Subscribe to industry newsletters

Advertise on Bizcommunity

Manufacturing Indaba 2018

How to lose your customers in three easy steps

It's much easier to lose a customer than it is to make them a loyal fan, so why are companies such as Shoe City shooting themselves in the proverbial foot? Here's how it - and You magazine - lost my business in three easy steps. [update: Shoe City apology]
click to enlarge

Step 1: It agreed with its advertising agency that this ad was a good idea and was sure to bring customers in store

I can picture it now. The creative sitting there, rocking back and forth on his high back chair, brainstorming Shoe City's next ad.

"Hmmm, ok, free association time. Boots... puss in boots... cats... my neighbour's cat is really getting on my last nerve OK! I got it - We'll sell shoes by saying you should reward yourself for running over cats. That's the idea that is going to win me multiple awards."

Somehow, this idea makes it past brainstorm stage and the creative director allows it to be pitched to the client.

Then I'm picturing the agency pitching Shoe City this ad idea and I'm wondering how it wasn't chased out of the room in disgust by the Shoe City marketing manager, because who on earth would agree to align their product with behaviour - accidental or otherwise - that leads to animals meeting a tragic end?

Step 2: It forgot who it was talking to

So, somehow this ad makes it through all of the sensible checks and balances on its journey to its magazine appearance. Or did it? Surely somebody gave some thought to their target audience. They are advertising women's winter boots - so it would be safe to assume they're targeting women.

If they had, they should probably have thought about the fact that, on the whole, women are quite emotional, nurturing creatures themselves. The odds are high that, at some stage in their lives, these women have had a pet or two, and the odds are quite high that those pets were probably cats. They loved these animals, sought comfort from them, nurtured them, and treasured them.

Again, the odds are high that, at some stage, many of their female target audience have lost their beloved pets in horrible ways. In the course of my lifetime, for example, I have had four cats and two dogs. Two of the cats were run over, one was definitely by a neighbour. I found them and it wasn't pretty. I was traumatised, added to which I'm the kind of person who gets upset when I see cats run over when I'm out and about, and they're not even mine.

So, just maybe, instead of thinking this ad is clever and witty, the women you are trying to get into your stores would be highly offended by it. Maybe, this ad would dredge up horrible memories and now, every time they think of your brand, they associate it with this terrible ad and the way it makes them feel.

Step 3: It went ahead and did it anyway

Against all logic and good judgement, Shoe City paid good money to showcase this full page ad in You magazine. (I don't know how many other magazines this went into, and this doesn't deserve my valuable time to investigate it further.) It was short-sighted enough to think this ad wouldn't hurt and offend people.

You magazine is also an accessories after the fact. It accepted money to include this offensive ad in its 26 May 2011 edition, when it should have said, "We don't want something like this in our family magazine as it will offend our readers."

Here's a rule of thumb: When we as human beings, whether by accident or on purpose, take a life - human or animal - we do not reward ourselves with a pair of boots.

So Shoe City and You magazine, whatever happens, there's always another store around the corner where I can buy my shoes and another magazine or website where I can get my dose of celebrity gossip.

For more:

Updated at 1.11pm on 8 June 2011.
For More links updated at 3.54pm on 8 June 2011.
For More links updated at 10.42pm on 9 June 2011.
For More list updated at 3.55pm on 21 June 2011.

About Lindsay Grubb

I love telling stories, whether they're a product of my overactive imagination, or carefully researched and strategically planned for my clients. I am a freelance writer and editor with a talent for searching out and telling interesting brand stories that create interest in and loyalty to brands.
Ami Kapilevich
Hilarious. Shoe City here I come.
Posted on 7 Jun 2011 15:44
Antoinette Muller
Personally, I thought the advert was quite funny.I'm a female and 'nurturing' and animal lover to boot. Heck, I have two dogs who could pass for humans....but you know what ? I can't friggin stand most cats. In fact, I despise the neighbour's cat who sits on my wall, hisses at my dogs, they get driven INSANE and run in circles barking for hours because they are so frustrated by it, so you know what? I'd actually totally buy a pair of boots.Drew's comment is hilarious!
Posted on 7 Jun 2011 15:48
Adrian Smit
I think that the add says: Sh*t happens... the bigger the mistake, the bigger the need to make yourself feel better by buying a nice pair of awesome boots! They are going after the idea that "what ever happens, there is always shoe city". I would expect them to have an interesting add out soon in the same dark tone of humour. Something like: “Scratched your hubby’s car – nice stilettos; write off our hubby’s car – REALLY nice stilettos, Write off your boss’s Ferrari – We can deliver in bulk” I say WELL DONE!
Posted on 7 Jun 2011 16:08
clare keenan
Seems some people can't tell therapy from reward. The stereotyping of women as nurturing is more offensive.
Posted on 7 Jun 2011 16:19
Madame Maxine
Well thiiiiiis is awkward....The columnist misunderstood the ad and ranted about it with embarrassing fervor.
Posted on 7 Jun 2011 16:46
Antoinette Muller
What's more awkward is the 100s of people who also misunderstood the advert because their interpretation of it was influenced by a faux pas.
Posted on 7 Jun 2011 16:58
Warren Rodel
HAHAHAHAHAHA, I'm a new customer, I want to see the other ads they may have in store haha
Posted on 7 Jun 2011 17:09
Cathy Thompson
Not funny, how can you link something so horrible to selling shoes, the negative alone would be a turn off, not to mention that cruelty to animals is a huge issue in SA.
Posted on 7 Jun 2011 20:16
Tracy Purto
This advert is a disgrace! Anyone making a joke out of cruelty to animals - WHICHEVER way you look at it is an absolute embarrasment to our profession.
Posted on 7 Jun 2011 22:19
King Prawn
Heavens folks, pull your head out of your a$$ for one second. It is a joke. J O K E. Satire. I am sure they don't mean drive over cats or console yourself if you ran over a cat.I love animals, all animals - except humans. They suck. Would I joke about hurting animals, hell yes. A joke is a joke, I can separate fact from fantasy. Because I have an "imagination" because I "read". I would never hurt animals though, humans very likely.Stop being so dammed politically correct, the world is suffering because everyone is so afraid to say something that might offend someone else's sensitive constitution.The fact remain that, if a product is good and well priced people will buy it. Adding a little "tongue in cheek" advertising at least puts a smile on our faces when we hand over our hard earned cash.
Posted on 8 Jun 2011 08:55
Warren Rodel
Well said King Prawn! That's how I saw the ad!
Posted on 8 Jun 2011 09:02
Dianne Bayley
How come no mention of the ad agency that put together this ad?
Posted on 8 Jun 2011 09:12
Charis Apelgren
I actually think the advert is clever. Women are animal lovers and especially cats. Of course the tongue-in cheek-way of saying that you have hurt this animal but don't feel too down, let the shoes pick up your mood, is not the best way of advertising shoes but it is not the worst form of advertising that would cause me to boycott You magazine or Shoe City. Maybe you are being a little dramatic Lindsay. Why not target Motoring companies that have women barely clothed sprawled across a BMW or the poorly scripted My Spar adverts.
Posted on 8 Jun 2011 13:02
Dianne Bayley
Any ad that needs to be explained to anyone is not a good ad, nor is it clever. Any ad that needs three paragraphs of explaining is even worse. Any agency still willing to "take on" animals or children and suggest ANYTHING vaguely untoward is looking for trouble. Remember the "Body parts" stunt?
Posted on 8 Jun 2011 13:08
Sue Grant
Personally I find all the faux fur the most offensive. At those prices we know that there is no stich of fur cat or other even remotely involved. But have to agree a badly conceived piece of communication.
Posted on 8 Jun 2011 14:21
Herman Eloff
MESSAGE FROM YOU’S EDITOR LINDA PIETERSEN: “As editor of YOU I am just as upset as our readers about the Shoe City advertisement in the issue of 26 May. I’m a cat lover and would never support or endorse any form of animal abuse. We’ve spoken to the advertisers and conveyed our shocked and disappointment in their advertisement. We have also asked them to post an official statement on our Facebook page, We are also reassesing the process of our screening ads, as the current system is not satisfactory. To our readers: thank you for taking the time to show your support against the abuse of animals.”Sent on behalf of Ms. Pietersen by Herman Eloff, Website editor: Huisgenoot, YOU and DRUM
Posted on 8 Jun 2011 14:42
Tammy Brown
People out there so badly need to grow up and find real things to complain about.
Posted on 8 Jun 2011 16:14
Vincent Osmond
SURELY there are more important things to complain about than a little ad in the YOU magazine. If people don't get that the ad was done in jest, then they have a serious problem. It's not real, people. And if you happened to be offended by it, then protest by not buying the shoes. Finish en klaar.
Posted on 8 Jun 2011 17:43
Marla Stormwolf-Patty
Good Evening, I am the Founder to Animal crush videos are a world wide sickness we are pushing to ban. Stomping on animals for the sexual gratification of the viewer is NEVER in fashion. We commend you and the magazine for retracting and taking corrective steps to undo the notion that stomping on cats is not only fashionable but also necessary by way of retail therapy. We hope to see more in the way of compassion from you in the future. I would however, like to point out that cruelty is never fashionable and we hope your marketing team takes that into consideration.We commend Lindsay Grubb for speaking up and for her article on this. So many stay silent and worse, so many do not care.Marla Stormwolf-Patty
Posted on 9 Jun 2011 02:06
Van Lindenberg
As always some fanatic animal extremists seeing hair in egg. I just feel sorry for the poor animals, while these crazy people are worried with a ad that their damaged brain is not able to understand, animals are suffering in the real world. The biggest enemies of animals are the extremists animal rights activists. Have they ever done something useful to animals anyway? All we see is useless petitions, fake signatures in online petitions, harassment of innocent people, made up histories to ask donations, offending who disagree of their radical conduct (as they will soon do with this post), killing animals in their own shelters (as PETA does). But real action, NEVER. They babble through internet, they hate through internet, but in real life they're a bunch of depressed incompetent losers who never ever did anything to help a stray dog, a hurt kitten or stop cruelty in chicken farm... maybe they have no guts to stand against real people, they care only for ads, papers, virtual bullying... and while these losers waste their time on Internet, offending and hating human beings, trillions of innocent animals suffer in this world. If you want save animals say NO to animal rights activists, do something besides waste your time with retards petitions or pathetic facebook groups runned by people who NEVER did anything to the animals. And by the way, this article is completely wrong, if i go to South Africa I'll make sure to go buy on Shoe City with my wife and daughters, just because extremists didn't like this ad.
Posted on 9 Jun 2011 03:57
Dianne Bayley
"runned by people" Runned by people? Would you like a job at an ad agency, Van Lindenberg? Heh heh heh . . .
Posted on 9 Jun 2011 10:51
whats the problem .a little poke @ fun .everyone is to seriuuuss. keep your self alive should be more of a priority than a few words associated with a shoe.HARDEN UP!WELL DONE SHOE CITY ,all advertising is good advertising and you thought the square.get the manager a medal not an ax!
Posted on 9 Jun 2011 11:12
K, so what should we "loose" our heads over? If you can't stand for something, you'll fall for anything. You're probably one of the people who doesn't know why Paul Rotherham was bulletted from Highveld - or wouldn't agree with his ethics.
Posted on 9 Jun 2011 11:55
Ryan Goldblatt
The original column was not well thought out - and it did stereotype women. It's really a mountain out of a molehill. Nowhere is anyone condoning animal abuse. If the people are guilty of anything it's just plain bad advertising. And while I would love it if we could ban bad advertising that just is not going to happen. Really there are way more important issues to get upset about.
Posted on 9 Jun 2011 12:25
Caroline Hurry
Excellent article Lindsay. I find nothing humorous about hurting animals contrary to Mr Goldblatt's opinion. I also thought your column was very well thought ouy, again contrary etc The fact is there are no shampoos and cosmetics in the average supermarket that have not been tested on animals. The way we treat animals in general is appalling and the Shoe City ad was just part of the general brainwashing that animals don't matter very much in the grand scheme of things. Equal rights for cats, I say!
Posted on 9 Jun 2011 13:52
Danni Diana
woooah. stormwolf patty? first of all, thank you for having the most ironic name in the history of names of people who dont want animals crushed for sexy kicks (all puns intended). Seriously? Stormwolf-Patty? Is that what goes on stormwolf burgers? Outrageous. The stormwolf is a highly endangered species. BU i digress.I am not sure how you make the link between animal crush videos and a tongue in cheek ad for shoes. This ad is not advocating that anyone should crush a kitty... let alone intentionally, or for sexual gratification. That said, in general I do not find this ad offensive. I do think it was a bit bluntly executed... such a potentially sensitive issue could have called for copy that went about its business in a smarter way. Although that's a moot point. y only real criticism? to the stupid media buyer who thought that an ad with a cheeky tone, one that is suited to an openminded, less conservative audience was appropriate for YOU magazine (The ultimate ode to mediocrity of thought and being)
Posted on 9 Jun 2011 14:45
Van Lindenberg
I visited the site of this stormwolf patty, if it was serious I would for sure help advocate against these so called "crush videos". But her website have only some articles about it and the rest is about others subjects and their facebook page have nothing about these "crush videos" (at least not in the new wall posts). So we conclude that if it exist(ed) was isolated cases, like that Chinese woman that went to media long time ago and an other from China I saw on chinasmack. Seems the thing is(was) restricted to China, but that's because China is one of the only countries of world that haven't a law to protect domestic animals. Checking crush videos on wikipedia I found nothing but the same thing of stormwolf patty site and something about cockroaches and snails being crushed by sexy women. Is it what stormwolf patty site is trying to combat? Crushing of cockroaches? I hope not or I'll start to think that extremists animal activists are a danger for human society too (for animals they're already the biggest danger), imagine stop to kill cockroaches and snails... if we protect snails what will be of gardens and if we stop to kill cockroaches... oh my. And worse... shall we stop to kill locusts and caterpillars? Soon will have no trees nor food... The insects revolution.
Posted on 9 Jun 2011 18:00
Marla Stormwolf-Patty
Goodness...I certainly have appeared to hit a nerve with some of the folks here. Diana, although I am of several cultures (including Native American, ergo, the Lakota name)..that is certainly no reason to be a racist about it. To me and many others, we are of one race, the human race. So although I am of several cultural back grounds, perhaps you can see fit to see past your racism towards me Diana, and simply see me as a human being. Interesting that you suggest Im "highly endangered". Take a deep breath and try not to dramatize.Van, animal crush videos, as you are well aware is a global horror. The only reason you are not "advocating" to have them stopped is that you have no real interest IN stopping abusive behaviour...including your own.The writer spoke up regarding an issue she feels strongly about. If you feel strongly about improving the planets condition in some way, perhaps you should do so. See it is easy to criticize the efforts of others that are actually trying to improve this planets well being in some way, a lot harder to take a position and do it yourself. The irony is that those people trying to help this planet and life on her are attacked by some of the very same people those activists are trying so hard to help. Selective compassion is one of the corner stones that allows individuals to believe that hurting a life is okay. Once a person has de-valued a life and made that life "less than" their own ego, then it is relatively easy to then go about hurting, killing, making light of, and endangering said life. To some of the commenters here, you have proven that point spectacularly. We as humans, have a long way to go yet. But I am convinced we will all get there and a global compassion can exist.
Posted on 12 Jun 2011 08:53
Bob Lewis
@BelieverHell I didn't know Paul Rotherham was a cat!
Posted on 13 Jun 2011 19:15