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PR Fail: Target Compares Plus Size Shoppers to the 'Sea Cow'
By: Shawn Paul Wood
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It's hard to keep up with all those fancy colors that never made it to the Crayola 64 box, right? Most can be found in a paint store, such as Benjamin Moore's 'Baby Turtle', Valspar's 'Cincinnatian Hotel Vandersall Red', and perhaps the new hue of puke that Target spewed on its plus-size customers 'Manatee Grey.' Classy. I know the artist inside every buyer tries to be first with the nouveaux color du jour, but seriously, no one in legal or, God forbid, PR saw an issue with dubbing a color for plus-size women named after an endangered species that used to be called a "sea cow?!"

What had happened was the national Minn.-based retailer got up in a tizzy over its Mossimo Women's Kimono. Apparently, it's all the rage, so it needed a sexy color. You know, something not easily — or ever — found in the Pantone color wheel. An epiphany struck and "Dark Heather Grey" was born. According to the story from FOXNews.com, this word choice left online shoppers "wondering just what the retailer was trying to imply with their word choice." Some color-by-numbers aficionado decided that Target should give this novel color one more try. Good thought, only not so much, because the kerfuffle ensued when they only renamed the plus-size dress, not the not-so-big-girl-size dress. 

Hence, "Manatee Grey" was born. 

Orange County's Suzen Clemens (aka @Suzen) decided this may not the smartest decision in the world, so she calls Target (aka @Target) out on it with a trite response:

What the. Plus sized women get "Manatee Grey" while standard sizes are "Dark Heather Grey." @Target #notbuyingit http://pic.twitter.com/nzHNYoytnp

While the attention whore in me is insanely jealous because I wish I would have seen this, I have to give Target respect — they responded. Immediately. 

@suZen We apologize for this unintentional oversight & never intend to offend our guests. We've heard you, and we're working to fix it ASAP.

Naturally, the calls came pouring in to Target's snow-capped office. To wit, its spokesperson Jessica Deede had me...up until the end. She noted to FOX 411 that "Manatee Grey is a color label often used by Target." Sure it is, Jessica. And "Blue Whale Blue" and "Rhinoceros Rustic Brown" have been thrown about in the back as well, right? Moving on. 

"Manatee grey is actually a seasonal color that is used across product categories on Target.com, from apparel items to home items. This was an unintentional oversight...we will take this opportunity to learn." 

She also went on to advise the masses that color labels for the plus- and regular-sized items occurred because of a "communication error between the two teams working with the dress." While Target scurries off to Aisle 15 for that new contraption called "a phone," it's tough to give Target half of a crisis communications trophy for this. They were cold busted, and recognized it quickly. For that, half a trophy. Regretfully, the other half will be melted down to make a tooth or something because those talking points were atrocious. Just admit the failure to see the whole picture and move on. Responding quickly via social media? They owned it. Responding with succinct messages that resolved the matter? Meh. 

MEMO to online retailers everywhere: Next time you are faced with tricking up the color wheel, stray from portly sea mammals. Most are endangered and who knows, PETA may picket you next time...no one wants that. You're welcome.


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About the Author
Shawn Paul Wood is a hack-turned-flack with more than 20 years of collective journalism, copywriting and marketing communications experience. Shawn Paul is founder of Woodworks Communications in Dallas, Texas. If you need him, ping him here or follow him on Twitter @ShawnPaulWood
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