Finding inspiration in female murder capital Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, is like choosing to start smoking after watching the American Legacy Foundation's “Shards of Glass” campaign. That is, if you do your research, a step that Estée Lauder's MAC brand must have skipped when it developed its limited edition Juarez-inspired Rodarte makeup collection, which was slated to launch in fall 2010, but has now been scrapped.
Rodarte claims to have designed the couture line associated with the beauty collection after a road trip along the Texas-Mexico border. The press release noted the designers were struck by the “ethereal landscape” and “lines of women workers making their way to factory jobs in the middle of the night.”
The fact that “lines of women workers” did not initially sound an alarm, especially within a company the size of Estée Lauder, might be the weirdest part of the whole gaffe.
The announcement in July fueled the expected media and blogger criticism, but it seems the straw that broke the camel's back was a petition requesting that Rodarte-MAC donate “all profits from its upcoming fall 2010 beauty range” and incorporate in its marketing materials a message about the “suffering and exploitation in Ciudad Juarez.”
To MAC's credit, it quickly issued a statement apologizing for the oversight and agreeing to most terms in the petition, including donating its global profits from the collection to benefit a newly created “Women and Girls of Juarez” effort.
The statement read: “We are doing our very best to right our wrong. The essence of MAC is to give back and care for the community and our initial handling of this makeup collection was not reflective of MAC's values.”
The tone of the apology and the steps taken, including a meeting in Mexico City with MAC executives, government officials, and Mexico's National Commission to Prevent and Eradicate Violence Against Women, came across as genuine.
However, had MAC discovered the region's unfortunate reputation, the initiative would have presented an opportunity for not only a cool product and high-profile design partnership, but also a brand-relevant CSR campaign.
PR Play rating:
3. On the right track