Life News

Looking Back at 2016: Lands’ End

One company found that injecting social commentary into its marketing plan was a quick way to alienate its customer base in 2016 and that was Lands’ End.

The clothier featured an interview with noted liberal activist Gloria Steinem in an Easter themed issue of its iconic catalog and conservative customers were not impressed. Very quickly, public reaction forced Lands’ End to remove the Steinem piece from its website.

We also noted that the Lands’ End launched an initiative to help fund one of Steinem’s advocacy organizations with the proceeds from monogramming fees.

“However, releasing a catalog that celebrates Easter, and the new hope presented by the meaning of the holiday, while simultaneously launching an initiative to support Steinem’s pro-abortion ERA Coalition is incredibly tone-deaf.”

Ultimately, the decision to celebrate a pro-abortion advocate like Steinem cost Lands’ End CEO Frederica Marchionni her job.

See more on 2ndVote’s op-ed that analyzed the Lands’ End-Steinem story here.

  • M Burke

    This is a general comment about corporations like this that go out on a limb with a social issue, this from my career in corporate sales, for what it’s worth, which may not be much. I found, mostly, that staying within the limits of very neutral issues with my customers was the best policy in gaining and maintaining my sales base. In very few cases did I become a “friend” with a customer and then we would talk about more personal things. The axiom to be “fair, firm, but not familiar” worked largely to control the narrative. Yet, when I look at corporations that support interest groups like the Human Rights Campaign, that try to make serious inroads in social engineering, I can’t help but think about the basic tenets taught in the few business courses I took, particularly where the issue relates to life and death, such as abortion, homosexual marriage, euthanasia, transgenderism (whatever that is), and the like. In fact, very few things in life cannot be brought back to a discussion about life and death if you take the time to unwrap the onion a bit.

    The first thing that I considered is why any corporation that relies on customers to purchase their products and services would ever support and drive a cause that does not result in more life. More life means more customers later. Whether you believe that God created man or that it was just a happy accident, the point is, every creature on earth has one primary and singular biological purpose- to perpetuate the species. A healthy perpetuated species can potentially generate additional sales in later years through the loyalty of the parents being passed down to create that in the children. When you take the time to think about your own life, how many things do you do and buy now came about because your parents did and bought the same or similar things? It isn’t a perfect science and there will be plenty of exceptions, since we are all peculiar creatures formed and transformed by so may factors these days. But factors existed when I was growing up that took me into trajectories that may have been anathema to my parents. Yet, I can still see so much of them in me.

    Thus, the confusion for me is to understand why corporations would continue to do this… unless there is something more than market forces controlling their logic. And that may be some permutation of the “open society” concept. When you look at the leadership of these corporations, Land’s End being the example here, you don’t have to go very far to find a whole community of “progressive” thinkers and doers who have created a “noble” following almost like a rock star. In their exalted positions within an equally exalted corporation, they tend to think and act as though they are the arbiter of what is good for all society. That whole thinking went out with the company towns that sprang up in the 1800s and the Industrial Revolution. They are not and never will be. They need only to stick to the fundamentals of business and they will do just fine. But, like some Hollywood or sports celebrity trying to regenerate interest in their own career, they go off the rails by advocating for issues that have nothing to do with business in order, oddly, to do more business and appear that they are exceptionally and socially conscious in doing so. And they pick the wrong issues morally and, even, theologically.

    It would make infinitely more sense to me if these companies, with their exorbitantly priced and calculated marketing campaigns, actually took on issues that reinforced the basic human drive to perpetuate the species- those that give dignity to the human being through procreation, classical education, religious freedom, free enterprise, a republican form of government. Would we have more people? Very likely. Would we have a more moral center point? Yes. Would that more moral center point enhance the economy? Very likely. Is this a pipe dream? To some, I am sure it would seem so. But just as in basketball, the more fundamentally sound team will win over the more athletic team more times than not. Stick to the fundamentals of business and your relationship with your customer base and the chance of increasing it through attraction will gain by degrees. This is a great message easily sold to stock holders and boards if that becomes the point. Finally, where the leaders become the servants to the corporation and the customers is where the conflict and angst over return on investment begins to diminish. Virtues and values will ultimately trump all else for long term projections. If only business schools actually taught that.