Please share, but only what we tell you to

Please share, but only what we tell you to (originally written for

Like many twenty-something males in the UK, I’ve always looked to Topman for fashion inspiration. The retail chain took around £1.8 billion in revenue last year and is a market leader because of their ability to influence (rather than simply follow the) trends; a trait that all brands aspire to. This ethos has always stuck in my memory and as a result Topman is front of mind when I want/need new clothes.

However, experience determines perception, and over the weekend I saw a different side to the retailer. I was in-store, browsing through the racks, when I saw the perfect T-shirt for a friend of mine. It was ideal and emblazoned across the front was “It’s all about me”; a running in-joke that we have together.

I took a photo on my phone to send it to him (so we could have a bit of a laugh and see if he wanted it) and to cut a long story short, I was promptly asked by a member of staff to delete the photograph I’d just snapped. I explained what was happening, and that I wanted to send it to a friend, but it didn’t seem to matter. I still don’t really understand why I couldn’t keep the photo, I was simply told to refer to the Topman ‘terms and conditions‘.

[Edit]: Having later checked the T&Cs, I couldn’t find a single line that said that customers weren’t allowed to take photos in-store, or why this regulation had been put in place.

Being a disgruntled customer of the 21st century, I promptly tweeted:

Topman can make their own rules, of course. But are these restrictions rules stifling sales?

For a start, they’ve just shut down a direct product recommendation between two trusted peers – a big word of mouth no no. After that, there seemed to be an expectation placed upon the aforementioned peer to go home, remember the product, visit the website, find the product page and then send it on to his friend? Unlikely at best, inconvenient too.

Building on that further, recent research shows that 32% of Northern Europeans have used their smartphone to share information with a peer about a brand. Essentially meaning that Topman’s regulations are cutting out one of the most used / simplest forms of sharing and communication.

OK, so, sticking to 1000heads’ blogging guidelines and turning this negative into a positive, I’d like to flip this whole policy on its head and create some kind of smartphone-based media sharing campaign for Topman. Without fleshing it out too much, it would basically aim to drive consumers in-store and encourage organic image sharing. I can imagine it being some kind of treasure hunt, using perhaps both Foursquare and Instagram, alongside Twitter and Facebook to push content out to the masses.

Ironically, I found this on the Topman Facebook page:

Just look at the number of tweets and shares that have driven the competition: 191 and 1175 respectively – that’s not bad at all. The Topman brand has fans that share their content and while it’s not officially related to image sharing, I can’t help the feeling that – on the strength of the above – Topman is missing several opportunities to convert positive (and potentially negative) offline retail experiences into online activity.

The Land Rover competition is not inherently social. They’ve done a simple ‘stick a share badge on it’ job and let it go from there. Imagine if they’d actually tapped into something properly and, instead of shutting down P2P recommendation, embraced sharing of in-store content across multiple different platforms?

It could make for a very different story indeed.

To close, it’s worth saying that I still admire Topman, and will do, as long as they keep selling great products. I couldn’t imagine shopping on Oxford Street without visiting their flagship store. But when it comes to engendering positive word of mouth both online and off, they seem to have missed a beat.


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