#PRWin: These Dummies Made a Boss Move
Walk into a mall or department store and one of the first things you’ll see are the mannequins, holding poses no normal person would take, coifed in the latest fashions that generally only look good on that sculpted hunk of plastic. That’s because these figures are meant to represent ideal body types and we’re supposed to see ourselves looking just as good as the frame those pricey clothes are draped upon.
Well, as I’m sure you already know, the vast majority of the human population doesn’t look like those storefront dummies (especially the ones without heads).
Nike, whose business was very much attuned to body types, including those who aspire to change theirs, introduced a plus-size mannequin in their London flagship store (what a novel idea). It was done without any real fanfare – really, it was meant to push their line of plus-size athletic apparel – they weren’t trying to make a point.1 But intentional or not, they were making a statement, leveraging their positive reputation and substantial fan base in showing a reality that there are those among their customer who looked more like their new plastic representative.
In a rather wonderful PR twist, when Nike received criticism for the new mannequin, it wasn’t Nike that turned out to be the “bad guy” – it was a critic of the company’s effort to evolve with the times.
An editorial in The Telegraph blasted the new mannequins as “selling a dangerous lie”. They went on to state that “Fat acceptance movement” was “…no friend to women.”2 And so on That’s pretty brazen considering that the general population is not a size 0.
The editorial’s author also took her opinion to Twitter, where she made the claim that the mannequins were representative of a person who “…cannot run…” was “pre diabetic…”, and “…on her way to a hip replacement.”
One might expect this popular publication to have inspired some backlash aimed at Nike and their new mannequin. And yes, there was indeed backlash, except the ire was directed right back at the critic. The source of that ire? Nike’s own customers. (Already a win!)
And before the athletic wear maker moved to respond, their defenders had already leapt to their defense via Twitter. A few of the many pertinent posts:
“Having mannequins in the store in different shapes sizes is more representative of real people. You don’t have to be any specific size shape or age to go to the gym or to wear fitness clothing.”
“If there are bigger sizes, it would be an encouragement to larger ladies. I’m a size 20 and I’ve done the London Marathon and numerous Mud Obstacle Races.”
“I wish every store had a variety of mannequins to represent us all [of every size].”
It wasn’t long before The Telegraph’s stamp of disapproval for the London store display earned them the attention of the media (and in a twist they likely didn’t see coming – great publicity for Nike!)
Business Insider: Nike’s controversial plus-size mannequin is a brilliant business decision
Refinery29: The Real Issue With Nike’s Plus Size Mannequins
And I JUST LOVE these:
Fox News: Supporters defend Nike’s plus-size mannequin after it becomes target for ‘fat-shaming’ remarks
Yet another from Business Insider: People are defending Nike after a journalist slammed the sportswear brand for an ‘immense, gargantuan’ plus-size mannequin
The author didn’t take into account the fact many plus-sized women not only ran in while donning athletic wear, but they also swam, lifted weights, rode bicycles, etc. – pretty much everything that non-plus-sized people did (all while using their original hips, I might add).
For the women in the market for clothing in the mannequin’s body type, they didn’t see Nike as selling the lie that obesity was okay. They are instead acknowledging the fact that yes, larger people needed their athletic wear and they had them available in their sizes. There’s no shame in that – this was a great way to talk to their customers. Nike was solving the problem of trying to find clothes appropriate to their plus-size customers’ body types (and had foresight to know that these same people would come back again and again to replace athletic wear as they exercised their way into newer sizes).
Nike already had a built-in fan base, a veritable PR army as a certain writer discovered. And with a single, realistically-shaped mannequin, garnered a slew of great publicity for their long-standing support of their customers – their health and well-being – all sizes welcome.
So, in an effort to bad-mouth Nike, The Telegraph ended up the ones with the makings of a PR disaster. And for their trouble – Nike got some unintended but well-deserved kudos for simply doing the right thing (oh, the irony).
See what excellent customer relations can get ya?
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- Comcowich, William. “5 marketing and PR campaigns that wowed us in 2019.” Ragan, 02 January 2020, ragan.com/5-marketing-and-pr-campaigns-that-wowed-us-in-2019/.
- Dooley, Tatum and Rearick, Lauren. “There’s Controversy Surrounding Nike’s Plus-Size Mannequins and Social Media Is Not Having It.” Teen Vogue, 10 June 2019, teenvogue.com/story/nike-london-flagship-plus-sized-mannequins.