Lorna Jane is using “distasteful, cheap and exploitative” marketing techniques, leveraging COVID-19 fears to try to sell its latest activewear range, a marketing expert says.
The company’s new range – LJ Shield – is “anti-virus activewear”.
It claims its clothing has a chemical-free treatment applied to it that will protect its wearer from viruses and bacteria.
By Thursday morning, after a report by ABC’s Hack on Wednesday night, the tagline had been amended to “anti-bacterial”.
“LJ Shield breaks through the membrane shell of any toxic diseases, bacteria or germs that come into contact with it, not only killing that microbe but preventing it from multiplying into any more,” the company claims.
There’s two things wrong with this campaign: it’s unethical, and it’s untrue, marketing and ethics specialist Jana Bowden said.
“It’s a strategy designed to create panic in consumers minds and tap into consumer anxiety,” Associate Professor Bowden, Chair of Ethics at Macquarie Business School, told The New Daily.
“Lorna Jane is creating anxiety and insecurity around a previously non-existent product issue and then jumping in to offer a solution with their product – it’s a distasteful and cheap attempt to grab sales amidst a pandemic and genuine climate of consumer fear.
“It’s distasteful, it’s all smoke and mirrors and, hopefully, smart consumers won’t have a bar of it.”
Claims have lots of ‘air quotes’
The claims have also caught the attention of the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners.
The product simply will not do what it claims, college president Harry Nespolon said.
“If you spray their product onto any fabric and expect that it will act as a ‘shield of protection’ for you by breaking through the ‘membrane shell of any toxic diseases’ I have some bad news for you – this will not happen,” Dr Nespolon said.
“The only thing that will be ‘terminated’ by the ‘shield particles’ is the money in your bank account.”
The Therapeutic Goods Administration told Hack it will investigate the brand and its claims.
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Any products that claim to prevent disease must abide by national regulations.
The TGA isn’t afraid of dishing out fines for false claims – Pete Evans was slapped with a $25,000 fine for boasting the benefits of a light machine to combat the coronavirus.
It’s just a coincidence
Lorna Jane on Thursday issued a statement saying the launch of LJ Shield amid a global pandemic was purely coincidental.
“We are not trying to profiteer in any way on the fear around COVID-19 because we were developing this and working with our partners on this before the outbreak, and are not charging our customers for this technology,” the company said, further adding it has been building this range for more than two years.
Professor Bowden said the initial launch of the product featured an infographic that referred to COVID-19 – so even if it was a coincidence, it was still seeking to leverage off a peak in pandemic fears.