I believe Burberry used to be a brand with a bit of class about it. Pity that today in the public mind wearing their check has become so linked with salt-of-the-earth working class youngsters like our beer-swilling friend here - aka ‘chavs’, ‘neds’, or ‘schemies’.
But maybe that’s appropriate, going by my recent experience. From a company that I’d expect to behave with professionalism and dignity, came a quite remarkably nasty, and frankly stupid, bit of corporate thuggery. So in the time-honoured custom of giving the bully a bit of a deserved biff on the nose, here’s the full story…
But first, even since this saga began, I’ve learned more about them that’s only soured my view further. I’m told by credible sources that Burberry once threatened to sue one of Scotland’s oldest established Scottish weaving mills for daring to produce Camel Thomson tartan (one of the best known historic tartans that’s been around forever, more or less) because, get this, it looked too much like ‘their’ check. It rather reminds me of the stultifying arrogance of McDonalds, who are said to have once threatened Clan MacDonald for using their own name!
Anyhow, on to my story. It began when we received a thick packet of legal documents through the post one day. So dense (in more ways than one) was the legalese therein that simple old me found it hard to make head or tail of. But after hours of decyphering with the aid of my Dictionary of Corporate Guff and Encylopedia of Legalistic Bully-Speak, it became clear that it merely involved Burberry threatening to destroy our company forthwith through legal prosecutions if we failed to pay over a Spanish Galleon full of pieces of silver, and sign every document supplied in triplicate swearing on our grannies’ lives that we’d give up our lives of unscrupulous crime. I paraphrase of course: but that’s how it read to me.
And why? Allegedly (my word - not one they troubled with in their aggressively hostile approach) we were offering the Burberry tartan for sale. And its theirs. And theirs alone. And it belongs to them. And them only. And no one else owns it. Only them. To quote my three year old nephew: “Mine, mine, MINE”. That’s sort of how it sounded.
But of course we never had. It’s true that due to limitations in the source data, the odd copyright tartan in our comprehensive listings of every tartan pattern on earth fails to be marked as restricted (effectively, a typo) and this applied to two or three minor Burberry check variants in our tartan finder. In such cases we always correct the error as soon as we find it, and it would never actually get woven. And anyway (as any competent lawyer should know) the listing online didn’t legally constitute an offer for sale. But such facts seemed lost on their world-class copyright sleuths.
Regardless, their Senior IP Counsel (why an Internet Protocol specialist should be let loose on sensitive legal issues is beyond me) with the delightful name of Kate Hunt (no reversing of initials please - we’re more mature than that!) had apparently decided the most important thing she had to do with her presumably highly paid time one day was to draft and dispatch a lengthy and abusively threatening ultimatum-conveying tome, demanding goodness-knows-what by way of action and affadavits signed in blood. Truthfully, I don’t know exactly what it said exactly, because I really couldn’t be bothered reading it all.
But my question is this: what kind of corporate wonk goes to such expensive trouble to produce and dispatch such common-sense-and-goodwill-free bullying missives, before taking the trouble to pick up a phone for perhaps two minutes of elementary fact-finding, via a professional conversation within normal parameters of civility? Well, Ms Katie Hunt, apparently.
I have two problems with this. The first is no skin off my nose, but it’s the sheer waste of everyone’s time and resources. I know lawyers have a bit of reputation for loving to make lucrative work for themselves. But does Burberry really want to be paying her hourly rate for such utterly unnecessary own-job-creation schemes?
But more seriously, as this posting perhaps exemplifies, in one stroke she converted a regular writer and talk-giver on matters not a million miles unrelated to their business (yes, little ol’ moi) from someone who had only a passing and reasonably respectful interest in their brand into someone who wouldn’t wipe his, erm, nose with one of their products, and will henceforth carry on saying so at every appropriate opportunity. In short, in seeking to ‘protect’ your brand, why damage your brand by being be so unpleasant to your professional peers, so unnecessarily? Good business sense? You decide.
I did, by the way, offer Ms Hunt a friendly way out of the nastiness she created with her baseless blustering threats, which I explained would mean I no longer felt I had a duty to tell the world about their goodwill-crushing approach to Public Relations. But this doesn’t seem to be how she likes to work, and she chose to abuse me with further threats rather than accept my olive branch. I find it hard to respect anyone who puts their own ego ahead of their employers’ interests, as I’d see it, so recklessly. So Katie, here’s my response. My first, perhaps, of many. Do feel free to write me a personal groveling apology, if you wish me to cease badmouthing your employers in the way you deserve for years to come. You see, bullies are never popular.
I wonder what the Burberry management think about their personnel doing such damage to their brand? Do they know? Perhaps someone should tell them.