How Sketchy is Skechers?

As an Ohioan waitress, Holly Ward bought Skechers Shape Up shoes, in hopes of improving her cardiovascular health and to get toned while busy at work. As she continued to wear her shoes throughout her work day, confident in the brand promise and earnestly upholding company trust, Holly began noticing significant hip and knee pain, and didn’t notice a change in weight. Instead Holly ended up in the doctor’s office, where an MRI showed that both hips, specifically the femoral necks, were fractured.

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Holly soon realized that this drastic injury to her body could only be attributed to her purchase and frequent use of Skechers Shape Up shoes. Holly quickly came to find out that her complaint was one of many, and that Skechers would soon find themselves in a shameful scandal resulting in a 40-million-dollar lawsuit; proving them to be an organization lacking in transparency.

As consumers, we carry certain brand loyalties and have faith that our favorite organizations will always maintain an honest relationship with us and tailor to each of our needs. However, in 2012, Skechers faced a lawsuit claiming it made deceptive claims throughout its Shape Up campaign, saying that the shoes helped people lose weight, strengthen and tone their buttocks, legs and abdominal muscles; and endorsed by celebrities such as Kim Kardashian. The “Shape-Up” shoes were not the only shoes to cause similar problems- several of the other brands shoes continued to create significant bodily injuries to customers who traded the shoes in for the gym. The “scientific backing” behind this campaign was focused mostly on the promise of weight loss and toning on multiple muscles.

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The Federal Trade Commission ruled that these claims had no “scientific backing”, and that the “chiropractor” used in some of the ads recommending the shoes based off an “independent” clinical study he conducted was married to a Skechers marketing executive, and Skechers also paid for the “independent study”.  Furthermore, Skechers communicates nothing concrete about their policies for environment, carbon emissions or labor conditions in low-wages countries. For consumers, it is unclear whether Skechers is committed to sustainability or not, and whether they are committed to being a transparent organization.

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As young professionals, we often face situations where we must choose the method of interpersonal and organizational communication we use both within the organization and outside of it. After learning more of the Skechers story, what do you believe could have been done differently in this situation?

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