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Charles & Keith invites teen slammed online for lunch to HQ. Should brands speak up?

Charles & Keith invites teen slammed online for lunch to HQ. Should brands speak up?

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Charles & Keith has been thrust into the limelight after a teen was mocked online for calling a bag from the brand a “luxury” item. Since the incident went viral, the teen, who goes by Zoe, has responded to naysayers online and explained that she didn’t have a whole lot growing up and that money has always been difficult.

A spokesperson from Charles & Keith confirmed to MARKETING-INTERACTIVE that the company is aware of the trending story and have managed to connect with Zoe. She added that Zoe and her dad have also been invited down by the company to meet the founders over lunch and to have a tour of the HQ campus, at their convenience.

While she did not comment on if the brand would be working with Zoe or aiding her in any way, as urged by supportive netizens on the individual’s TikTok channel, the spokesperson said the brand is heartened to see so many, including some fans of the brand, come out in support with encouraging words for Zoe.

“A community that shows kindness and compassion is exactly what the world needs today and what the brand stands for,” she said. She added that the brand was created as its founders believe that the products produced should spark joy, empower fashion lovers and give them confidence - something the brand believes Zoe presented eloquently in her video.

“Our heart really went out to Zoe when we saw the videos and comments – there is no place for bullying, be it online or offline – but we were so impressed with the grace and humility in how she handled the situation, displaying wisdom far beyond her years and values that resonated with us greatly. Her parents deserve much credit and must be proud to have raised such a grounded, resilient young woman,” she said.

MARKETING-INTERACTIVE understands currently there are plans to have more done with Zoe, although Charles & Keith are not able to share more at this juncture. 

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According to CARMA when monitoring social conversations in Singapore, it is interesting to note the difference in the keywords most associated with Charles & Keith across two different time period -the few days before and after the first Tiktok was published of the content creator excitedly unboxing the bag. Where Charles & Keith was never necessarily associated with luxury in Singapore, it has been a dominant theme associated with the company over the last few days. Not ignoring the white elephant in the room, the other keywords associated with Charles & Keith include “mocked” and “shamed”.

Should Charles & Keith jump into the conversation?

According Kelvin Koh, managing director of Truescope Singapore, the incident definitely bumped organic mentions of the brand which hadn't been in the midst of too many conversations in the social sphere. Looking at the incident, he added that largely netizens were overwhelmingly in support of Zoe, and expressed praise towards her for being authentic and appreciative, and encouraged her to not worry about the “haters”.

“There were also some netizens also remarked that Singaporeans were the first to hate on local brands,” he added. This could then lend a platform for the brand to further be engaged in the conversation. 

The social listening team at CARMA also noted that netizens have called on the company to sponsor this girl and send her gifts. “Marketers would be inclined to agree this will turn the story around and result in positive earned brand mentions,” explained a spokesperson from CARMA. “However, it is important to realise that incidents relating to money and income are very sensitive and personal. If the company’s purpose is to simply capitalise on the trending conversations, this may make the brand appear inauthentic,” said the spokesperson at CARMA, adding:

Today’s audience value authenticity. If the people behind the brand are truly touched by the content creator’s words, the way Charles & Keith responds must reflect it.

Right way to enter the conversation

When asked how the brand could lend Zoe its support, Edwin Yeo, general manager of SPRG Singapore said that the first move would definitely be to show support for Zoe publicly on their own social platforms. “The brand should stand up for the fact that people should define what luxury means to them and that everybody has their own circumstances,” said Yeo.

He added that with proper research done on Zoe, a potential follow up could be to engage her as an influencer to help her financially. Of course, the caveat is to ensure that all that she’s mentioned is honest and true. “The last thing the brand would want is to get bitten should she have made any untrue comments,” he said.

Agreeing with Yeo, Kristian Olsen, managing director of social media firm Type A said the brand definitely needs to respond and clarify that luxury means different things to different people. Moreover, Charles & Keith itself is a home-grown brand that built itself from the bottom up to become a staple in the industry.

“Charles & Keith is really the epitome of a local success story that should not be discounted or disrespected by our own people,” he added. “This would be a great opportunity for the brand to tell its own story.”

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