Categories: Crisis management

14 September 2009


Update: Harris Tweed unknotted

The BBC now reports that Harris Tweed’s Chief Executive denies that the company is “de-Scottishifying” its brand in the US as was reported in The Times today.

That’s a pity in one sense, because it ruins a good story about nations, branding and politics. But there is still the hint of chaos and blunder at the heart of this little tale.

Harris Tweed’s Chief Executive Ian Mackenzie is quoted by the BBC saying that The Times’ source, Mark Hogarth, was not a spokesman for the company but its part-time fashion and creative director. Mackenzie is quoted as saying that:

“Harris Tweed Hebrides have never once thought about, far less spoken about, dropping the word Scottish.

“We are a Scottish company. We are all proud Scots and we will continue to sell Harris Tweed all over the world as a Scottish product made in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland.”

That’s good to hear. But if there are any new twists, I’ll update you here.

4 responses to “Update: Harris Tweed unknotted”

  1. Peter Walker says:

    The words hole, digging and stop come to mind. Let’s reflect – you have a major market that is very sensitive about issues that affect its citizens, your Government takes an decision that creates anger among a section citizens in your major market. Then a senior part time employee is quoted in the media suggesting that to protect your market the product may have to down play its Scottishness.

    So as chief executive your carefully crafted and executed communication response strategy is go to the top of the highest mountain, wrap yourself in the St Andrews Cross flag and use a megaphone to re-enforce your Scottishness to a thin skinned major market. Good stuff for domestic consumption but didn’t anyone tell you what happened to French products in the US when that country was less than wholehearted in its support of invading Iraq.

    What do they teach about communication strategy at business schools these days or is it a co-incidence that Dumb and Dumber was on of this weekends TV feature films in the UK.

  2. Richard Miles says:

    One must, at least, give the Harris folks an “A” for quick reaction.

  3. Tim Pendry says:

    Maybe we are over-egging this particular case. This is just one of those dumb accidents that could happen to any company when it speculates on options in public while the media gets hyped up over some political narrative or other.

    Someone spoke out of line and the company has reacted decisively – I like the photograph of the black model wearing Scots cloth used for the BBC story: it speaks of liberalism and inclusion. The company appears to be handling this as well as anyone could.

    A lot of this is emotional fluff and we could do with some facts. Do we have figures for actual collapse of sales in other cases where a portion of the public gets a little hysterical?

    Most of this is anecdotal – angry e-mails to shortbread manufacturers who might not even be more than occasional purchasers with short memories.

    How much of the US public actually cares about this matter as much as the media claim and how much influence do the media have over purchasing decisions in these cases?

    And isn’t there some evidence that if you keep your head and ride the storm, any media-driven short term effect is replaced by a longer term effect of increased awareness and, with good marketing communications, sustained and even increased sales?

    It strikes me that passion over these issues is variable and depends on how deeply the public feels they have been personally culturally threatened or insulted.

    So far, we only have the ‘say’ of the media that the US public care and the media’s ‘say’ in such matters is diminishing with technological change. Let’s wait for the sales figures to calculate any dip and then not panic …

  4. Paul Seaman says:

    Tim, I agree. What started out as a good strong story has turned to dust fast. There are lessons to be learned, but they are not new ones. Moreover, if Harris Tweed are smart they could turn the high-profile this story has given them to their advantage. I hope they do that because it has all the ingredients for developing a fun marketing campaign.