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Hollywood actress Reese Witherspoon’s clothing line, Draper James, triggered an unintentional backlash by hosting a giveaway for teachers but not clarifying well enough that the giveaway was meant to be a contest, not a socialist-styled free-for-all.
The drama began to unfold two weeks ago when Draper James announced the contest via Instagram.
“Dear Teachers: We want to say thank you. During quarantine, we see you working harder than ever to educate our children. To show our gratitude, Draper James would like to give teachers a free dress,” the announcement read.
“To apply, complete the form at the link in bio before this Sunday, April 5th, 11:59 PM ET. (Offer valid while supplies last – winners will be notified on Tuesday, April 7th.)”
View this post on Instagram
Dear Teachers: We want to say thank you. During quarantine, we see you working harder than ever to educate our children. To show our gratitude, Draper James would like to give teachers a free dress. To apply, complete the form at the link in bio before this Sunday, April 5th, 11:59 PM ET. (Offer valid while supplies last – winners will be notified on Tuesday, April 7th.) ✏️📓👗 x The Draper James Team Know a teacher who deserves a pick-me-up? Forward this post or tag your favorite educator in comments. 🍎 #DJLovesTeachers
According to The New York Times, the moment the post was published, Draper James was flooded with online traffic.
“The application form crashed almost immediately. Just days after the original Instagram post appeared, it had been viewed more than 400,000 times,” the outlet reported Wednesday.
“Teachers were emailing one another and sharing it online. By the close of the application period, Draper James had almost one million applications — which was approximately seven times the total number of dresses they had sold in 2019.”
That would normally not be too much of an issue, since every giveaway contest invariably attracts massive attention. But in this case, not only were many participants under the false belief that they were entitled to a free dress, but Draper James was greatly unprepared for so much public attention.
“We felt like we moved too quickly and didn’t anticipate the volume of the response,” senior vice president for brand marketing and creative Marissa Cooley said to the Times. “We were really overwhelmed. It was way more volume than the company had ever seen. We expected the single-digit thousands.”
By April 7th, two days after the contest officially ended, the backlash had itself gone viral, with teachers accusing the company of having misled the public as part of a slick “marketing plot.”
Out of 535 teachers on a social media page on FB, not even one got a free @draperjames dress! What in the what?? All of us received codes for either 20-30% off codes. Can’t even afford the dresses with a discount! Great marketing ploy!🤪🤷♀️
— Tammy Meyer (@krazy_4_kinder) April 7, 2020
#draperjames clothing brand giving away free dresses to teachers via @GMA https://t.co/yAMjBFeiKa Actually it’s now a contest & 30% off promo code. Was this a strategy to expand their email marketing list? I dont care about the @draperjames dress but I DO care about being misled.
— Alexa Lee (@alexaleeo1) April 5, 2020
@draperjames are you going to address the total scam you pulled on #teachers all over the US? Offering everyone a free dress then making it a contest for 250 people after we submitted our personal info. Im already getting your marketing emails. Nice stunt. #draperjames #conjames
— Alexa Lee (@alexaleeo1) April 8, 2020
@draperjames great job getting hard working teachers’ hopes up only to backpedal because you couldn’t meet demand. What kind of response were you expecting? We’re teachers. We all work hard and there’s a lot of us. Thanks for leaving a bad taste in our mouths. #Disappointed pic.twitter.com/H9zkAK4QYz
— Laura G (@LauraG42771219) April 6, 2020
@draperjames just scammed millions of teachers. They had the audacity to collect our email addresses, said they are giving us a dress and then sent us a coupon code. Slick marketing there. This company used hard working teachers for PUBLICITY! Shame on you! #draperjamesscam pic.twitter.com/qADXBYNeOY
— SwimGirlsMom (@mesmith2178) April 7, 2020
— Jenny (@jennylynnbenny) April 8, 2020
I want to know how many dresses @draperjames actually gave away to teachers.
I know zero.
Feels like a very shady way to get millions of women’s emails.
— Cami Smith (@camismith) April 8, 2020
@draperjames shame on your marketing, which probably makes twice our salary! @ReeseW Trying to trick everyone with promise of free dresses, during this time-disappointing. Imagine if teachers did this to kids?! #teacherlife
— Ashley Duncan-Cannon (@wild1duncan) April 8, 2020
The critics were technically wrong. Draper James specified in its original announcement that only “winners” would receive a free dress. Furthermore, the brand issued a clarification message to those who signed up for the contest.
“On Tuesday, April 7th, winning teachers will receive a promo code via email that entitles them to one free dress, to be selected from the category link provided, plus free shipping (within the U.S., while supplies last),” the message read.
“We sincerely wish we could give every one of you a free dress — frankly, teachers deserve much, much more than a dress for their efforts, today and every day. We never imagined this kind of incredible responsible, and due to overwhelming demand, this just isn’t possible at this time.”
While the message sounded sincere, a stunning number of teachers seemed to have an attitude of entitlement and grievance regarding the matter. As seen in the tweets above, some even accused the brand of giving out zero dresses.
“[T]heir intentions were good. Two hundred fifty teachers were made very happy,” the Times noted.
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