Any PR is good PR, or is it?

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Last Sunday at exactly 8 A.M., women across America descended upon Target’s Lilly Pulitzer racks like a pride of hungry lions on an injured gazelle. Running, pushing and shoving to grab anything with a Lilly Pulitzer tag, some even crawled on the floor, scavenging for colorful shift dresses and palazzo pants that had fallen in the scuffle. Within minutes, eager shoppers devoured the entire 250-piece limited-edition collection, leaving not even a trace of its existence in the store. If you didn’t know any better, you’d think it was Black Friday or even The Hunger Games.

Unfortunately for most, the odds were not ever in their favor. Some greedy shoppers tossed every item from the Lilly racks in their carts to resell on eBay and reap a profit. Many who waited in line for hours or arrived too late left Target empty-handed and exasperated. Disgruntled shoppers took to Twitter and Facebook to express their displeasure. Lilly Pulitzer quickly became the top trending topic on Twitter, Facebook and elsewhere, remaining there for days after the launch.

If you didn’t know what Lilly Pulitzer was before, chances are you do now, which begs the question…

Is any PR good PR?

Definitely not. Let’s take a look at some PR blunders of decades past:

In the early 2000s, Phillip Morris released a study in the Czech Republic, claiming smoking deaths have a “positive effect” on the economy (read: saving the government money like federal medical costs because of smokers’ early deaths). Needless to say, they received a huge backlash from the public for the insensitive claims.

Let’s not forget the infamous “nipplegate” of Super Bowl XXXVIII. Do you even remember who won that year? It certainly wasn’t Janet Jackson… While Timberlake escaped the “wardrobe malfunction” unscathed, Jackson’s subsequent albums were blacklisted from radio and music channels. Ouch!

The financial collapse of 2008 was the biggest economic crisis since the Great Depression, leaving the Fed to bailout certain financial institutions. What did AIG do after receiving a massive government bailout to the tune of $85 billion dollars? They threw a lavish half a million dollar corporate retreat. Can you say misappropriation of tax-payers dollars? Uncle Sam was not happy.

Moral of the story… Not all PR is good PR. But not all PR is bad PR either, which brings us back to Target and Lilly Pulitzer, who have been in the spotlight since the Lilly Pulitzer for Target launch.

How will this PR impact Lilly Pulitzer?

Hate all you want, but Lilly Pulitzer nailed it. Sure, many were angry and “literally could not even” handle the fact that the collection sold out and would not be replenished. But isn’t that the allure of Lilly Pulitzer – the idea of exclusivity?

After the collaboration was announced in January, many devout Lilly fans were appalled, claiming a partnership with a low-end store like Target would devalue the brand; however, the limited supply of the Lilly line at Target prevented that. While a number of consumers will be sporting Lilly for Target, the majority were shut out, bolstering the brand’s exclusive reputation even within its low-end collaboration.

It’s a win-win situation for Target and Lilly Pulitzer. They built immense hype leading up to the event, and the launch sparked endless streams of chatter about both brands when people realized they wouldn’t be getting their hands on the highly anticipated collection. Not to mention the collaboration was great for profit — selling out of the entire collection in mere hours brought in some serious dough. The only losers in this scenario are the empty-handed customers.

Who was the big winner in all of this?

Lilly Pulitzer, hands down. Lilly Pulitzer’s brand recognition is off the charts. Media outlets and consumers alike have been talking about Lilly Pulitzer all week, and what better time to launch your new summer collection than at the height of all the chatter about your brand? Now that’s target marketing at it’s best (no pun intended.) Slow clap for the Lilly Pulitzer marketing team.