American Apparel’s Hurricane Sandy Sale – Brilliant or Boneheaded?

Steve Olenski

It’s not often I have cause to quote this person but in this particular article in this particular context, something this person said (and in fact wrote a book with the same title) seems quite appropriate, at least depending on which side of the American Apparel Hurricane Sandy debate.

The quote is “There is no such thing as over exposure” and it was of course uttered by one Donald Trump.

Now if you’re in the Trump camp, so to speak, you won’t have any problem with what American Apparel did recently in trying to capitalize on the fervor and interest in Hurricane Sandy. And perhaps the word “capitalize” is the operative word for we do live in a capitalistic society, right?

In case you missed what exactly transpired, the folks at American Apparel decided what better event to tie a sale into then a hurricane? So their marketing department and/or agency put together the following email which was blasted out to their database.

Now I don’t know about you and your particular tastes and values and all that good stuff and I am not here to pass judgment on anyone, other than American Apparel, that is.

But how in the name of common sense can you send an email like this out during such a tragic situation where, oh by the way, people lost their lives? (Guess you can tell by now what side of the aisle I fall on in the brilliant or boneheaded debate)

Seriously? Bored during the storm?

Apparently I was not alone in my complete disdain for this as the Twittersphere lit up in disgust. Here’s a sampling:

Hard to pick my favorite from the above Tweets but I would have to go with Brian Clark’s for this decision had to be made by someone of such inexperience, right?

Some even went so far as to include a screenshot of the actual email just to drive home their point even further:

Is It A Crisis If You Actually Initiate The Crisis?

Way back in January I wrote a piece Crisis Management: The Real Test Of A Brand In The Social Media Space?

Now the premise of that article was how a brand, business, company, whatever handles a crisis that is not of their doing OR if if were of their doing how they respond to the crisis and in particular how they respond in the social media world.

Last check of both their Facebook and Twitter accounts I saw no mention of the Hurricane Sandy sale and no remorse whatsoever.

Fine. It is totally their call to respond or not.

But something tells me that Mr. Trump is not right when he says there’s no such thing as over exposure or too much public relations or whatever. If your brand is cast in a negative light – and the aforementioned Tweets are just a sampling of the backlash, don’t you owe it to not only your loyal customers but to everyone to respond in some fashion?

Oh Wait, This Just In

Apparently someone at American Apparel had the foresight to respond.

Whew. Thank goodness.

Let’s see what an American Apparel spokesperson told Fashionista.

“Of course we’d never mean to offend anyone and when we put the email out yesterday it came from a good place.” The motivation, the retailer explained, “is that retail stores are the lifeline of a brand like ours so when they are closed, we need to come up with ways to make up for that lost revenue. People forget how expensive it is to run a Made in USA brand like American Apparel and if we made a mistake here it came from the good place of trying to keep the machine going–for the sake of our employees and stakeholders.”

‘Came from a good place?’

What place was that exactly and how in the world was it good?

Oh that’s right, you did all of this (the Hurricane Sandy sale) to keep your doors open so you could sell more merchandise and keep your employees employed otherwise you would have to lay them off which means they couldn’t afford to buy their kids the G.I. Joe with the kung-fu grip for Christmas this year.

And the fact that they live by the “Made in USA” credo makes this even more galling as they took advantage of an American tragedy that killed Americans!

Ok, your turn.

Weigh in. Chime in. Jump in.

I don’t care. Just tell me what you think of all this.

Sources: MashableFashionista


Recommended for you:

13 Scary Statistics On Employee Engagement [INFOGRAPHIC]

Jacob Shriar

There is a serious problem with the way we work.

Most employees are disengaged and not passionate about the work they do. This is costing companies a ton of money in lost productivity, absenteeism, and turnover. It’s also harmful to employees, because they’re more stressed out than ever.

The thing that bothers me the most about it, is that it’s all so easy to fix. I can’t figure out why managers aren’t more proactive about this. Besides the human element of caring for our employees, it’s costing them money, so they should care more about fixing it. Something as simple as saying thank you to your employees can have a huge effect on their engagement, not to mention it’s good for your level of happiness.

The infographic that we put together has some pretty shocking statistics in it, but there are a few common themes. Employees feel overworked, overwhelmed, and they don’t like what they do. Companies are noticing it, with 75% of them saying they can’t attract the right talent, and 83% of them feeling that their employer brand isn’t compelling. Companies that want to fix this need to be smart, and patient. This doesn’t happen overnight, but like I mentioned, it’s easy to do. Being patient might be the hardest thing for companies, and I understand how frustrating it can be not to see results right away, but it’s important that you invest in this, because the ROI of employee engagement is huge.

Here are 4 simple (and free) things you can do to get that passion back into employees. These are all based on research from Deloitte.

1.  Encourage side projects

Employees feel overworked and underappreciated, so as leaders, we need to stop overloading them to the point where they can’t handle the workload. Let them explore their own passions and interests, and work on side projects. Ideally, they wouldn’t have to be related to the company, but if you’re worried about them wasting time, you can set that boundary that it has to be related to the company. What this does, is give them autonomy, and let them improve on their skills (mastery), two of the biggest motivators for work.

Employees feel overworked and underappreciated, so as leaders, we need to stop overloading them to the point where they can’t handle the workload.

2.  Encourage workers to engage with customers

At Wistia, a video hosting company, they make everyone in the company do customer support during their onboarding, and they often rotate people into customer support. When I asked Chris, their CEO, why they do this, he mentioned to me that it’s so every single person in the company understands how their customers are using their product. What pains they’re having, what they like about it, it gets everyone on the same page. It keeps all employees in the loop, and can really motivate you to work when you’re talking directly with customers.

3.  Encourage workers to work cross-functionally

Both Apple and Google have created common areas in their offices, specifically and strategically located, so that different workers that don’t normally interact with each other can have a chance to chat.

This isn’t a coincidence. It’s meant for that collaborative learning, and building those relationships with your colleagues.

4.  Encourage networking in their industry

This is similar to number 2 on the list, but it’s important for employees to grow and learn more about what they do. It helps them build that passion for their industry. It’s important to go to networking events, and encourage your employees to participate in these things. Websites like Eventbrite or Meetup have lots of great resources, and most of the events on there are free.

13 Disturbing Facts About Employee Engagement [Infographic]

What do you do to increase employee engagement? Let me know your thoughts in the comments!

Did you like today’s post? If so you’ll love our frequent newsletter! Sign up here and receive The Switch and Shift Change Playbook, by Shawn Murphy, as our thanks to you!

This infographic was crafted with love by Officevibe, the employee survey tool that helps companies improve their corporate wellness, and have a better organizational culture.


Recommended for you:

Supply Chain Fraud: The Threat from Within

Lindsey LaManna

Supply chain fraud – whether perpetrated by suppliers, subcontractors, employees, or some combination of those – can take many forms. Among the most common are:

  • Falsified labor
  • Inflated bills or expense accounts
  • Bribery and corruption
  • Phantom vendor accounts or invoices
  • Bid rigging
  • Grey markets (counterfeit or knockoff products)
  • Failure to meet specifications (resulting in substandard or dangerous goods)
  • Unauthorized disbursements

LSAP_Smart Supply Chains_graphics_briefook inside

Perhaps the most damaging sources of supply chain fraud are internal, especially collusion between an employee and a supplier. Such partnerships help fraudsters evade independent checks and other controls, enabling them to steal larger amounts. The median loss from fraud committed
by a single thief was US$80,000, according to the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE).

Costs increase along with the number of perpetrators involved. Fraud involving two thieves had a median loss of US$200,000; fraud involving three people had a median loss of US$355,000; and fraud with four or more had a median loss of more than US$500,000, according to ACFE.

Build a culture to fight fraud

The most effective method to fight internal supply chain theft is to create a culture dedicated to fighting it. Here are a few ways to do it:

  • Make sure the board and C-level executives understand the critical nature of the supply chain and the risk of fraud throughout the procurement lifecycle.
  • Market the organization’s supply chain policies internally and among contractors.
  • Institute policies that prohibit conflicts of interest, and cross-check employee and supplier data to uncover potential conflicts.
  • Define the rules for accepting gifts from suppliers and insist that all gifts be documented.
  • Require two employees to sign off on any proposed changes to suppliers.
  • Watch for staff defections to suppliers, and pay close attention to any supplier that has recently poached an employee.

About Lindsey LaManna

Lindsey LaManna is Social and Reporting Manager for the Digitalist Magazine by SAP Global Marketing. Follow @LindseyLaManna on Twitter, on LinkedIn or Google+.


Recommended for you:

Compelling Shopping Moments: 4 Creative Ways Stores Connect With Their Customers

Ralf Kern

compelling shopping momentsOn a recent morning, as I was going through my usual routine, my coffeemaker broke. I cannot live without coffee in the morning, so I immediately looked up my coffeemaker on Amazon and had it shipped Prime in one day. My problem was solved within minutes. My Amazon app, and my loyalty account with that company, was there for me when I needed it most.

It was in this moment that I realized the importance of digital presence for retailers. There is a chance that the store 10 minutes from my house carries this very same coffeemaker; I could have had it in one hour, instead of one day. But the need for immediate access to information pushed me to the online store. My local retailer was not able to be there for me digitally like Amazon.

Retail is still about reading the minds of your customers in order to know what they need and create a flawless experience. But the days of the unconnected shopper in a monochannel world are over. I am not alone in my digital-first mindset; according to a recent MasterCard report, 80% of consumers use technology during the shopping process. I, and consumers like me, use mobile devices as a guide to the physical world.

We don’t need to have an academic discussion about multichannel, omnichannel, and omnicommerce and their meanings, because what it really comes down to for your consumers, or fans, is shopping. And shopping has everything to do with moments in your customers’ lives: celebration moments, in-a-hurry moments, I-want-to-be-entertained moments, and more. Most companies only look for and measure very few moments along the shopping journey, like the moment of coupon download or the moment of sales.

Anticipating these moments was easier when mom and pop stores knew their customers by name. They knew how to be there for their shoppers when, where, and how they wanted it. And shoppers didn’t have any other options. Now it is crucial for companies to understand all of these moments and even anticipate or trigger the right moments for their customers.

In today’s digital economy the way to achieve customer connection is with simple, enjoyable, and personalized front ends that are supported by sophisticated, digital back ends. Then you can use that system to support your customer outreach.

Companies around the world are using creative and innovative methods to find their customers in various moments. Being there for customers comes in many different shapes and forms. Consider these examples:

Chilli Beans

A Brazilian maker of fashion sunglasses, glasses, and watches, Chilli Beans has a loyal following online and at over 700 locations around the world. Chilli Beans keeps its customers engaged by releasing 10 limited-edition styles each week. If customers like what they see, they have to buy fast or risk missing out.


Online men’s fashion retailer Bonobos reaches its customers with its Guide Shops. While they look like traditional retail outlets, the shops don’t actually sell any clothes. Customers come in for one-on-one appointments with the staff, and if they like anything that they try on, the staff member orders it for them online and it is shipped to their house. The 20 Guide Shops currently open have proven very successful for the company.

Peak Performance

Peak Performance, a European maker of outdoor clothing, has added a little magic to its customer experience. It has created virtual pop-up shops that customers can track on their smartphones through, and they are only available at sunrise and sunset at exact GPS locations. Customers who go to the location, be it at a lighthouse or on top of a mountain, are rewarded with the ability to select free clothing from the virtual shop that they have unlocked on their phones.

Shoes of Prey

The customer experience is completely custom at Shoes of Prey, a website where women can design custom shoes. From fabric to color, the customer picks every element, and then her custom creation is sent directly to her house. Shoes of Prey has even shifted its business model based on customer feedback. Its customers wanted to get inspiration and advice in a physical store. So Shoes of Prey made the move from online-only to omnicommerce and has started to open stores around the world.

While the customer experience for each of these connections is relatively simple – a website, a smartphone, an online design studio – the back end that powers them has to be powerful and nimble at the same time. These sophisticated back ends – powering simple, enjoyable, and personalized front ends – will completely change the game in retail. They will allow companies to engage their customers in ways we can’t even begin to imagine.

Technology will help you be there in the shopping moment. The best technology won’t annoy your customers with irrelevant promotions or pop-up messages. Instead, like a good friend, it will know how to engage with customers and when to leave them alone – how to truly connect with customers instead of manage them. Consequently, customer relationship management as we know it is an outdated technology in the economy of today – and tomorrow. Technologies that go beyond CRM will help retailers to differentiate. Aligning your organization and those technologies will be the Holy Grail to creating true and sustainable customer loyalty.

Learn more ways that business will never be the same again. Learn 99 Mind-Blowing Ways The Digital Economy Is Changing The Future Of Business.

Find out how SAP can help you go beyond CRM and support your retail business.

Ralf Kern is Global Vice President Retail for SAP and a retail ambassador for SAP. Interested in your feedback. You can also get in touch on Twitter or LinkedIn

This blog also appeared on SAP Customer Network.


About Ralf Kern

As Global Vice President for the Retail Business Unit at SAP SE, I am taking up the challenge of the future direction of SAP’s solution and global Go-to-Market strategy for Omnicommerce Retail, leading them into today’s digital reality. My career reflects a permanent expansion of my expertise that I achieve through continuous professional training. Based on my Master’s degree in Computer Science and Business Administration from the Saarland University (Germany), I broadened my professional knowledge through challenging positions within different industries and through further trainings regarding professional management and leadership at the Columbia Business School and at the European School of Management. After working for an international bank and a leading insurance company, I decided to go the next step and started to change my career direction at the retail software and consulting start-up Dacos and later at one of the world’s leading information technology company SAP. Now, with more than 25 years of experience in the field of information technology, Retail, consulting, global project management, merger and acquisition as well as solution and service development, I have a proven record of satisfying customer needs and continuously exceeding performance expectations. Due to my successful record of accomplishment within SAP SE, I reached my current position as Global Vice President for the Retail Business Unit, where I complete my task with an extremely talented and solution-oriented apporach. Besides, as an enthusiastic professional, I acquired over the years the ability to manage large teams and multiple responsibilities in a fast-paced environment and possess strong interpersonal and communication skills coupled with extensive technical, commercial and strategy development skills and I am exceedingly committed to the highest level of professional and personal excellence.

Recommended for you:

5 Reasons You'll Embrace Digital Transformation In 2016

Dinesh Sharma

Without a doubt, the lives of everyone on this planet has been impacted by the digital economy. Approximately 2 billion of us don’t leave our homes without a smartphone in hand. We shop online for almost every conceivable product. And for the 57% who are still unconnected, they are benefiting from a growing social community that is exchanging ideas, influencing governments worldwide, inspiring change, creating awareness of injustice, and coordinating aid to those in need.

At the same time, a growing number of companies are extending the possibilities of hyperconnectivity. Kaeser Kompressoren is embedding sensors in its systems to predict potential breakdowns and generate revenue by tracking the volume of compressed air consumed by its customers. Haier Asia is doubling up its digital platform to get closer to its customers and give them exactly what they want. Even Europe’s second-largest port found a way to increase capacity by 150% without physically expanding its bustling facility.

For these companies, digital transformation is not just a strategic move – it’s a fundamental part of their survival and overall business model. In fact, a recent study by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) revealed that 59% of executives view the failure to adapt to hyperconnectivity is their organization’s biggest threat.

2016: The year of real digital transformation

Despite all of this change, we have yet to scratch the surface of the possibilities the digital economy offers. Mark my words: 2016 will further prove the transformational power of the digital economy.

As we prepare to usher in a new year, here are my top predictions of how the digital economy will continue to revolutionize everything:

1. Digital masters will emerge – and win every time.

Companies that digitally transform everything they do and touch will further differentiate themselves from those that just dabble in digital services. Although the EIU reports that 19% of companies are radically changing their business model to seize the opportunities hyperconnectivity offers, they are becoming powerful brands.

Take Nike, for example. The well-known sports apparel company has transformed itself into a fitness and lifestyle brand. By actively engaging with customers through social media, mobile technology, and embedded sensors, it is fostering an empowered community. From tracking diet, activity, and fitness progress to sending reminders to get their customers moving, Nike is making sure that their customers have the support they need – whenever and wherever they need it. 

2. Digital Darwinism will become a significant threat.

Technology and society are evolving at a pace that is simply too difficult for many organizations to keep up with.  In fact, according to some predictions, 40% of the Fortune 500 are expected to no longer exist within 10 years if they do not evolve soon.

To survive, companies must be not only the strongest and the most intelligent, but they also must adapt to change.  We have all seen this firsthand as we spent the last 20 years saying goodbye to brand leaders that resisted the call and opportunity to digitize. So for the 81% that are not taking digital transformation seriously, make 2016 the year you start to get serious.

3. Digital transformation will be pervasive across every area of the business. 

To be truly transformed, companies must go beyond window dressing the customer experience, embedding a few sensors to monitor production, and monetizing a service with digital technology. They must reach deep into the bare bones of the company, going as far as human resources and finance and as high up as the executive boardroom.

Digital transformation is just the enabler – real change happens when the business culture, leadership, and processes of profit centers and cost centers embrace it and evolve with it. The cloud, mobile technology, networks, and analytics present every business area with a unique opportunity to gain greater efficiency, perform instant data analysis, and achieve better collaboration. Not only does digital transformation help companies modernize and become an attractive employer brand for younger talent, but it also creates a seamless customer experience, promotes more effective collaboration, and empowers the entire workforce.

One brand that shows the power of such an undertaking is Burberry. Famous for its digital retail experience online and in physical stores, the luxury retailer has taken its personalization strategy to its employees too. By making it easier for employees in all areas to sell the brand to customers, Burberry is experiencing increased engagement across its workforce. And in the end, that means a better customer experience – anytime, anywhere, and through any channel.

4. The sales funnel will disappear – for good.

For decades, the sales funnel has been used as a visual representation of separating qualified buyers from the rest of the prospect pool. However, thanks to the Internet and social network, the sales process has accelerated to the point where the funnel is no longer relevant.

CEB recently uncovered that the average buyer is 57% through the purchase decision process before their first interaction with a sales representative or channel. Plus, companies only have 12% of their customer’s mindshare through the buying experience.  As a result, customers tend to fall through the funnel undetected and without a defined journey.

Through digital transformation, sales and marketing can better address this issue by providing multiple touch points that can make the brand accessible to every existing and potential customer – no matter the path taken. Along the way, data should be collected, consolidated, and distributed across the enterprise to provide insight and power decisions at the moment of the interaction.

5. Cryptocurrency will pave the way for better data security. 

Bitcoin. Drones. Virtual reality. Cloud. All of these emerging technologies has drawn a fair amount of press lately. However, there are always naysayers fearful that these innovations will not measure up in terms of protection from cyberattacks and data breaches. And probably the most eyebrow-raising one of all is cryptocurrency. However, Bitcoin has included a level of security into its ecosystem: The blockchain.

Through redundancy, computational compliance, and high-speed processing, all transactions are logged on a publicly available general ledger and copied across thousands of servers. When a transaction is initiated, every one of those servers must agree that the information given is accurate. Should someone try to cheat or hack into the ecosystem, it will be rejected as soon as the new account identifier is detected to be unidentifiable.

Is it possible that someone can work faster than these servers? According to The Economist, it is nearly impossible to generate a new version of the blockchain quick enough to overtake more than half of the servers controlling it. As computing power and speed increases, so will the servers’ ability to process information faster than the most-competent blockchain miners.

What do you think of these predictions? Dust off your crystal ball and share how you foresee the digital economy evolving!

Learn more about what’s possible for your business in the digital economy. Check out these reports detailing the Economist Intelligence Unit’s research:



About Dinesh Sharma

As Vice President of Marketing, Internet of Things (IoT), Dinesh Sharma is charged with driving thought leadership, awareness and adoption of SAP’s solutions for IoT across industries and lines of business. He is responsible for go-to-market plans across the IoT portfolio, as well as providing detailed analysis of industry and market trends, customer needs, competitors, economic environment and emerging business opportunities. Prior to his current role, he was the global VP leading cloud and cloud platform marketing, where he successfully launched the industry’s first in-memory cloud platform-as-a-service (PaaS), SAP HANA Cloud platform. Dinesh is senior technology executive with over 20 years experience in the industry: His domain experience spans from semiconductors, software design, product marketing and business strategy. He has managed worldwide business units for large technology companies and also has founded technology start-ups, including Dynamic Pictures, Inc., which he sold to 3Dlabs. While at ATI and AMD he drove an increase in market share from 12% to 47% in less than 2 years, while also delivering a 5X growth in revenue by delivering innovative products, driving direct sales engagement and marketing programs that reinvigorated enterprise sales. Prior to joining SAP he has been in leadership roles at startups in virtualization, big data and distributed computing with a heavy emphasis on building Cloud infrastructure and platforms. He has captured over $30MM in venture funding in his entrepreneurial career. Dinesh holds a Bachelor of Engineering degree in Electronic Engineering from University of Liverpool, UK. He lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with his wife and two small children.

Recommended for you: