Urban Outfitters sat on their hands yesterday while their brand equity hemorrhaged cool. In three hours, UO lost 17,000 followers on Twitter; #urbanoutfitters and #thieves became a trending topic. The tweet that started it all:
Urban Outfitter’s meager response--this one tweet posted a few minutes after Karnes'--was insufficient to staunch the blood that kept spilling all day:
The @amberkarnes tweet became a “Top Tweet,” and was quickly dispatched to another nearly 1.3 MILLION followers. Boing Boing, The Consumerist and Huffington Post picked up the story. Even Miley Cyrus got in on the act and shared with her one-million-plus followers.
Amber Karnes’ full blog post has all kinds of smart things to say about how her Tribe of 1000 followers turned this into an assault on an incredibly powerful brand.
The big story for brand marketers: every second of delayed response to an accusation creates
space for a tsunami of ill will that can wreak havoc with even the most carefully manicured brands.
The indie-cool vibe that Urban Outfitters diligently built by hiring independent designers to craft the in-store brick-and-mortar displays and creating an entire lifestyle from its products--from clothes to furniture to soaps and drawer pulls--is now jeopardized. In less than 24 hours. A slew of “me too” posts on other blogs such as this one about other wronged artists is lending credence to Karnes’ claim that Urban Outfitters is a serial indie art thief.
Whether or not angry tweeters make good on their promise to boycott Urban Outfitters, the brand tsunami wreckage is there for all to see: still flowing in via #urbanoutfitters.
Special thanks to co-author @SixSevenStudios who brought this to my attention yesterday! Check him out on Twitter!