In the last few hours Topman has being experiencing the wrath of the Twitter community regarding two ill advised t-shirt designs that have been accused of being sexist and glamorising domestic violence.
The issue came to our attention early this afternoon with prominent journalists such as Jonathan Haynes and Claire Phipps who tweeted “So today we learn that Topman really doesn’t like women all that much.”
One Twitter user commented,
Hey @TopmanUK – still had no word about why you think this t-shirt comparing women to animals is acceptable
The event was another example of how quickly Twitter outrage snowballs leaving the brand’s community management team a difficult task to diffuse the situation. During a one hour window their Facebook statement received 125 comments as well as over 1,200 tweets relating to the issue.
Throughout today Topman have taken a number of steps which shows a good level of community and crisis management.
- Active Monitoring: From the speed of the response it is evident that they were actively listening to their community for brand mentions and feedback on products.
- Able to act quickly: From the time we noticed the story around 1pm (before it was trending) it took 90mins for Topman to release a statement saying they were pulling the item from shop floors and online stores. This demonstrates a crisis management system is in place where by the community management has the channels available to communicate the situation to senior management who can then react in a quick and decisive manner.
- Open Communication: Topman maintained communication channels open and posted swift apologises to all channels directing users to their Facebook page.
Despite this there is still a stiff challenge ahead for Topman’s brand team. As the debate continues on twitter and in blogs (like this) they will need to decide what approach to take regarding;
- The sexism vs anti-feminism debate now raging on Twitter and their Facebook page. Though it is a risk to engage an angry mob, Topman must be conscious not to allow their Facebook page to become a platform for bigotry.
- Internet copycats have designed a number of mock t-shirts satirising the Topman t-shirts and are being readily shared across Twitter.
Digital presence and crisis management procedures are becoming increasingly integral for brands as social media and Twitter become influential opinion setters in how a brand is perceived. As demonstrated today an angry Twitter mob can form in a matter of minutes and left unchecked can devastate a brands reputation. It is important that brands such as Topman have the tools to monitor these conversations and the ability to act decisively when things turn nasty.
Will be an interesting one to keep an eye on.