Selling women's shoes can be as simple as ABC--affordable, beautiful, and comfortable. Hit those three nails on the head and you're golden. But, if you take your cues from Nine West's new ad campaign, you may be more apt to belittle and offend your target market instead.Yes, that's right. Once again, we've come upon a brand that fails to understand the overall mindset of its primary customer base.
Just last week, the popular women's shoe retailer launched its latest gimmick by releasing concepts that border on the obsolete. In an ultimately misguided effort to appeal to "today's" woman, Nine West introduced Shoe Occasions, which, from the looks of it, are limited to "Starter Husband Hunting" and "First Day of Kindergarten" at the moment. As expected, the seemingly "all play and no work" assumption has already begun to draw ire from those it's supposed to attract.
On August 1, Nine West posted one of its most notable images to Facebook as part of the launch. Building off the "Starter Husband Hunting" idea, the photo features one Nine West heel upon an archery target with an arrow to its side. The caption reads: "It's hunting season. Whether you're looking for Mr. Right or Mr. Right Now, we have a shoe for that." Thankfully, the brand's fans and followers were quick to refute the notion with eloquence and class.
Julie Bahocek wrote, "Stupid campaign 9W. Love your shoes but don't patronize your customers with an outdated ideal. Women are hunting success and goals, dreams and visions. Not husbands."
Credible Phillips said, "Hey Nine West, do you have a shoe I could wear while I give patriarchal [expletive] a good kicking? I really like the ones that help me commodify my appearance in order to fool a man into marrying/supporting me, but I'm not sure how comfortable they'd be at an Equal Pay rally."
Michelle Emily added, "What about the women not looking for Mr. Right, but instead Mrs. Right?"
Of course, while some believe customers should lighten up, the majority of the 135 comments echo the same sentiment as reflected by the women above. The general consensus establishes this campaign as one that's offensive and degrading to the very people--yes, people!--to whom this should appeal.
Erika Szychowski, senior vice president of marketing for Nine West, recently told the New York Times that, while she's sure the campaign will make noise and gain attention, it's not offensive at its core. "We have to change the way we talk about occasions because women are modern now and shop for a different reason," she added. Essentially, she's correct. The campaign has certainly generated much buzz over the last few days. But, while some may consider any publicity to be good publicity, in a time where women have numerous options within their grasp, negative sentiment can have an even more profound impact on the company's bottom line. Something so incredibly demeaning, such as this campaign, will likely only encourage customers to "hunt" for shoes elsewhere.
Don't get me wrong; I love Nine West shoes. (Because finding size 5 in adult styles happens to be much more difficult than one would think.) But it's hard to stand behind this brand when the marketing team cannot move beyond an antiquated stereotype. Today's women are so much more than wives and mothers, and the campaign should reflect such ideals if "modern" women are truly the target. We don't want to be reduced to some outmoded trope that claims we can't fend for ourselves. Nine West should support strong, independent women of all walks of life if they wish to continue on the path toward success themselves.