Magazine article Marketing

Mark Ritson on Branding: No Miniskirts? but Hotpants Were OK

Magazine article Marketing

Mark Ritson on Branding: No Miniskirts? but Hotpants Were OK

Article excerpt

It was a blazing hot day when 23-year-old student and part-time waitress Kyla Ebbert left her San Diego campus for the airport. She had a doctor's appointment in nearby Tucson and had a flight reservation with Southwest Airlines.

Ebbert handed her stub to the flight attendant and took her seat. But as the crew started the safety announcements she was approached by a safety officer, who asked her to follow him off the plane and onto the connecting skyway. Once outside the officer told her she was dressed in an inappropriate manner and would have to return home to change before she could take her flight.

Ebbert, who was wearing a tight turquoise sweater and white denim mini-skirt, was dumbfounded. 'What part of my outfit is offensive?' she asked the attendant. 'The shirt? The skirt?' The attendant frowned and said 'The whole thing.' The passenger stood her ground and eventually was allowed back on the plane on condition that she pulled down her skirt, pulled up her sweater and wore a blanket over her lap during the journey.

If you work in PR, the beads of sweat have probably already started to form on your forehead; this is, of course, a brand crisis in the making Ebbert complained first to her mother, then the local radio station and finally the story started to make the national press. The final circle of media hell was achieved last week when Ebbert, clad in her now-infamous outfit, did the Today show followed by Dr Phil. Then a second woman, Setara Qassim, came forward, claiming she had been forced to fly Southwest wrapped in a blanket after her halter-neck dress was deemed too low-cut by flight attendants.

The problem for Southwest was threefold. First, it had treated two women who were dressed normally by current standards extremely badly. Second, Southwest has a strong reputation in the US as the fun and approachable airline. Its treatment of the women was not just inconsistent but directly contradictory to its positioning. Third, and perhaps worst of all, the airline looked hypocritical. In the 70s it used the strapline 'Sex sells seats' and dressed its stewardesses in hotpants that made Ebbert look like Auntie Edna at Christmas. Blogs began to erupt and the media to circle; a strong brand was in trouble. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.