strike number two.
Why over here
According to the BBC, 13 million tons of cloth were dumped in the US in 2017. The average American estimates that approximately 37 kg of clothing is thrown away each year.
Globally, this is an estimated 92 million tons of textile waste each year, the equivalent of a garbage truck full of clothing ending up in landfills every second. According to the Pulse of the Fashion Industry Report 2017, by 2030, the world’s population is expected to discard more than 134 million tons of clothing.
These numbers are not negligible. They are massive – so taking action to make fashion more sustainable and socially fair would indeed be a respectable and much needed step.
So, Boohoo and Ms. Why isn’t the collaboration between the Kardashians a match made in heaven? let’s take a closer look.
First, you don’t need to be a predictor to know that a woman, traveling primarily in a private jet, has been accused of overuse of water in the California drought, and of environmental or textile No background in industry, not a good sustainability consultant.
It’s like appointing Mr. Bean President of the United States of America. There may be inspiration, but skill and knowledge are missing.
If Boohoo really cared about making the fashion industry more sustainable, he should have hired an activist, a university professor, or a leading scientist. someone with the necessary information.
Second, the numbers don’t add up.
The best way for a super-fast fashion brand to reduce its negative environmental impact is to reduce its production. The second step is to provide a reasonable living wage to all workers involved in their garment production – this will reduce their negative social impact.
Yet the first decision made by the involved partners was to create a capsule collection consisting of 45-pieces, designed by Kourtney Kardashian, that cost between $6 and $100.
Sources said their workers in the UK get only £3.50 an hour, workers in Pakistan get 0.25 cents. I wonder how much impact Boohoo will make on their employees if their item only costs $6?
If you subtract the average material and transportation costs in the fashion industry and the average brand margin, 25% of the retail price goes to the factory owners, which is $1.5 in the case of a $6 shirt.
Calculating that a garment is not made by just one factory, but 4+ factories, less than 40 cents are given to a factory owner. From 40 cents, he has to pay fixed costs plus his wages – the rest is given to the textile workers who sew those clothes.
Does this sound like a fair pay for the hours and hours worked?
At the same time, Boohoo pays Ms Kardashian a $65m price tag, a whopping sum to photograph 42 objects, give feedback to designers, and pose in front of the camera. The imbalance between these numbers is striking.
Photo from Sustainable Fashion Forum
Imagine what a real positive impact Boohoo could have if he had invested K’s salary in his labor, scientific materials research, or recycling techniques.
Third, the initial press release did not mention what percentage of recycled content is there or what qualifies the cotton as traceable.
“Of the 45 items, 41 are recycled cotton. Others include traceable cotton and recycled polyester” and customers will “get a clear idea of how their garments are made,” Boohoo said.
Boohoo will release a social content series that will “deliver firsthand details of the experts they met on and off camera, their conversations, what they discovered, and how it continues to inform the project and the Boohoo brand.”
To me and other fashion lovers, this seems like a complete disregard for the problem of fast fashion.
Creating a capsule collection rather than reducing their production rates, which includes vague information about the ingredients used, rather than providing a detailed breakdown of the components as well as discussing green opportunities with ‘pros’ , which will only inform the brand and will not result in changed behaviour. A prime example of greenwashing.
A film about collaboration is just another puzzle piece in Boohoo’s PR stunt and not a research document of situations in the fashion industry.
Do not be blinded or inspired by such marketing activities.
The collaboration is manifesting itself as greenwashing and has left some cracks on the brand’s already shaky reputation. Not wanting to crack you up as a small business owner.
Boohoo’s announcement comes on the heels of the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) announcing its investigation into Boohoo and other fashion brands over claims of potential greenwashing and forced labor in the Leicester apparel-producing region, where Boohoo sells most of its products. manufactures.
These claims and the campaign resulted in a loss of 23% of Boohoo’s value in one day, the equivalent of a loss of $1.35 billion.
This is what happens on the business side. Let’s see how the audience reacted on social media:
A person commented at the bottom of Boohoo’s post announcing the partnership: How can we do better? – For starters, stop producing so much unnecessary clothing and start paying your employees a fair salary instead of throwing them at a multi-millionaire who doesn’t really wear boohoo clothes in their daily lives.
Another said, “Everything about this is so despicable. It could not be clear whether anyone actually involved in this campaign really cares about “like, labor welfare and textile waste”.
Or: “A positive change would be to stop overproduction of poor quality clothing made by low-wage workers. first step. There is no need for more awareness. The world is aware.”
Of course, many customers are also celebrating the upcoming fashion line. Not everyone is concerned about stability. Some just want to dress more pretty or are a hard-core Kardashian fan.
Nevertheless, the number of negative comments and poor press coverage suggests that people are becoming more critical not only about environmental and social inequalities but also about deceptive business practices.
This will certainly shape the way businesses are marketed in the future.
From a profit-oriented perspective, this collaboration may make sense.
First, a large portion of Boohoo’s audience probably isn’t interested in the enduring character of this line. They do not care, because social and environmental inequalities do not affect them directly.
Second, there’s definitely an audience overlap between boohoo buyers and Kardashian fans, which will help both businesses sell the fashion line. And that’s exactly what this campaign is about: making more money.
This is what all business owners want. But we must be careful in disguising profit-oriented campaigns as “good for our earth.” Maybe it worked in the past – it certainly doesn’t today.
If you’re a solo businessman, you probably aren’t running a million dollar business like Boohoo.
Most of us don’t have the money and financial background to offset the negative press we get from this kind of PR activity. Even though Boohoo has been able to turn this deceptive campaign into money, I doubt I can do it as a one-woman business.
In this case, the adage “any press is good press” is not true.
Solopreneurs build their brand on visibility and trust. Read it again.
Yes, this stunt gives visibility to both the companies. However, it does not instill confidence among the audience. It does the opposite.
It kills your authenticity and credibility. And that’s how you destroy your reputation and kill your brand.
So, as a solopreneur, what can you learn from Boohoo’s wrongdoings?
Here are six important lessons you should always keep in mind when planning your communication activities:
Choose wisely who you collaborate with. Make sure you have equal value and reputation. Because they will spread. Don’t promise more than you can’t deliver. This is basic marketing, yet in war we often forget it. Don’t make your service or product better than this, but not worse. Be authentic. Especially when you are a solo businessman, people follow you and work with you because they see you as an individual. When your actions do not match with your preaching, they will stop doing it. Ask “why should my audience care”. Large movements require investment. Financially, in time, emotionally. If you want to make an impact, do it right. Or let it be