In the Twitter era, marketers have to be extra careful that what they put on their websites isn't offensive, even unintentionally. It's a lesson Target took to heart this week, apologizing for a product-naming discrepancy that some fuller-figured shoppers found offensive.
The kerfuffle started when self-described "Digital Maven" Susan Clemens was shopping on Target.com and noticed an odd thing: The same style of dress in the exact same color was labeled differently depending on the size. The name of the color on the plus-size version was suggestive, and not in a flattering way.
Clemens tweeted her discovery, quickly garnering dozens of retweets:
Someone's idea of a mean joke? Absolutely not, says Target spokesman Joshua Thomas.
He points out that "Manatee Gray" is a color found on many products across a range of categories on the Target website, some of them in women's regular and even petite sizes.
In this case, he says, there were two different teams of buyers responsible for the "missy" and plus-size product lines, and the teams didn't coordinate when they inputted the product information for the site. One team apparently used the color's official name, while the other eyeballed it.
"We apologize for any discomfort this might have caused and are working to update the name of the dress to reflect Dark Heather Gray," Thomas told FORBES. "This was an unfortunate oversight and we’ll take it into consideration moving forward."
Target also apologized directly to Clemens, and to its 536,000 other Twitter followers, tweeting, "We apologize for this unintentional oversight & never intend to offend our guests. We've heard you, and we're working to fix it ASAP." The fix has been made: On the webpage for the plus-sized version of the dress, which is manufactured exclusively for distribution through Target, the color is simply labeled "gray."
That was plenty good enough for Clemens. "@Target handled it really well," she tweeted. "I'm still a big fan."
Lesson learned, boycott averted.
Note: This story has been updated to reflect Target's full response. The original version included Thomas's statement but not Target's Twitter post.