MeUndies wishes its new ‘Harry Potter’ line would magically disappear
Has there ever been a poorly received “Harry Potter”-themed anything? Now, there is one.
Last week, MeUndies launched a new, limited-time “Harry Potter” line of underwear and loungewear in partnership with Warner Bros. Consumer Products. Underwear, lounge pants, socks, bras and robes have designs based on the four houses from “Harry Potter,” and range from $18 briefs to $88 robes.
Before the events of this past summer, the line might have been well-received by its pop culture-driven consumers. As it stands, however, the direct-to-consumer underwear brand saw swift backlash as it follows “Harry Potter” author J.K. Rowling’s heavily critiqued tweets about trans people.
MeUndies posted an apology to Instagram over the weekend, addressing customer questions about the decision to go forth with a “Harry Potter” line at this time, explaining why the brand cannot take the line down and relaying that it has set up an internal diversity and equity Board to vet future partners. The brand also states that it “strongly” disagrees with Rowling’s comments.
It’s a public case study in what not to do when trying to appeal to a millennial and Gen-Z consumer base that cares deeply about societal issues and will choose to support a brand depending on their stance. Consumers’ viewpoints will influence their purchasing decisions. Around 68% of consumers expect brands to be clear about their values, according to a June Kantar study.
Many critics see the new line as contradictory to MeUndies’ position on gender identity equality. Up to this point, the brand has strategically focused on building a brand based around inclusivity and diversity, filling ads with same-sex couples and launching Pride activations and Pride-themed underwear lines. MeUndies also donates to several organizations that support the trans community like the Happy Hippie Foundation and It Gets Better Project.
“I don’t care how soft their socks and bras are, they can’t preach inclusivity and then give money to people speaking out against it,” one person tweeted about the “Harry Potter” line, adding that they canceled their order and subscription.
Another person tweeted: “As a trans fan of your stuff, this is a big bummer, and that’s an understatement. It definitely signals that I’m not part of ‘everyone.’”
For MeUndies, it’s a lesson in how quickly the pop-culture landscape can shift, even for a longtime hit like “Harry Potter.” In its Instagram apology, the brand explains that its initial decision to create a Harry Potter-themed line originated in 2018 when consumer research indicated that Harry Potter prints were at the top of consumers’ wish lists. The brand states that it began talks with Warner Bros. that same year to develop the line which ended up taking two years in total to develop.
Still, MeUndies indicates in its apology that it expected at least some backlash from Rowling’s tweets, even months later.
“It was honestly a very difficult decision to release this product,” the brand says in the post. “Ultimately, we chose to move forward and hoped the values of the Happy Potter story (acceptance, diversity, equality) would shine through.”
One of the questions MeUndies addressed in its apology was why the brand can’t simply take down the items or donate the profits. The company explains that it is essentially trapped in the collaboration.
“While we have plenty of successes to celebrate, we are still a relatively small company. Our Harry Potter collection was slated to be our biggest release of 2020. Given our investment and the revenue we initially planned from this release, pulling this collection would have been devastating to our company and had significant implications for the future.”
MeUndies is no stranger to collaborations. Limited-time collabs like the “Harry Potter” line have been a large part of the brand’s sales strategy, along with selling monthly memberships. Most recently, MeUndies collaborated with Steelers' player JuJu Smith-Schuster on a collection, and last month sold a line of “The Office” loungewear and underwear.
Despite the apology, the Harry Potter collaboration is still being promoted at the top of the brand’s site and across its social media platforms. MeUndies declined to comment on the line’s current sales or if it anticipates sales to do well.