Last year, I bought a couple of shirts and a couple of pairs of jeans at Old Navy. When the cashier bagged my purchases and handed me back my credit card, she also handed me a coupon for 20 percent off my next purchase. I am not a regular shopper for clothing, so I just folded up the coupon and stuck it in my pocket. When I got home, I tossed the coupon on my bureau and forgot about it. A month or so later, I discovered it again and noticed that it was set to expire soon, so I forced myself back to Old Navy and I used it to buy a pair of khakis. This time, the cashier offered no further discount but asked for my email address to receive offers periodically. I complied.
Months passed. Many of them, as a matter of fact. Around Thanksgiving, I bought another pair of jeans from Old Navy's online store. Soon, I began to receive daily emails from Old Navy. Sometimes more than one per day. And they were not duplicate messages or offers. I would open them and then quickly delete them. I was not looking to buy any more clothes, but, being in the field of marketing myself, I was intrigued by Old Navy's "machine gun" approach to direct marketing. I began saving Old Navy's emails, purely for my own amusement. As of today — the final day of December — I have received 49 unique emails from Old Navy. (As I typed this, I received another.) Some included special discount codes to be entered at the end of my online transaction. Others offered a wide range of across-the-board percentage discounts ranging from twenty to seventy-five percent... stealthily preceded by the words "up to" in the tiniest, thinnest font available. I perused the men's casual pants section of the website and found a pair of gray khakis that regularly sell for $29.94 now at the unbelievably discounted price of $29.00! That's a savings of.... of... well, I'm not very good at math, but I know it ain't much.
Just this week, Old Navy sparked a bit of controversy by offered this line of t-shirts emblazoned with a series of pithy sayings.
Someone in the Old Navy decision making department thought that this was a good idea. Several other must have agreed, so it got the green light and was off to the production department. In production, someone had to explain the concept to someone else in order to bring the concept to light. That second someone was an artist. That artist had to choose a font, select its size and placement, choose the color for "strike out" line, and then choose a different font for the added line of copy at the bottom — the payoff line, if you will. The artist had to make all of these choices — choices that would determine the desirability and retail appeal of a garment that is mocking and belittling the very process they are exercising to bring the piece to market. That, Ms. Morissette, is a real example of irony.
I like Old Navy as much as the next person... maybe a little less. I have purchased clothing there over the course of many years. (I'm wearing a pair of Old Navy jeans right now.) But, I am also an artist. I have been an artist since I was a little kid. I have been a professional artist for over thirty years. I maintain that my chosen profession is just as important to daily commerce as any other part of the work force. Clothing styles, wrapping paper, menus, grocery bags, product packaging — all the creation of artists. I also maintain that professional artist is the most misunderstand, unappreciated and maligned profession of all.
My friends at Old Navy have proven that. Now, stop sending me emails. You know... the ones designed by artists.
******* U P D A T E *******
It looks like Old Navy has seen the error of their ways. They have issued an apology for the shirt and are in the process of removing the current inventory from the stores.