A Lesson from American Apparel
On July 3, 2014, American Apparel, an American clothing brand posted an image of the 1986 space shuttle Challenger’s explosion on its Tumblr account with tags of “smoke” and “clouds”. The photo was supposed to be a celebratory post of the Independence Day, but it became a social media crisis of American Apparel since the image of the explosion was mistaken for fireworks by the one who edited and posted the image (Kleinberg, 2014). Observers on Twitter and Tumblr immediately recognized the photo and blamed the insensitivity of the brand. Some people even speculated about whether the company intentionally stoked the controversy, which it has done before in order to make people talking about the brand (Torossian, 2014).
Within an hour after the photo was posted, American Apparel removed it and issued an official apology on its Twitter account. According to its post, the photo was mistakenly reblogged by an international social media employee, who is too young to remember the Challenger’s explosion. The reactions from public were mixed with both positive and negative responses. However, most people didn’t think the apology was acceptable, especially the excuse of why the photo was showed on the account (Torossian, 2014). Many people argued that the photo’s origin should have been investigated before being posted, and claimed the age of the social media manager was not an excuse for unknowing the tragedy. It is easy to use Google image search to identify the photo that people are unfamiliar with and to avoid making this mistake (Kleinberg, 2014). Also, it seemed that American Apparel refused to take any responsibility but made one employee take the blame for the whole mistake.
Moreover, it is worth noting that there was no further action or explanation hearing from the company and no response to any of the comments under the apology post (Kleinberg, 2014). Apparently, American Apparel didn’t treat this social media crisis as a serious issue. As a result, it might disrupt the brand reputation of “made in USA” and consumers’ trust. In fact, this was not the first time American Apparel faces a problem of social media crisis and stays quiet. In 2012, when Hurricane Sandy was attacking in the United States, the company sent an email to its customers with the message of offering a 20% off shopping event in case people are bored during the storm.