I came across this video shot by LA-based writer Greg Karber who was so outraged over comments made by Abercrombie & Fitch's chief executive Mike Jeffries - that his clothes were exclusively aimed at 'cool, good looking' people - that he decided to give A&F clothes to homeless people in one of California's poorest areas.
The video (which has been viewed more than 4 million times) and led to a social media backlash, has prompted a statement from Abercrombie & Fitch's CEO, Michael S. Jeffries on the company's Facebook page:
"A note from Mike, our CEO:
"I want to address some of my comments that have been circulating from a 2006 interview. While I believe this 7 year old, resurrected quote has been taken out of context, I sincerely regret that my choice of words was interpreted in a manner that has caused offense. A&F is an aspirational brand that, like most specialty apparel brands, targets its marketing at a particular segment of customers. However, we care about the broader communities in which we operate and are strongly committed to diversity and inclusion. We hire good people who share these values."
This is one example of how consumer activism - by essentially one man - can unleash a media storm and force a huge company (A&F has 10,000 full time and 80,000 part time staff) into a corner to defend some very silly remarks.
Abercrombie & Fitch's experiences could be used as a clear example of the 'media power' of customers by chief executives and other senior executives...strike that and replace with 'every member of staff'.
It's understandable how easy it is to fall into the trap of 'misspeaking' to the world, especially if the share price is riding high, the company has a significant share of the market or there's a huge cash pile in the bank.
Any statement made these days can and most certainly will be held against you. Jobs and reputations can be lost in a matter of hours, depending on what's been said and the strength and scope of reactions on social networks and in traditional media.
Of course, this type of thing is more rather than less likely to happen if you have a strong personality or there is a culture of 'corporate arrogance'.
For as long as the 'clothes to the homeless' campaign is 'hot', Abercrombie & Fitch will struggle to regain the reputational ground lost as a result of the furore.
However, the speed of a more significant )and longer term) recovery will be contingent on the clothing brand showing, rather than telling that it is - to quote the final sentence in Jeffries Facebook post: "completely opposed to any discrimination, bullying, derogatory characterizations or other anti-social behavior based on race, gender, body type or other individual characteristics."
Thoughts on customer service, communication and, of course, reputation management.