Bad Brands: Missguided | It’s called “Cheap & Nasty” for a reason
August 22, 2020

Industry AnalysisBad Brands: Missguided | It’s called “Cheap & Nasty” for a reason

Missguided shows its true colours in the Channel 4 documentary - demonstrating environmental malpractice, lack of consideration and toxic "girl boss"/"hustle" culture. Can it recover from its tarnished reputation and immorality?
Key takeaways
    • 75% of Gen Z have changed their consumption habits based on environmental factors. Brands need to understand and appreciate the values of younger audiences to future proof themselves
    • Fast fashion is still a problem, contributing to 10% of global CO2 emissions according to the UN
    • Bad business practice will come back to bite you. Exploiting workers by underpaying some, while overpaying others is unacceptable. Be this garment manufacturers vs influencers, or female staff vs male staff
    • Use crises as an opportunity to learn as a business. Use your learnings to help you pivot and become a better version.

 

Missguided after 2020

75% of Gen Zs asked claimed they have recently changed their consumption habits based on environmental factors. The environment is cited as one of the issues they care most deeply about. Dazed Media recently released their “Monomass” report, exploring the present and future of youth culture.

Fast fashion, e-commerce brand Missguided claim their target audience is “millennials”… (yawn!), but how do they see the future going for them? Who will their target audience be when their current audience stop buying skin tight pleather to wear to the club? Or polyester trackies to wear during this Covid 19 pandemic?

Judging by Missguided’s £26 million loss in 2018, and consistent efforts to recover even now, 2 years later, in 2020, they may not even have a future.

A masterclass in bad morals and bad brand strategy

One of the main principles I aspire Anthro to run by is acting consciously and kindly. I strongly believe all businesses should operate with a conscience and the same moral code and ethics you would apply to your own human interactions. Every business that Anthro interacts with, I hope this is one key takeaway or piece of inspiration you take with you.

I heavily believe in karma too – and long term, if you and your business act in a good, ethical way, this will come back to you. Equally, if you act with exploitation and selfishness- this will come back to bite you too.

This is why, like many, I’ve had such a strong, grotesque reaction to the recent Missguided documentary series on Channel 4.

Where Missguided went wrong: How *not* to run your business

The first thing to irk me was the pricing revealed in the supply chain. In the 1st episode of the C4 documentary, a member of staff haggles on the wholesale price of a dress down to a mere £7.40, and she’s praised heavily for this. There is zero consideration for the value the creator of these garments is receiving. Think about the economics of that £7.40, that has to cover the wholesale manufacturers costs PLUS the wages of the people making the dress. £7.40 is quite frankly inadequate.

Not to mention, the incredibly short timelines to create and ship the garments to the UK from various parts of the world. Someone, somewhere is working all hours for low wages.

In stark contrast, and to reinforce immorality further, Missguided team’s efforts to secure a Z list celebrity (Love Island cast member who will likely be gone from the public eye in as little as 6 months…) are documented in the series. Missguided offers this “celeb” £350,000, an £80,000 Range Rover and a fancy cake. When someone, somewhere in the world is being exploited by £7.40 dresses.

Are you mad? When you aren’t paying the people keeping your busy operable adequately, and then you offers these kinds of deals to people, it’s evident that Nitn Passi and his Missguided team are… well, missguided. It appears that company leadership have not stepped back and looked at the broader world their business is operating in. They are out of touch.

For context, around 350,000 tonnes of clothing goes into landfill every year in the UK. Nearly 20% of global waste water is produced by the fashion industry, which also emits about 10% of global carbon emissions according to the UN. These are all issues, that Missguided’s one-time-wear-before-it-breaks-cheap-as-chips fast fashion clothing is contributing to.

In addition to the ethics and environmental immorality running riot at Missguided HQ in Manchester, the documentary shines a light on toxic “girl boss” culture. Female staff members brag about “working our as*es off 24/7”- as if that was something to be proud of? Glamorising workaholic lifestyle, poor work life balance and suggesting that working 24/7 is aspirational for women. It’s not. Not for a anyone. A healthy work life leaves time for a fulfilling and healthy personal life- something most people accept and support these days. The fact that Missguided staff are proud of this work life is made even more laughable given the huge 46% gender pay gap at the company. Missguided is trying to position itself as empowering to women, when in reality it’s holding women back. Not 1 woman sits on its board. To boot, Missguided’s recent Playboy partnership sums them up. Outdated, objectifying and disempowering to females.

Missguided’s crisis management

You have to hand it to the PR team over at Missguided. They’ve done an alright job at trying to drown out the criticism and backlash towards them by spamming social media with content and competitions.

If you search for Missguided right now, all of the top content is owned content – stuff they are producing: https://twitter.com/Missguided/status/1296203666869886977
However, for the seasoned brand strategists and analysts among us, finding the dirt is easy. Not to mention, online news is flooded with criticism on the other hand.

As Deciem‘s Head of Brand puts it:

A couple of points from Crisis and Reputation Management 101, a how to: Sometimes brands let issues blow over and ignore them – don’t add oxygen to the flame. This is clearly the approach Missguided is using on social media, with the addition of making their own noise to distract. Other times, brands own the issues at hand and use the opportunity to pivot and improve. The way brands respond to crises can make the difference between long term audience loyalty and losing fans and trust. And it looks like, Missguided is doing the latter. https://twitter.com/sarahlostctrl/status/1296372876359147520

In conclusion

We can all agree that this documentary series has been damanging for Missguided. It’s testament to Passi’s lack of awareness and understanding of the modern context he’s working in. And given this was part of an attempt to help the brand recover from its 2018 losses, it doesn’t bode well.

Will Missguided exist in our future? Personally, I can see many choosing to boycott the brand more than ever, for environmental,reasons fake feminism and toxic hustle culture as justification. So I wouldn’t be surprised if the brand went under in the future.

My advice to Passi would be to seize this moment, re-evaluate his business and use his platform to reinvent, create a positive fashion brand built for the future. He can be the answer to his own problem if he chooses to be. And FYI, when your brand doesn’t stand for anything (any concrete principles!) this is likely the reason you have to use unethical actions to maintain your competitive advantage.

Furthermore, I can’t work out if Channel 4 produced and aired this show because they’re stuck in an “old school media time warp”… Which many critics have suggested. Or, are they just trying to help shed light on Missguided’s malpractice?? I’m hoping the latter- in which case, good job Channel 4!

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