It’s not a good PR day when a brand inspires one of the British Parliament’s most conservative members to label your choice of product name “dreadful” due to its sexist undertones.
That’s what recently happened to C. & J. Clark, which offered for sale—just in time for the school year—the “Dolly Babe Mary Jane School Shoes.”
When compared to their male counterpart, which was dubbed the “Leader,” it becomes easy to see why Clarks faced online criticism such as this:
— Dr.Cristina Stasia🦄 (@CristinaStasia) August 13, 2017
— Liz (@Liz_Miles) August 13, 2017
— Helen McTaggart (@helenmctaggart) August 13, 2017
Several politicians criticized the company’s marketing decision. The Guardian reported:
Politicians from all parties strode into the debate: Carolyn Harris, shadow minister for women and equality, described the designs as “blatant discrimination”; Sarah Ludford, a Liberal Democrat peer and shadow Brexit Minister, tweeted “So depressing”; Maria Miller, chair of the Commons women and equality select committee, said retailers had a responsibility not to reinforce stereotypes.
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Conservative member of parliment Jacob Rees-Mogg was the notoriously staunch politician who lent his voice to several British officials who denounced the Clarks’ branding choice.
“To call a pair of shoes for a girl Dolly Babe is dreadful,” Rees-Mogg told the BBC. “It’s wrong in all sorts of ways … this is just really silly.”
Even Scotland’s first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, joined the debate:
It is almost beyond belief that in 2017 a major company could think this is in any way acceptable. Shows what we are still up against. https://t.co/3C7Nop8o1E
— Nicola Sturgeon (@NicolaSturgeon) August 13, 2017
Though many people lashed out at the company, others called it an example of going overboard with political correctness:
Apparently now even shoes can be sexist, spare the PC rubbish https://t.co/HqfRJuTpz2
— David Jones (@DavidJo52951945) August 13, 2017
Clarks has since removed the shoes from its line, and tweeted a response to Miranda Williams, who was the first to point out the issue. It says that the lines were discontinued, and that its changing its marketing ways for the future:
We have a gender neutral ethos, these lines are being phased out and we are already changing the way we market our shoes for future ranges.
— Clarks Shoes Help (@clarkshelp) August 7, 2017
How would you advise Clarks to move forward from this situation?