Good Marketing Gone Bad

Champion Hoodie RemixIt never ceases to amaze me when companies shoot themselves in the foot. They invest heavily in marketing programs designed to motivate people to buy their products and services then skimp on basic training for their sales people. The best marketing campaigns fail when service doesn’t match expectations.

People connect best with other people. A good salesperson that cares about his or her customers raises lifetime value higher than any marketing tool. The team members who meet shoppers face-to-face, online, and on the telephone control the outcome. Failure to train them well wastes your marketing dollars.

Champion athletic apparel provides a perfect example how good marketing goes bad.

Their Hoodie Remix competition was a great way to engage the public, build brand awareness, and drive sales. It was an engaging, interactive, multichannel experience. Participants competed for a $500 gift card by creating a one of a kind hoodie. Twelve semi-finalists received $100 gift card. The total prize money was $1700 that had to be spent on Champion products. (Can anyone say low cost promotion?)

There were 193,651 hoodies designed and plenty of free press. It is a classic example of good marketing. Except…

Champion sells athletic apparel. It is a lucrative business because fans will pay premium prices for products promoting their teams. It is also very competitive and the competition isn’t just between companies. Fans can be rabid when it comes to supporting their teams.

In most cases, it is just fun. But even the best fun can cross the line into something ugly. Champion forgot to teach two sales clerks the difference between friendly competition and customer alienation.

I am an NC State fan to the core.

It is my alma mater and I cheer for my team win or lose. I’m not rabid about it, just loyal. If you’re knowledgeable about college sports, you’ll understand when I say that I am a true tobacco road girl. If not, suffice it to say, I love college football and basketball and participate in an age-old rivalry.

This past Saturday, prior to attending the State – Duke game, I was in the market for a new red shirt. I visited a Champion store. Immediately I noticed that the State and Carolina shirts were displayed together. Knowing the intense rivalry between the schools, I always wonder what the display artists were thinking. I eased over to the red side to make my selection.

A sales clerk asked if she could help. My companion responded, “Yes, you could change your shirt to red.” I looked up and saw that she was wearing a Carolina shirt. She laughed and said that she couldn’t do that. I said, “Sure, you could!”

We all chuckled and I returned to choosing my shirt. The clerk wasn’t finished. She called another clerk to come “to her assistance”. I looked up expecting to see someone in a red shirt. She wasn’t wearing red.

The first clerk told her that we suggested that changing her shirt to red. The second clerk responded, “Better dead, than red.” Apparently, they didn’t care that I was standing there, RED shirt in hand, ready to open my wallet. Their conversation continued with a variety of derogatory comments towards my team of choice until I interrupted with “Guess what? I don’t HAVE to buy my red shirt here.”

I left with an indelible negative impression of Champion.

Technically, you could say that my friend started it by asking the clerk to change her shirt. But, what began as good-natured fun ended with ugliness. Do you think that this is what the Champion marketing team had in mind when they started Hoodie Remix?

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