Oh Polly- NHS competition-coincidence or crisis?

If you’re in your twenties and into your fashion like me, I’m sure you’ve heard of or follow some form of social media fashion brand like “Oh Polly”.  If you don’t or haven’t heard of them, I’ll let you judge for yourself after reading this blog. Famously known for their body-con embellished styled dresses, making a turnover profit of £15.6 million during 2018, the brand is one of the most successful fashion brands in the UK today. Like many fashion brands now-a-days they regularly run competitions in order to win a prize gifted by themselves by liking, commenting and sharing on one’s social media platform. Supposedly for them to gain more followers and become more recognised.

Throughout this global pandemic they took this opportunity to give all NHS workers the chance to enter a competition free of charge, ran by themselves to applaud them for all their hard work and bravery throughout covid-19.

Student, Lara Harper, aged 20 had entered the competition for key workers to win a ‘care package’ of products, along with a zoom party which had been due to take place with other winners and ‘oh Polly babes’. She then went on to send them a message to explain that she would be on shift at the time of the party and if there was an alternative way, she would be able to receive a prize at another time.  Oh Polly went on to respond to her message by saying: “Hey babe, unfortunately the prize was joining our party, and dress and package was a little something to participate in on the evening of the event. So sorry you are unable to join us babe and we do hope you are able to join us at future competitions.”

Well… Lara was not going down quietly and rightly so! Ever heard of the calm before the storm, this is the only way I can describe what happened next. She got onto her fellow Twitter followers to let them know exactly what way Oh Polly had treated her in case they had decided to change their tone. And of course, that’s exactly what they did!

As guessed, shortly after, Oh Polly were quick to respond to this media outrage by saying that there had been a ‘misunderstanding’ and they would really like to apologise for their actions. By going on to exaggerate their gratefulness for what this young girl was doing, other clothing companies were not slow to react and recognise the fault their competitor had caused. Pretty Little Thing another clothing brand well known in the UK, quickly responded by tweeting Lara, ‘we want to celebrate you and all the incredible things you are doing right now! PM us for a Pretty Little parcel. You deserve it.’ She then went on to tweet them back saying how she was very appreciative of their offer and how she would never be shopping with Oh Polly again. Online users on Twitter were not blinded to the experience Lara had went through, one even said ‘Mix up? If she hadn’t posted it for everyone to see you wouldn’t have given her a new outfit anyways?’

In my opinion, this is a clear reflection of the type of brand Oh Polly are. It is also an example of how a good deed has gone wrong in a matter of hours. The power of social media was very important in this incident as if it were not posted for everyone to see, they could have got away with it.  Although an apology was made on behalf of their mistake it seemed very feeble in my eyes and others who expressed their opinion on other social media platforms and replies to the original tweet. This can be very damaging for a brand as popular as themselves and is a clear example of how to lose customers in rapid numbers and fast.

In future, to avoid another crisis like this, Oh Polly need to have a crisis management plan in place to deal with their staff more efficiently and have a back-up strategy to ensure they put their customers first in every situation. They were not fast enough to respond, and their replies were not effectively dealt with. I have no doubt that they will remain a popular fashion brand however it does change my opinion personally and it will forever be the story that sticks in my head when I see their brand logo, what do you think?

Megan Strain is a part-time final year BSc in Communication Management and Public Relations student at Ulster University. . She can be found at – Instagram and LinkedIn.