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  • Writer's pictureMatchstick Marketing

Take Time to Know Your Buyer

Recently, news reached the world that affordable fashion favorite, Forever 21, misjudged their audience appreciation for “free surprises.” In an era where women battle the constructs of beauty on the world's stage, missteps on the treatment of size (whether large or small) are pivotal breaking points for brands. Unfortunately for Forever 21, no one told their marketing team that by failing to understand the wants, needs, and interests of their entire audience, they would soon be stepping onto that same stage with their heads hanging low.

If you missed the headlines, women around the world took to social media to condemn Forever21 when they received their online order of Plus Size apparel with an unexpected gift - an Atkins bar. Famous for their self described “low carb diet program for successful weight loss," Atkins expanded their brand to provide grab-and-go packaged goods to make following the diet plan - and weight loss - easier. Inadvertently, by providing these diet bars with Plus Size orders (as well as all others), Forever21 hit a nerve with customers who interpreted the freebie as a signal to lose weight. 

While I'm hopeful that this was a misstep and not truly a message from the retailer to their customers, it doesn't really matter.  What matters is that the Forever21 marketing team is responsible for how an audience interprets their choice actions. Not only are they responsible for the ideal message they hope their audience receives, but they are also responsible for every possible outcome of how one may perceive their message. Taking time to understand each angle is important because it helps protect the brand from outcries such as this.

Forever 21 made a tragic mistake for themselves. But they also made it for their partner, Atkins.

You see, Atkins, presumably, was not included on the brands discussions of who should be included on their drop list. Even if they were, by associating their product with Forever 21, they are entrusting that their product is being distributed with consideration of how it might reflect back on Atkins. Atkins now is caught up in the ugly news of this debacle, and it will be very hard to spin themselves off the bad press. 

For many, Forever 21 is now joining up with an infamous group of brands that tell consumers that beauty is what you are on the outside. It’s skin deep, or at least begins there. Victoria’s Secret. Abercrombie and Fitch. Perhaps now Forever21. Unfortunately for Atkins, the choice that Forever 21 made to include them in “all domestic orders no matter what the size of the item” naturally sweeps them into the negative media as well. Atkins went from a position of consumer choice, to ‘it may be your choice, but that choice comes with judgement.’

Taking time to understand your buyer, to walk in their shoes, to see what they see, is monumentally important for brands. It shows that you are an advocate for their needs which leads to brand growth and positive recognition. If you don’t, understand that you are introducing risk that could result in lost sales, negative feedback, or in the case of Forever 21 and Atkins, headline news across the world's largest stage.


Matchstick Marketing is a boutique consulting firm who helps brands deliver on their promise to be different meaningful and impactful. Through a purpose-led methodology that focuses on customer insights, focus groups and in-depth research, Matchstick will transform how you connect with your audience.

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