Fail: Why Hanes Should Fire Their SMO Company


You can try and plan for success. You can do your homework, lay the groundwork and do your best to light the spark that will set the whole thing ablaze. However, sometimes beautiful things (and not so beautiful things) just happen. And you can either watch them happen from afar or you can throw yourself into the pile, take control, and grab the attention. We like to help clients to do the latter.

Something really interesting happened last week. It was odd, really. Facebook users started updating their status messages with, what seemed like, random colors. There was a “white” here, a “red” over there and even some print themes in the middle. At first, none of us knew what was going on. So we’d ask our friends. And little by little the giggles and the buzz made its way around Facebook and we all became ‘in’ on this little social media secret. For a few days, we all shared something silly. Of course, now we know that the colors referred to the bra color that the poster was wearing and it was all done as a way to bring awareness to breast cancer.  I also know that if Hanes is currently paying for social media services, they should get their money back for last week.

The meme that came to exist last week is said to have been started by two ladies hailing from Detroit. And it was cute. It was cute because it represented the type of viral that you can’t predict. The one that is homegrown, infectious and where the barrier to entry is so low we don’t feel too burdened to get involved. It was also a total missed opportunity.

While the ladies from Detroit were able to get some good buzz and solidarity going, where was the National Breast Cancer Foundation? Or Susan G. Komen For The Cure? Hell, where was Hanes or Jockey or Fruit of the Loom or the makers of these nifty high-tech bras? Where were any of the big dog brands that could have put their stamp of approval and marketing budgets on what was going on and taken it to the next level? They were nowhere.

Or how about when the JK wedding dance video that went viral and put a positive spin on girlfriend-beater Chris Brown? Where was the National Domestic Violence Hotline then? Where were any number of women’s shelters who could have brought awareness to their causes? Hell, if you don’t mind your stomach turning a bit, where was Chris Brown? He could have used the situation to maybe salvage himself and paint himself as a confused young boy who was owning up to his actions and trying to make up for it. They, too, were nowhere. The creators of the video may have tried to get some momentum going but, they’re just two regular newlyweds. The brands should have stepped in to promote some goodwill…and themselves.

When Kanye-gate happened back in September I commented on how Wal-Mart became the unofficial hero of Katrina by jumping into action to donate supplies to the workers and those affected. They saw an opportunity to tie their brand to something great and they jumped. And as a result, they saw a huge brand lift.

Lesson: Do not close your eyes to the natural viral opportunities all around you.

When lightning strikes, you act. It doesn’t matter what you were doing, what you already had planned or how much red tape you have to cut through to make it happen. You just do it. You get your hands dirty and look for a natural and useful way to attach your brand to the cause and support what everyone else was doing. Then, you add a new call-to-action to forever tie yourself with what just happened and you promote the hell out of it – both in front of and behind the scenes.

Hanes missed a huge marketing and branding opportunity last week. They’re one of the many companies that should have jumped in. They should have offered to donate money to breast cancer research for each Facebook Status update. They should have given out free bras to women who get early mammogram screenings. But they didn’t. Why was it such a big fail for Hanes? Because Hanes is the 2010 Passionately Pink for the Cure apparel sponsor. They have an entire Pink Collection that raises money for breast cancer research and their own ‘social media hub’. This was the perfect marketing campaign and it was something that grew so naturally it practically hit them in the face. I don’t know what hole they were sitting in twiddling their thumbs last week, but they should have been getting involved. Huge opportunity; completely missed. If Hanes is currently hiring someone to run their Pink Collection and build their social community…that person should be locked in a closet for a week. Because they failed big last week. Someone wasn’t paying attention.

And that’s  not okay. These are the kind of opportunities brands miss when they’re not watching social media and when you’re too stuck in your ‘yearly agenda’ to even SEE the prime marketing opportunities hitting you in the face. It’s inexcusable. Because, at the end of the day, it is he who is smart enough to act (and act quickly) that reaps the biggest reward. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel. You just have to be smart enough to see the wheel exists.

When natural viral opportunities present themselves this year, are you going to take them and run or are you going to trip over what you could have done?  If you’re currently paying someone to handle your brand presence, do you know what they would have done?

Update: On Twitter, Chris Winfield brought my attention to White House | Black Market. It looks like they did put together an effort to help leverage what was going on over at Facebook with a Twitter call-to-action promising to donate money to Living Beyond Breast Cancer and lots of activity on their own Facebook page. Pretty cool stuff.

Your Comments

  • wtfseo

    What are the odds that these companies banned their employees from using facebook at work? many places consider all of this viral stuff a giant waste of time – so they wouldn’t encourage people to participate. Or, they’re stuck in a large corporate structure where participating in a viral thing like this would require 3 months of meetings before they got approval.

    • Lisa Barone

      Even if they’re banned from Facebook…if someone is doing something interesting in your industry, chances are you’ve heard about it somewhere. It got quite a bit of media attention, even while it was still going on.

      But yeah, this is likely the problem:

      Or, they’re stuck in a large corporate structure where participating in a viral thing like this would require 3 months of meetings before they got approval.

      That and overall fear of jumping in. However, that fear likely cost them a great deal last week – both in sales, in branding, and in goodwill. I hope they’re not paying someone to cut off their knees like that.

  • Michael D

    We see this happen frequently with big (and small) brands. I think the key is your mention of “watching social media” and not being fixated on the already planned out marketing agenda. I wonder if many brands even have someone (or a team) designated to stay on the pulse of topics related (or opportunistic) to there product/service/industry, I imagine most don’t.

    • Lisa Barone

      It’s part of the whole “growing ears” and listening thing, no? Yeah, you’re watching for the guy badmouthing your company so you can make amends, but you should also be looking for natural marketing opportunities. Because they come around more often than companies probably think.

  • Zac

    Oh boy when my cousin posted white I responded with black… Not funny – at least not for me. In case you didn’t notice – I don’t wear bras or bro’s ; )

    I imagine there are all sorts of moments that major brands miss opportunities like this. Just one reason to stay connected and participate in the conversations that happen around us.

  • Claudia Yuskoff

    Great post. Mashable posted the What Color is Your Bra story and several men were commenting that the “campaign” (which as we know now was not a campaign) was not effective and didn’t spread awareness. Many men also felt left out of the conversation while others jokingly contributed to the fun. My friend posted on his Facebook status: “I can’t wait to see what color my wife post.” While this was a lost opportunity for countless brands, like Hanes, this can still be an opportunity for male-centric brands–well if they act asap. Get the men involved in the fun and raise money for a good cause. Who knows, maybe Hanes for Men might be listening to this post and find inspiration.

    • Lisa Barone

      That’s a great point, actually. It would have been a lot of fun for brands geared towards men (Maxim, Men’s Health, etc) to get involved and poke fun, while also spreading awareness. Thanks for throwing that into the fold!

    • Kim M.

      Um, hi, men weren’t the only ones wondering how the meme actually spread awareness last week. Well, I should say I didn’t get it when I first recieved the FB message anyway.

    • Kim M.

      PS. I’ve seen two other memes trying to ride the wave this week, though neither have really taken off, that I can see. Probably because it’s strictly viral, still no branding or awareness behind the attempts.


    I am sure that someone at these big name brands has a Facebook page. It was supposedly a ‘secret’ with the women on Facebook to post a color of their bra to support Breast Cancer Awareness, all the while keeping the men in the dark.

    Well, I am not the brightest bulb in the box, but I figured out what it was and what it referred to pretty quickly. How could they have let this slip by? It was a great opportunity to market their brands. I totally agree with everything you have said here, Lisa. But why don’t they get it?

    • Lisa Barone

      I think they’re either just not listening or they’re off the mind that social media “doesn’t matter”. But it does. Because social media is customer relations. And when you ignore it, you lose prime marketing opportunities like the one that sprout up on Facebook last week.

  • Robert Drummer

    Hanes *did* tweet once in the last 19 days so you know their Social Media strategy is working. All talk and no tweets makes Hanes like most other brands: missing the point.

  • Matt Leonard

    Great post Lisa!

    The bottom line, as you know, is ‘Speed Wins’. I believe it was Optimus Prime that said ‘Fate rarely calls at a moment of our choosing.’ Yes, I quoted a Transformer but it’s a damn good quote. The opportunities that grow organically like this are few and far between. They come with a feeling of genuine honesty and lack the contrived nature of even the best marketing campaigns. They’re natural, and they’re real. No matter how good of a marketer someone is, duplicating authenticity is near impossible. Shame on them for not having either the brains, or the proper mechanisms in place to move quickly. There’s no excuse for either.

  • PhouPhinds

    My husband posted “skin tone and hairy”. What can I say, he’s enthusiastic AND supportive! Great post!

  • Jack Leblond

    Sadly, I have to own up to having been involved in this sort of thing. But, we *did* try. On more than one occasion some of us in the marketing/communications group have discovered a blog post, tweet or message board comment that was an obvious cry for help from one or more of our customers. While our direct management is (mostly) on-board, we still needed to get several layers of approvals before we could respond. By then it was almost always too late.

    I’ve no doubt that the people charged with actually doing the work at any of the companies you list were fully aware of the meme but were bogged down in the approval swamp.

    Senior management and legal teams in general at many companies fear this sort of thing, they want to control everything that is said and done. Some actually believe that by saying nothing they are in control, that speaking opens them up to risk and they can’t see the reward is worth that risk.

    We are making progress, but it’s a slow painful process.

    • Lisa Barone

      Interesting. I wonder how many people are going to be scared of that because:

      • Who the heck is Big Prize Giveaways? I don’t know them. Do I trust them? No. Actually, when I went to Google and started typing in [big prize giveaways] to look them up I got this. Trust evaporated
      • They’re giving away 10k for every MILLION fans they get? That’s pretty intimidating and self-serving. I don’t think they’re going to get a million fans (see previous bullet point) so why am I even going to waste my time playing?

      That’s kind of the train of thought you have to assume people are going to give that unless you are Hanes or someone who can carry something like that off. Getting a million fans to your random Fan page doesn’t make me think about breast cancer awareness. It actually makes me feel like you’re taking advantage of me and trying to inflate your social media numbers.

      They were ‘paying attention’ but they were also being a little shady. Or at least, that’s how it looks.

  • Alan Bleiweiss

    Lisa, why this is even more relevant than ever is because Hanes had to just drop Charlie Sheen as a spokes-person given his penchant for being a psychotic domestic abuser. This would have been a perfect opportunity for Hanes to at least shift some of the attention off of “wife-beater” t-shirt jokes that are still circulating, and onto a serious topic that helps society in a serious way.

    • Lisa Barone

      Who even knew Charlie Sheen was associated with Hanes? Then yes, putting some good press on Hanes was especially important last week.

      • Alan Bleiweiss

        LOL he was in the commercials where he’s all obsessed over the T-shirts, and essentially he stalks Michael Jordan because of it. Funny. Stalker in commercials revealed as real like sicko. Perfect for Hane’s “wholesome” image. And thats’ where I really saw how seriously they dropped the ball on this when I read your article.

  • The Underground

    I’d like to see you propose that marketing campaign to a big client and get them to invest.

    And secondly, I read that the actual week for this campaign is in October. Great timing, not.

    And third, if it was sponsored would you have even participated.

    And fourth, if it was sponsored and you had participated, would you have worried about your privacy.

    • Lisa Barone

      I’d like to see you propose that marketing campaign to a big client and get them to invest.

      That’s actually what we do…

      The “official” breast cancer awareness month is in October, yes, but that doesn’t mean someone couldn’t have hopped on this and used it to their advantage. Or we could all just be scared and bitter about marketing on the Internet, which is the approach you seem to have taken. That works too.

  • Jim Rudnick

    yup. saw that and wondered too. so I responded with “chartreuse” and only a couple of days later, did I get clued in….great viral opportunity it appears that was missed by the powers that be in that channel.

    too bad too….too damn bad!



  • Don

    If you’re currently paying someone to handle your brand presence, do you know what they would have done?

    I don’t know what they would have done and I don’t know what they should have done. So why didn’t you tell us in your article?
    I don’t get it. What did you expect Hanes to do. You didn’t spell it out very clearly. You just said they Failed.
    Well, IMHO You Failed, because besides handling out F’s you didn’t explain how Hanes should have leveraged an already existing meme. They didn’t start the meme, what could they have done? Same with the wedding dance, and the National Domestic Violence Hotline.
    You don’t even get an F, you get your paper back and you need to finish it to get any credit :)

    • Tim Staines


      You get an F for commenting before reading the whole post.

      Directly from the blog post:
      They should have offered to donate money to breast cancer research for each Facebook Status update. They should have given out free bras to women who get early mammogram screenings.

  • The Underground

    Please tell us about those wonderful campaings, and breathe some fresh air into this thread :)