A November 20th launch party for the new Jay-Z line at Barney’s New York was cancelled for undisclosed reasons, even though they still went ahead with the deal. To be clear, it is not technically the new Jay-Z line. In fact, the brand is the second time Sean Corey Carter has made an attempt to distinguish himself from the rapper Jay-Z. The brand is BNY NYC SCC which stands for Barney’s New York, New York City, Sean Corey Carter.
With his decision to go ahead with the deal after controversy erupted about the store due to allegations that they racially profiled their “Black” customers. Carter was questioned about his ties to the store with this new venture and felt compelled to compose an awkward statement complaining about his responsibility in the affair. This only spurred on more frustration from the Twittersphere who began to show distaste for Carter’s seemingly poor judgement.
In his second more professionally written statement, he affirmed his decision to go ahead with the Barney’s deal with a few stipulations. In what was certainly not a statement written by himself, Sean Carter goes on to say, “The easy position would have been to walk away and leave policymaking to others hoping that someone addresses the problem. I will take this into my own hands with full power to recommend, review and revise policies and guidelines moving forward. I am choosing to take this head on.” He also went on to reiterate that 100% of the sales would go to his college fund program as would 10% of all Barney’s sales during the launch November 20th.
With the cancellation of the launch party and disgruntled Jay-Z fans still simmering over the incident, the sales on Wednesday were exceptionally low. The NY Daily News reported that, “the buzz Wednesday was more about the rapper’s sky-high prices than his cutting-edge design.” The high-fashion line is said to include white T-shirts for $1000 USD, baseball caps for $875, and cashmere ski-masks for $700. However, it was reported that customers came in only “a trickle” at a time, which is evidently not the mad rush they hoped for.
This episode highlights the dangers of reactive public relations, because sometimes it can be too little too late. Although the statement was well crafted and something Carter should have put out initially, it was not enough to silence the discontent people felt about the incident. Carter seemed to show indifference to the plight of someone who most think should not have been disrespected by the retail store. His lack of initial empathy and defensive stance may have cost him severely in sales at least for the first week. There may still be holiday shoppers who see the worth in owning a$1275 leather hoodie branded with the BNY SCC logo to boost their social status. The problem with intangible assets like, brand equity, is that their worth can be diminished by prevailing opinions. It seems that the prevailing opinion about Jay-Z and the SCC imprint is not a lucrative one at the moment.
By contrast, Sean Combs continued to use proactive PR to boost goodwill with for his brand by releasing a story on Nov. 18th just two days before the SCC launch. News and gossip outlets like TMZ reported that Sean Combs’ children were moved by the recent disastrous hurricane Haiyan in the Philippines, to send clothes and blankets to survivors. This short piece of feel-good news may be a small contribution to the widespread devastation in the country, but a tremendous amount of positive PR for P Diddy’s brand overall.