There is no clear cut answer to what might be clever versus controversial. But one thing is for sure, there is always a marketer looking for that answer. American Apparel is the latest brand to discover what that answer is in the case of their 36-hour Hurricane Sandy sale. The story goes that the fashion basics brand sent its locked-down customers in the East Coast a email offering 20 percent off while their customers where "bored" waiting out the storm.
Despite a lack of knowledge of their Sandy sales figures, the customer backlash from the sale is a strong signal that it was a bad idea. The answer was controversial.
As an aside, perhaps marketers should also be offended by American Apparel using the selling point of consumer boredom. When did that ever become a compelling reason to by anything?
The marketing industry appears to be one that is comfortable tip toeing around the clever/controversial line. Whether this is actually the case, the few who are wind up being a loud minority, and are the reason the rest of the industry professionals receive the same reputation.