The Custard Blog

Words of wisdom from our team of online marketing experts

DKNY Face the Wrath of the Blogosphere

It’s been a while since I’ve written something for Custard. Not intentionally of course.
It’s just that I work in social media and it’s quite easy to get distracted, what with all the fashion weeks happening, Twitter’s Vine app trying to take off, and the fact I’m also contemplating a fringe at the moment.

Distracting, right?

Saying that, some important things have happened recently. Something in particular that a lot of brands can learn from.

Well actually, you’d think brands would already know about this kind of thing. But reiteration can’t hurt anybody can it?
So DKNY have made a boo boo.

While dreaming up the visual merchandising for their SS13 shop displays, the design team thought it would be all nice to use the artwork of an up and coming sartorial photographer based in New York called Brandon Stanton.

Seemingly, they felt that the images reflected DKNY’s brand image and its New York roots perfectly.

Which they probably do.

Brandon is from Brooklyn and owns a very successful photography blog called Humans of New York. He focuses on street fashion and the New York lifestyle. Including snippets of short stories and quotes from the people he’s photographed.

The 28 year old has a giant Facebook following of 569,000 and his heart warming images could never fail to raise a smile. Even from the steeliest of souls.

That’s probably why DKNY liked them so much, and offered Brandon $15,000 to use 300 of his photos for their store window displays.

However, he believed that “$50 per photo was not nearly enough to receive from a company with hundreds of millions of dollars of revenue” so asked for more.

The fashion brand refused and the whole deal fell through.

Simple enough.

But this is where DKNY used some pretty bad judgement. They used the photos anyway.
They pulled images from Humans of New York and plastered them all over one of their stores in Bangkok.


That’s bad isn’t it? I mean, they could have quite easily created that content themselves couldn’t they? They’re DKNY for heaven’s sake! Presumably they have a pool of photographers just begging to work with them.

They could have used Instagram to rally fan photos. Hosted a photography competition and generally harnessed the power of creative crowd sourcing, not to mention social media, to produce a successful visual and probably much more viral campaign.

But they didn’t. They just nicked some stuff. Which isn’t nice.

Despite being bitten pretty hard by a huge multinational brand, Stanton still kept his calm and insisted that despite having grounds to formally complain, he would rather;

“DKNY donate $100,000 on my behalf to the YMCA in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn. That donation would sure help a lot of deserving kids got to summer camp.”

(Read the full Facebook post here.)

DKNY responded quickly and issued a formal apology, stating that they’ll be donating $25,000 to Stanton’s local YMCA.
They admitted that the images had been used without permission, and used a rather thin excuse claiming that the Bangkok store had used initial ‘mock ups’ that were only intended to show the direction of the spring visual program.

Quite nice of them to donate though, even if it is only a quarter of what was requested.
A lovely ending to quite a serious matter…

But I can’t help but wonder what might have happened if somebody had used DKNY’s images without their permission. Or any large brand for that matter.
Would they have been so lenient? Would they have suggested donations to charidee?



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