We complain when companies stretch the truth with their marketing campaigns but can they also be too truthful? Walmart has found itself in hot water after creating a category on its ecommerce website called Fat Girl Costumes. Customers were quickly offended by the stunt or mistake by the giant retailer and made it viral on social media. The politically correct police were quickly on top of the situation and forced Walmart to take it down and make an apology. As a small business, would you risk doing something like this?
Walmart took the category down and it now redirects to the plus size Halloween costumes on the site. They offered the following apology.
This never should have been on our site. It is unacceptable, and we apologize. We worked quickly to remove this. -Jes
I wonder if it was a disgruntled employee or was it a marketing tactic that backfired? Or did it really backfire? The story quickly went global with international news outlets reporting on the incident. Among many other media companies to mention the Walmart fat girl story were CNN, Business Insider, Huffington Post, and the Washington Post. That’s a whole lot of free publicity.
Does Walmart understand that we’re grown up enough to have a laugh? Sure, the usual thought police suspects come out moaning and whining about the derogatory comment because that’s their job, but most people will think yes that was bad taste, or yes that was funny, and then they’ll go buy their Halloween costumes from Walmart anyway.
Being a small business I probably wouldn’t make such a brave/foolish move, but Walmart is big enough and tough enough to handle a little social media criticism. I would like to see if there’s a spike in the sale of their Halloween costumes this year because of the story. Of course they’ll never release such data but it would be interesting.
What about you? Would you use a similar marketing method if it meant a spike in sales?