A popular sock company that disparaged the gift of flowers in a Valentine’s Day email has a message for the floral industry: “We hope you can forgive us. We will do better going forward.”
In an email dated Feb. 2, Bombas told its customers “Forget Flowers. Give Socks. Flowers are out…Comfy socks are in.” That message didn’t sit well with longtime floral designer and educator J Schwanke, AAF, AIFD, PFCI, who asked the company to reconsider its approach. Schwanke received a heartfelt (and lighting fast) apology from Bombas, making the outreach an unqualified — wait for it — sock-cess in the Society of American Florists’ effort to stamp out negative floral references in the runup to major holidays.
“I want to apologize profusely and let you know it was not our intent to disparage your job or work, which we recognize as something truly important and necessary to people’s well-being and vital to society at large,” wrote Sam Grittner, a member of the “Happiness Team” at Bombas, which has made a name for itself not only as the purveyor of high-quality socks but also as philanthropically minded company. “The ad was supposed to be light-hearted, but we clearly dropped the ball. As incredible as our socks are, we know that they never could replace flowers in any capacity.”
Schwanke wasn’t the only florist to contact the company about the negative ads — and in fact Grittner noted that the company has “gotten feedback from a lot of people expressing the same sentiment.” The volume of responses (and the sensible requests to keep ads positive) resonated with Bombas.
“We have looped in our creative and marketing teams and will be doing our absolute best to ensure that this type of advertisement is something we steer clear of going forward,” he said. “The biggest lesson we can learn from this is that we don’t have to put anyone or anything else down in order to push ourselves up…The irony of a florist helping us learn how to grow isn’t lost on us. It is in fact, deeply appreciated.”
For his part, Schwanke was more than satisfied with the response, which also included some humor. (“As much as we love our products, no one has ever said, ‘Make sure to take time and smell the rose-colored socks,’” Grittner teased.)
“It’s a win-win,” Schwanke said of the “kind and heartfelt” response. “I love their socks, and now I love them more.”
Jenny Scala, SAF’s director of marketing and communications, said the entire conversation illustrates some best practices when it comes to responding to negative ads.
“Your feedback as a customer really does mean something to advertisers,” Scala said. “If you wish to respond, please remember two things that enhance your credibility: Your affiliation with the Society of American Florists, the national association representing the floral industry; and your identity as a local business.”
Mary Westbrook is the editor in chief of Floral Management.