MAC and Rodarte Accept Name Blame

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From time to time, brands looking to be on the bleeding edge of cool become completely untethered from reality.

Creative pitch sessions go off the rails and devolve into a feedback loop of hip, where relativist style means there is no longer any such thing as good or bad taste. Only later, in the daylight and the fallout, does the insanity of the concept become clear. That is about the time a brand finds itself muttering, “We never intended…”

MAC cosmetics has found itself in just such a place with its latest collaboration.[more]

“We never intended to make light of this serious issue and we are truly sorry,” went the crisis management statement from fashion brand Rodarte, the National Design Award-winning clothing line, after announcing a line of cosmetics inspired by the Mexican city of Ciudad Juárez.

The problem was the product names in the line, such as “Factory” and “Ghost Town.” Ciudad Juárez is considered the most violent municipality in Mexico, the site of widespread drug violence, and the epicenter of hundreds of murdered women in the last few years.

Fashion brand Rodarte has little to worry about, as its brand operates at the highest levels of fashion, where poor taste is often meaningless. MAC, however, is a different story. As an Estee Lauder-owned brand targeting a wide swatch of consumers (and women), a positive public perception that promotes women is of huge importance.

In addition to its apology, MAC (a veteran pro-social champion, donating proceeds to AIDS and other causes) announced that it will donate $100,000 to “improve the lives of women in Juarez.” It will also rebrand the line. But the damage is done.

The best, perhaps, they may hope for is perhaps that a brand expert will remember it as a case study the next time creativity steps over the line.

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