November 17, 2015 Heather James

When “Spiking Your Friend’s Eggnog” Becomes a Public Relations Crisis

When “Spiking Your Friend’s Eggnog” Becomes a Public Relations Crisis

By Abbey Theban, TVG Assistant Account Executive

‘Tis the season for print and digital ads alike to be donned with holiday cheer. From red and green- themed layouts to festive ad copy, retailers are getting in the holiday spirit. But can holiday cheer be taken too far? Let’s just say that Bloomingdale’s might be getting more than a little coal in their stocking this year.

Bloomingdale’s recently released its holiday print catalog. While the rest of the catalog displayed beautiful models draped in holiday couture, there were eight little words that stood out to readers the most:

“Spike your best friend’s eggnog when they’re not looking.”


As if that sentence wasn’t bad enough, the photo depicts a laughing female model with her male counterpart staring longingly in her direction.

There are more than a few concerns we have with this.

  1. For a big company like Bloomingdale’s, many eyes see each piece of content before it is published. Somehow this sentence was approved, and made a huge impact on consumers- and not in a positive way.
  2. The last thing you want to do is offend anyone or suggest putting them at risk. Especially when date rape concerns are very much alive in society today.
  3. Big companies should learn from their past marketing mistakes. For instance, Bud Light’s detrimental marketing slogan “the perfect beer for removing ‘no’ from your vocabulary for the night” spurred controversy and caused the company to fiercely apologize and remove all labels with the slogan from its bottles.
  4. Context is key. This ad might have worked if the photo was a group of women, or a group of guys laughing instead of a woman and a man with an odd look on his face. But, the body language and dynamic between opposite sexes changes the intent.

What did Bloomingdale’s have to say about this issue? You’re looking at it.

b tweet

As a strategic communications firm, we have several jobs: help mitigate the damage from crisis situations like this one, and to preserve, manage and in some cases rebuild a client’s reputation. Here’s some advice on the matter:

  1. A formal apology is necessary. One tweet is just not enough. And, what about your customers who don’t use social media?
  2. Have empathy. Understand that this was a misstep and acknowledge your customers’ concerns. You will lose some core customers, but how quickly you act will be an indicator on how many customers you lose and if any will ever come back.
  3. Read all content and then read it again. In fact, read it out loud.  After looking at copy over and over, you may become desensitized to what it says. What does the copy say with the image? In this case, it may not be what you are trying to say.
  4. Know your customers. Always test messaging to make sure you’re reaching your audience and that your message is resonating…in a positive way.
  5. Know your brand voice. There’s something to be said for cheeky ad copy, but is it “on brand?” Is it being clever for the sake of clever, or does it help portray the right image to your audience? Everything you write, everything you say and everything you do represents your brand. Always make sure your brand is represented the right way!

If there’s one thing we know for sure, it’s that this was not the holiday gift Bloomingdale’s was expecting this year.

Do you have a communications crisis that needs to be addressed? Tweet us at @VandiverGroup or email us at to learn how we can help.