How Sainsbury’s redeemed itself AFTER it mocked slavery by @dmhwhite

Heard the one about a Sainsbury’s employee promoting the Oscar-winning DVD release of 12 Years a Slave…by dressing up a mannequin as a slave?

Unfortunately, it’s true. And, thanks to Twitter, everyone can laugh at the Oxford store’s faux pas – which seemingly mocks, condones and glamourises slavery all at the same time (which is no mean feat, I imagine). But, believe it or not, after the likes of The Independent, The Mirror and the rest of the world had tutted / gasped / laughed at the ‘mistake’, Sainsbury’s managed to re-deem itself.

Here’s how:

1) Sorry seems to be the hardest word

Shortly after the first photo was posted on Twitter, Sainsbury’s responded with a swift apology ( and rapidly put the man back in his box pretending that it never happened. But, time will tell whether that’ll be enough.

Remember, GAP and American Apparel? These brands tried to piggyback off hurricane disasters for their own gain and, consequently, their reputations took a nose-dive.

2) Let’s get personal 

The supermarket’s PR Twitter account, which reaches 34,000 consumers, replied individually to disgruntled customers who complained about the mannequin. Ok, we can assume it was a junior at the helm who was repeatedly told to just copy and paste the official statement (which lacks personality and even less charm), but it does the job.

Rather than expect people to come to them, they’ve taken their apology to the people – which is the right thing to do in a crisis. It’s the equivalent of holding your hands up and spending a day in the stocks, only you’re given an ounce more respect for doing it without being asked.

3) Avoid the Twitter storm

I’d expect nothing less from an 145-year old British brand to adopt the nation’s ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’ motto – which is exactly what Sainsbury’s did.

Hopping straight from personal apologies to career advice, it locked the conversation down to minimise the collateral damage.

Obviously one store’s mistake isn’t going to bring down the empire, but the Sainsbury’s ship can expect rough waters tomorrow in print (websites such as Huffington PostDaily Mail and The Metro have already exhausted it). But, ultimately, it’s taken the blame without anyone being sacrificed (as far as we know) and dealt with the issue well.

What do you think? Careless mistake or publicity stunt?


Solomon’s journey to freedom is no joke.

The offending image from Oxford.


Donna White is a PR officer at The Prince’s Trust and runs a PR blog called Prime Time (PR in My Eyes). She also tweets from @dmhwhite.