The rapper and music-industry mogul got blowback after his clothing line launched the T-shirt design around the time of the New York-based protest movement's apex. However, a spokesman for Rocawear was left to explain that the shirts did not support the protests in financial terms, saying that, “At this time, we have not made an official commitment to monetarily support the movement.”
Occupy Wall Street supporter and fellow rap mogul Russell Simmons only made matters worse by tweeting that the T- shirts “took Occupy Wall Street to the next level.”
Needless to say, leaders of the protest movement, which spread to cities around the globe after launching in New York, were not very happy with Rocawear's rationale.
PR Play rating:
3. On the right track
Well intentioned or not, the issue likely made Jay-Z and Rocawear appear to many prospective fans as part of the dreaded “1%,” piggybacking on the protesters' ideas, then praising their “constructive impression,” but keeping the profits to themselves.
The episode has a simple lesson for brands considering tying themselves to a controversial social or political cause: “Think the consequences through first and be ready to respond adequately.” In this case, Jay-Z and Rocawear not only failed to consider that copying Occupy Wall Street's message without making a significant donation would anger consumers, but also did not plan a fitting response to that controversy.