When giving away a free "gift," keep your audience in mind.
Lands' End recently learned that lesson the hard way. The company sent out a complimentary copy of the July issue of GQ featuring a racy cover of model and actress Emily Ratajkowski clad in only a white lei, which offended some of Lands' End's more conservative customers.
"We received your 'Lands’ End Bonus' of GQ magazine this weekend, and we are absolutely horrified. How can buying something as family friendly as school uniforms lead to soft porn in the mailbox? I’m thankful my son did not bring in the mail," one woman complained.
Others were not so lucky. "My 14-year-old son brought in the mail today & was quite disturbed & fascinated by a 'gift' Lands’ End sent us — a copy of GQ magazine with an absolutely OBSCENE cover!!!,” another mother wrote on Lands' End's Facebook page.
Still, not everyone was offended by the magazine cover. Some just would have preferred a rugby striped beach towel.
According to The New York Times, the promotion was part of an ongoing partnership between the retailer and Condé Nast. The company had previously included promotional copies of Self, Vogue and Glamour. This time, Lands' End decided to go with GQ, a men's magazine, "since we did not want to exclude our male customers," said CEO Edgar Huber. Following the backlash, the company replaced the offending magazine with Condé Nast Traveler. Huber also issued the following apology:
I would like to start by extending my most sincere apologies. We are aware that you have received the July issue of GQ magazine with a suggestive cover as a part of our recent customer bonus offer. We are truly sorry for the error and in no way, did we intend for this action to offend our most valued customers.
As a company, we are extremely apologetic that you have received this particular magazine on our behalf. Please understand that the images featured in the magazine do not reflect our company values. We have removed all of our customers' names from the subscription list and have instead switched the subscriptions to Condé Nast Traveler. If you have already unsubscribed, you will not receive Condé Nast Traveler. If you would like to unsubscribe from Condé Nast Traveler, please call 1-800-685-0089.
We appreciate and value you as a customer and are committed to resolving this unfortunate matter. Please do not hesitate to contact us with any further questions or concerns.