Some of you may or may not know that I used to work in PR & Marketing for the fashion sector. So, yes, you can now say I am working for the other side, the editorial side.  With the experience I’ve had, I do know if a PR/marketing person is good at their job when I meet them. I also know the importance of delivering the right message at the right time because if you get it wrong. Boy oh boy, people will take you down! This kind of mistake doesn’t normally happen within the optical sector so I was shocked when I saw people on social media being REALLY angry with Polette Eyewear.

What happened?

Where did it go wrong for them? After seeing the angry rants I investigated and immediately saw the problem. At this moment in time, we are in the worse pandemic of our lifetime. The coronavirus is on the news EVERY DAY! Who is sick of hearing about it? I am. If you are totally unaware of this pandemic then where have you been? In an underground bunker?

Where did it go wrong for Polette Eyewear?

In the news, it is quite obvious that medical supplies are running low. There isn’t enough to go around the world with cases of coronavirus rising every… single… day! There is a real emergency to get basic medical supplies like masks and sanitisers to the hospitals for the medical staff. I am not sure if Polette didn’t understand how urgent that was or they genuinely didn’t realise what the mask situation was.

They basically ran a “See clear, stay safe” promotion giving two free masks with every purchase! When this went live, EVERYONE on social media went MAD. People said they were being insensitive to the coronavirus pandemic. Here is the advert!

Polette coronavirus mask advert fail

Polette coronavirus mask advert fail

The main question from angry consumers was “Why give masks to ordinary people when the medical staff don’t even have enough and they are the ones battling COVID-19 on the front line?!”, good question.

Now, this is the interesting thing about masks. I am of course Chinese, born in Hong Kong.  I know that in almost all Asian countries after SARS happened back in 2002, people will wear masks to protect others from things like the common cold or flu. This is almost unheard of in western culture. We see this daily on the news, over that side of the world most wear masks. However, in western society, mask-wearing is not a thing.  In the UK, we have been told by our government that wearing a mask doesn’t necessarily protect you and we have a shortage of masks so please let our medical staff have them first.

Was the Polette campaign insensitive?

I don’t necessarily think it was purposely being insensitive but I think their marketing team need to do more research before trying to jump in and get publicity off the back of something else going on in the world. I understand they have factories in China and masks were like gold-dust when the outbreak first happened. Even from reading Hong Kong news, many businesses did give out free masks to ordinary people. However, this type of marketing strategy doesn’t work over this side of the world, especially with a shortage.

Fans of the brand were also pretty angry that Pollette made two separate statements explaining their reasons. My advice to Pollette, do more research on different cultures before launching a campaign. This is especially important for international businesses.  Plus, don’t write a statement trying to justify it after. With so many people being so angry, you are at risk of losing both current and potential customers.

What made it worse for Polette?

The best way to manage such PR/marketing crisis it is best to just say sorry, we messed up, we now realise this may have been insensitive, please forgive us. How you deal with a PR/marketing crisis will also give out the right impression and can help earn your company some credit as a business. Polette just made things worse with their statements which were labelled by the masses as “non-apologies” and “arrogant”.

As a blogger with a PR/marketing background, I often see brands giving us bloggers (AKA press) zero respect. It is not ok, we need to work together. MGAM is always open to offer our experience in this field, all you need to do is be open-minded and be willing to listen.

One of the best pieces of advice I’ve had was from back when I was a fashion intern.  It was given to me by one of my managers… “always think outside of the box and be open to new ideas”. I use this advise still because it is so true.  Polette may have been trying to do this, but other companies can learn from this… do your research first!