When “Sorry” goes wrong.
Eventually we all make mistakes. The same is true for companies. The key is to appropriately respond to the mistake that has been made. If I accidentally step on your toe, I simply apologize and we both move on. Most of us have done that to someone at one point or another. We know it wasn’t purposeful or intended.
However, if I accidentally offend someone publicly, a different response is required. This takes much more than a simple sorry. I need to convey that I understand the mistake I made, and convince the person it won’t happen again. They need to feel the empathy from me, the fact that I genuinely feel badly about the situation I caused. This effort and empathy are important to rebuilding trust and the future of the relationship. Effective apologies are empathetic, specific and offer an explanation. The more thorough it is, the better.
H&M made a serious, offensive mistake with their sweatshirt ad. That in itself is forgivable, if their apology was appropriate. It wasn't. They treated their mistake like they stepped on our toe. This was truly offensive to me and a broad segment of the population. (to better understand the offense click here.)
They apologized if we found it offensive, but not for creating the sweatshirt ad in the first place. No empathy, no indication they understood why I was offended, nor comfort that tangible steps are being taken to prevent something like this from happening again. H&M is a global company. I expect more.