I love apologising. Seriously! If I’ve screwed up, then apologising and doing what I can to make it right is the quickest way to restored faith all round.
Sometimes, it’s hard to do and sometimes the reparations are far beyond the scope of the initial issue. Integrity is a slippery thing, hard won and easily lost. Regaining it, then, is even tougher. And sometimes, you may have to apologise and make up for something that technically isn’t even your fault.
But so what? The end result is the same, faith can be restored and is it worth losing that perceived integrity over a technicality? Standing your ground and saying “not my fault” isn’t going to make the aggrieved like you any more.
So in a situation like the current debacle over Paperchase’s alleged image theft – check out Twitter or Google for more info, too many to link to here – what would be the best course of action?
The reaction to this incident, I believe, is not so much about the actual non-commissioned, non-consented use of an image – we all know this happens a lot and it’s likely to keep happening. I believe it’s more about the way Paperchase originally dealt with the concerns of Hidden Eloise, the artist, when voiced. From her perspective, they basically said “Yeah, so what? What are you going to do about it, huh?”.
Paperchase has or had a solid fanbase. Their products were seen as better than the rest by a lot of people (not all, of course). Their brand was strong and they were seen to be different from the usual players in big business. Any or all of that brand strength may have been built on sand or solid foundations, it doesn’t really matter. In any case, it was strong and today’s events have damaged that brand severely. People who simply adored Paperchase have sworn never to buy from them again.
They could hang the agency they say they bought the artwork from out to dry. Or not. Whoever’s at fault, the damage is done: Paperchase have seen today the power of the mob, or ‘consumer’ as I like to call them, and they need to find a way forward themselves, no matter who actually did the dirty deed.
What can they do next then? They could be the ‘bigger person’. They could take the accusations on the chin, make a very public apology – regardless of the technicalities of ‘fault’ – and set about finding a new way of working to lessen the chances of this happening again.
How could this work? They could ditch the agencies altogether and turn their fanbase back around by involving them in their business.
Picture this: Paperchase ride this storm and apologise, sincerely and widely. They contact any artist who feels they have had their designs ripped off and talk to them in a personal and human way. They ask those artists what they can do to resolve the matter. Then they do that.
Then, they could use their new found knowledge of social media networking to their advantage. Just because they got chucked in at the deep end doesn’t mean they have to drown. They need to start doggy paddling and fast. They could begin to prove to the masses who have bought or were thinking of buying their products that they are capable of and willing to change.
Consumer involvement is big news for business. People who have invested a part of themselves into a company are more likely to buy from it, promote it and support it. Brand value rises exponentially the more people there are that feel a connection to it. So connect, Paperchase! This is a once in a business lifetime opportunity. The world is watching you right now. You can come out of this smelling of roses or smelling of the stuff people put on roses.
Artists submit their designs – interested consumers get to vote on those designs – the new designs are used to develop new product lines – the new product lines benefit from the investment their ultimate buyers put in.
There are some business models already working like this. T shirt companies for instance. And some of them do very well indeed using this model. But T shirt companies are still a niche business – T shirts – and the biggest and best mainly sell through online stores, with little direct impact on the high street. Yet, it’s a model that’s growing in popularity and more and more online businesses are realising this.
Paperchase could be the one that makes the leap from online to high street. They have the stores, the concessions and the brand awareness. Building a community both online and off could make them a significant ‘thought leader’ and, if successful, their foray into this new way of doing business could see them emulated across the globe and lauded for their integrity and business sense.
They are going to have to invest some time, money and patience into the rebuilding of their brand. There’s no way around that. Why not do something radical and spend those resources engaging rather than firefighting?
Their best first step – should they decide to move forward this way – would be to *purchase* the designs in question today and possibly more from artist Hidden Eloise and have them as their first new product line post-twitter-gate. This, more than anything, would serve to show the public that they mean what they say and they are rectifying things in the friendliest way possible. (Whether Hidden Eloise would agree to it is a matter for her and Paperchase to discuss.)
Paperchase, you have a choice: stand your ground and look mealy-mouthed, pompous and aggressive; or take it on the chin, brush yourselves off and look for the good – not just for yourselves but for your end-buyers and future artists.
How about it?