Lands’ End Misses the Mark, Falls Flat for Feminism

Guest post by: Haley Koren, Strategic Communication Critic

By no surprise, a lovely feature article in Lands’ Ends catalog featuring feminist powerhouse Gloria Steinem was pulled in late February 2016. This article, as many soccer moms and PTA warriors alike, insinuated that Lands’ End promoted abortion. While I did understand the ethical dilemma at hand that Lands’ End faced, I do not think that they should have pulled the advertisement. In pulling the advertisement, it inherently admitted guilt and placed itself on a side of an ethical drama they were obviously blissfully ignoring.


Media source: The Blaze 04.19.12

Unfortunately for Lands’ End, it as a company got in this situation. I am unsure as to why Lands’ End believed that was not placing itself in the center of a controversy or was about to create one. Ethically, this was well-intentioned, as were it was so terribly embarrassed of its feature that it ended up pulling it to save face. On the other side of the coin, the cynic in me thinks that Lands’ End developed this campaign to create controversy and restore interest in the brand. While this cynicism is hopefully misguided there have been many companies in the past that have behaved in this manner.

I am always truly surprised by the fact that both men and women care so much about the choices that do not even touch them. Instead, they are preoccupied with the fact that their religion entitles them to tell others what and what not to believe. This is a personal passion of mine, as I do believe that every woman has the right to adequate healthcare, this includes abortion. My ethical dilemma came from the fact that, while reflecting on our case study, I truly felt disdain for Lands’ End as a brand. I did not respect the fact that Lands’ End pulled the advertisement. I felt as if it made it look like a spineless brand. Instead of being able to back up what they published, in this case an interview with Gloria Steinem, a feminist icon and trailblazer, they pulled the feature. This is true admission not only of ignorance, but of sheer fear of consumer power. This is why I find Lands’ End to be entirely unethical.


Pick a Side. Any Side

Guest Post: Olivia Bohringer, Student of the World

Political parties, gender roles, majors in college, personality quizzes, cultural backgrounds, generational differences, religious identify, fashion choices: decisions we make as frequently as every day or as rarely as once in lifetime, each choice asks us to pick a side. Choose a loyalty. What do you stand for? What will you fall for?


Source: Discovery Magazine, April 2014

Media professionals have an exceptional obligation to loyalties. On one hand, we go into the Deep Dark World of Media to advocate for the underdogs and to touch the most human part of our audiences. But we also sign up to be journalists, agency junkies, copywriters, producers, and communications people to bring in a paycheck. We sit in classes and learn how to work through ethical dilemmas and where to look for inspiration once we enter the real world, and we flip through textbooks and autobiographies looking for answers on how we’ll define our values. But the world of communications and media also asks us to define the values of our audiences and/or industries. A profound responsibility comes with the work in this field, being held accountable to our own set of personal ethics, to codes of action in our industries, and to our audiences.

Loyalty is often reduced to being told to pick a side. But what happens when there’s no clear line in the sand drawn? In a world of political correctness, it is often easy to proudly identify your allegiance to one side with one foot still firmly planted with the opposition. We can talk the talk, but the challenge comes with walking the walk. It’s easy to nod along when you’re in a crowd of many, but the challenge comes when the popular opinion does correspond with your own.

To ask the average student or professional to define his or her loyalties will not necessarily outline clear moral codes. It’s not easy to think about the values you’re devoted to nor the ones that you outright condemn. Perhaps it’s easy to frame loyalties as motivations; what is it that drives you? What gets you up in the morning? What do you find rewarding, and just as importantly, what is discouraging to you? Loyalty has a variety of definitions, but to identify your own, think about the decisions that you are most proud of. Think also about decisions you’ve regretted; sometimes a loyalty can’t be defined until it’s been betrayed.

Ever-shifting and ever-challenging, loyalty shapes every action we take, both personally and professionally. To understand one’s own loyalties is to understand your deepest ethos, your motivations, your most personal drivers. Loyalties reflect our upbringings and our innate values, and they grow to reflect our changing experiences; we can look at our priorities and our passions to find what drives us and calls us to action. The challenge lies in deciding which of these loyalties speak loudest, and if they speak loud enough to pick a side.

Happy Labor Day

I always remember my father with fondness on this day because of his tenacious embrace of the labor movement.

As the American economy becomes more and more service based we may forget labor’s historical gravity. The first Labor Day celebration was on Tuesday, September 5, 1882, in New York City, promoted by the Central Labor Union. The Union held its second Labor Day celebration the next year on September 5, 1883. Labor Day has been celebrated on the first Monday of September ever since. Its launch came at a time when America was moving into the industrial revolution and the conditions of workers were often difficult.

My dad, a WWII vet, frequently teased me about Rosie the Riveter and powerful women. I was young and didn’t understand how much her iconic image meant to him. I’m guessing that in some small (and not so small) ways I must have reminded him of the power she signified. Doing a little research on her image this morning, I learned a few things I didn’t know before.

There were two iconic Rosies.

Rosie Riveter norman rockwellThe first Rosie – the one most of us remember – was painted by J. Howard Miller. He was commissioned by Westinghouse to make a series of posters promoting the war effort. Miller inspired the Saturday Evening Post, whose covers tended toward civic inspiration. With WWII raging the Post hired Norman Rockwell. Rockwell’s Rosie appeared on the cover of the Saturday Evening Post (May 29, 1943). It was the Memorial Day issue. She’s muscular and dressed for a hard day’s work, just like the Rosie most of us might recall. We also know she’s Rosie because of the name inscribed on her lunch pail. However, what might surprise many of you, as it did me, this Rosie is stepping on a copy of Adolph Hitler’s book Mein Kampf. Now this is serious symbolic propaganda.

We_Can_Do_It! J. Howard MillerOn the heels of Post’s highly successful cover, stories about real life Rosies began appearing in newspapers across America. The U.S. government took advantage of Rosie’s popularity and embarked on a recruiting campaign named after her. The campaign, done by J. Walter Thompson under the auspices of the Advertising Council, used J. Howard Miller’s Rosie. The campaign brought millions of women into the workforce. To this day, Rosie the Riveter is considered one of the most successful government advertising campaign in history. On May 25, 2012 the Ad Council threw a 70th Birthday Bash for Rosie, noting that Rosie the Riveter remains an enduring emblem of empowerment for women everywhere.

Dad, thanks for teaching me the value of a hard day’s work. I miss you.

Happy Labor Day everyone!


Musically Impaired: How Apple’s U2 Release Broke the Wall of Trust

Guest Post by: Dan Reiner, student journalist

It was a fateful day in September 2014 when media conglomerate Apple decided to break through the wall between itself and its customers. This “wall” did not exist physically, but rather it represented the boundary between Apple customers and their property, and the company and how it controls its products. So when Apple secretly dropped an unwarranted free U2 album into the iTunes libraries of 500 million users around the world, people were not happy.

Apple didn’t break any laws by forcefully handing out the album (it’s not like any non-Apple employee has ever read the Terms and Conditions from beginning-to-end), but the company did break that metaphysical wall. Many subscribers were outraged by event because it was meant as a marketing ploy. Apple paid more than $100 million to U2, and the album’s release coincided with the release of the iPhone 6 and Apple Watch. So when users opened their iTunes to find that Apple had accessed their personal library.

It was a matter of privacy more than a kind gesture by Apple. To consider the severity of Apple’s marketing miscue, it’s best to contemplate the matter from both sides of the argument. Rawls’ Veil of Ignorance is the best way to ethically consider the matter because it refrains from placing bias on either side and deals directly with the social contract. The most important question to answer in this debate is whether or not Apple was ethically flawed in breaching the public libraries of 500 million people.

From Apple’s perspective, this was meant to celebrate not only a big technology launch, but also the 10th anniversary of U2’s “Vertigo” silhouette commercial with Apple. The band’s longstanding relationship with Apple has always been well documented, so it made sense for the two worldwide powers to team up.

ABCOn the other side of the argument, the consumer opens his or her iTunes to find an unwanted album, free of charge. Apple had never pulled a stunt like this before, so it was quite unexpected to the 500 million who received it. Apple may have thought U2’s worldwide popularity would lead to more downloads of the album, but only two million people downloaded the it to their cellphones. The public overwhelmingly rejected it, and the launch was a failure.

Other(s) Desires

Guest Post by: Meghan Brady

It seems that anyone nowadays can be a “photographer.” Whether it is with a smart phone or with a thousand dollar DSLR camera, people are constantly taking pictures. At concerts, everyone has Snapchat open, adding each song to his or her “Snapchat Story.” At my friend’s birthday party on Saturday, as she was blowing out the candles on her cake, I looked up to see seven iPhones capturing the moment. She has been blowing out birthday candles for 21 years, so I promise it did not look very different.

AI often wonder why our culture is obsessed with documenting every moment. Why do we think that each time we go out to dinner, we need verification from other people through Instagram likes that we, in fact, are accepted by posting a picture of your expensive food? Engagements in this day in age seem to not even happen if a photographer hiding in the bushes doesn’t capture the moment. I forget what it feels like to go somewhere with a group of friends and not have group photos before we leave. A “selfie stick” was invented so we could stand on vast mountaintops, in front of beautiful safaris, or in front of the Indian Ocean and fill the frame with our faces instead of nature.

The negative implications are obvious: in our culture we seek attention from others within their social sphere, creating the need and desire for constant acceptance. It’s nearly impossible to escape the obsession. This addiction to social attention has seeped into our minds and has casted a skewed vision on our lives, one that consists of solely pleasing others. It is ruled by doing things and buying things for the sole purpose of making others feel good about you.

But there’s danger here. There is a lot, in fact. I fear a generation that simply acts on the desires of others—to fit in. Do people that fit in change the world? If we are all walking in sync to the same bad tempo, will we be aware enough to point out issues? Will this desire for social attention and acceptance seep into other areas of our lives—ones where we need discernment and criticism in order to move forward?

Now, maybe this seems like I am blowing this out of proportion. Maybe I am making assumptions. But maybe, just maybe, we are on the road to a society that simply cares about fitting in and being liked. Being liked by people we know, and by people we have never met before. I understand it is easy to criticize our generation for the way we have become. But I see a slippery slope that we are headed down as soon as we put our reputation before our values.

No More: Ethical Advertising

Guest Post by: Tessa Danielson

Since the invention of marketing products and ideas to mass audiences, strategy has become an integral part of mass communication. Advertising and commercial communication have evolved into a very complicated and much studied form of human interaction. With this growth and evolution of the strategy and implementation of communicating to mass audiences has come the issues of ethics and social responsibility. What do advertisers owe the public in terms of social responsibility? Should they be held accountable and be expected to follow a code of ethical conduct when it comes to communicating to large audiences? Does social responsibility even have a role in mass communication such as advertisements? Would having socially responsible communicators even make a difference in terms of society at large? B Danielson

With these questions in mind, I ask you to consider what the world could be like if the creative minds behind brands such as Coca-Cola, Disney, or Apple, created communication campaigns for ethical issues such as climate change, human trafficking, or the importance of vaccines. What could be different and what could change if the public were bombarded with strategic messages not about cars, shoes, and junk food, but about enacting social change in a responsible and ethical way? This is where No More is becoming a part of the newest step in the evolution of strategic communication: using their creative and strategic skill set in order to inform mass audiences and to call them to action. By creating a campaign focused on enacting social change, the advertisers involved with the No More campaign have stepped up and are using their skills to forward an ethical cause – regardless of whether communicators have an obligation to act according to ethical conduct or not.

The No More campaign and organization is aiming to end domestic violence by spreading awareness. No More wants to both prevent instances and support victims of domestic violence by spreading their message to mass audiences. The campaign is both strategic and creative in design and reach and has gained a lot of attention since airing a commercial on the Superbowl (a day, by the way, which is notorious for a spike in domestic abuse). By using a shocking commercial featuring a real call to the police from a woman experiencing domestic violence, No More has forwarded their campaign and used strategic communication for an ethical cause. This is the next step in the evolution of strategic mass communication.

Henry Ford once said, “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” Whether consumers have asked for ethical conduct from advertising or not, I would be willing to bet that it soon will be demanded. It will no longer be enough to merely use ethics as a mean to create an end in the form of an advertisement. Society will soon demand that, the No More campaign and others like it, strategic communication be used as a mean to reach the end of social responsibility in brands.

Volkswagen: A Globally Responsible Company

Guest Post by: Katie Gibbons: Marquette University, Corporate Communication Major, Public Relations Minor

When thinking about Corporate Social Responsibility or CSR what companies come to mind? The obvious answer is to think of an American company because we hear so much about what company is doing what to give back to the community. However, many companies based in other countries also have CSR initiatives that are worth noting. A great example of this is Volkswagen in Germany, which focuses on sustainability initiatives. Volkswagen does not only have CSR initiatives in Germany, but has other CSR plans in other countries, such as a major environmental initiative in China.

What is CSR, anyway?

Corporate social responsibility is how a company gives back to a community in some way to someone in need. This can include anything from helping a nation in need of clean water to education. Often, CSR initiatives have some type of relation to the company. Companies try to relate CRS initiatives to some aspect of the company. If a company is criticized for having products that negatively effect the environment, then the CSR initiative can include an aspect of environmental efforts and sustainability to make things right.

CSR at Home

Volkswagen’s headquarters are in Wolfsburg, Germany. One of Volkswagen’s initiatives involves recycling old cell phones for a cause—to restore Lower Havel river valley, which is home to many different types of endangered species of plants and animals. It is important for brands like this to take pride in the home country and help solve a problem. Often, large companies establish CSR initiatives in its own country first to help out on a local scale. Over 3,000 phones were donated, so this was considered a success, and many people were also educated on how to properly dispose of their phones in addition to helping restore the river valley.

Environmental Education in China

Volkswagen does not stop in Germany. Volkswagen has partnered with the Chinese Center of Environmental Education and Communication and the Green Future Environmental Education Initiative (GFEEI). This CSR initiative includes environmental education for Chinese students. Volkswagen’s project partner NAJU gives hands on training sessions to teachers and educates students. The initiative has been deemed successful and has educated about 20,000 Chinese students in 30 different schools in 19 provinces between 2007-2011, and the initiative continues. 

Screen Shot 2014-11-16 at 5.53.02 PMDoes Volkswagen exhibit global CSR?

Volkswagen definitely exhibits global corporate social responsibility. Of course companies want to focus on the country that it is headquartered in, but Volkswagen goes beyond this. Instead of just focusing on Germany, Volkswagen looks at what needs to be done elsewhere. They are giving back to a community that is in need of environmental education. China is affected by growing urbanization causing the need to better the environment. Education on this topic is so important because this initiative is not just planting trees, which would be a short-term fix. Education on the topic has a deeper effect because it teaches people how to change habits. Now 20,000 Chinese children have the power to change their habits and have knowledge on how to be more environmentally friendly. Leaders at Volkswagen realize the negative effects that their cars have on the environment. Since China is so heavily populated, Volkswagen realizes the negative aspects of this and that the car pollution can cause bigger problems in China than in some other areas.

“Responsibility Knows No Boundaries”

As the image above from the Volkswagen Group states, responsibility has no boundaries for this company. Just because it is a German company does not mean that it cannot help others in need. This is a powerful statement for Volkswagen to live by and shows its dedication to global responsibility. Volkswagen does not discriminate based on country lines. Volkswagen is willing to support sustainability efforts across boundaries.