H&M gets hammered for racist implications of tweet

This happened a couple of weeks ago, but it’s a mistake I thought was worth reviewing for a variety of reasons.  In short, a very, very stupid tweet got H&M, the fashion retailer, in deep, deep trouble.

H&M recently opened a store in Cape Town, South Africa.  South Africa, of course, has a long and tragic history of racial segregation.  As a result, you would think that all local retailers and social media users would be extremely careful in their marketing efforts.

Twitter user @Tlaly_Branch visited the Cape Town store and sent this critique to the retailer:

Certainly a valid criticism, and one worth responding to: Generally speaking, for a business or politician, if someone sends you a valid criticism and is clearly looking for a legitimate response (not just trolling), it’s a good practice to respond. H&M did just that.  However, they did so in the worst way possible:

It appears that H&M was trying to say that their marketing is in a constant state of flux and they try to be as diverse as possible in all of their marketing mediums.  However, look at the first and second tweets…they use the word “positive” in each tweet.  In other words: Black models don’t convey a positive image.

I really don’t think this is what H&M was trying to say, but it is definitely an implication of what they did say.  Twitter users, naturally, let the brand have it, and they were forced it issue a clarification:

They also issued this apology tweet:

So, the lesson here: Be careful with every part of a tweet.  The implications of any tweet can get you into deep, deep trouble.

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