Monthly Musings: Unraveling the Marketing Mayhem of Kyte Baby

When a brand says one thing and does another

The best campaigns connect with people on some fundamental level. They help us feel aligned with brands staffed with people we've never met and feel affinity for products we haven't tried. They speak to us. Even if this isn't an actual dialogue, great marketing is, at its heart, a conversation.

Take Bombas socks, for example. Their pledge to donate one item per purchase to those experiencing homelessness does good and helps consumers feel good. (My husband could tell you—his mother cites it as the motivation every time she gifts him a pair.) It's like they say: "We all like to be comfortable, and we're fortunate to be in a position to share that." That's something we can say YES! to.

Just a few weeks into the new year, though, a bizarre spectacle of viral corporate communications has reminded us what happens when that conversation breaks down. Sometimes, these are silly, like the "return to work" video from Internet Brands that felt almost like parody, if not a bit threatening. When off-value messaging appears—and, I assume, making employees feel like hostages isn't a value held dear by Internet Brands—it works like a sort of anti-marketing that can have real consequences.

But the Kyte Baby incident of recent weeks may be an even better example, since the moves it made alienated its core audience in less than a week. The woman-owned premium baby clothing line faced public backlash after refusing to allow an employee to work remotely while her adopted baby was in the NICU—a controversy that quickly went viral. (Full disclosure: I'm an adoptive parent, and my child was also in the NICU for weeks. It's a heart-wrenching time, and I'm 100 percent not objective on the need for companies to treat their employees in this situation like, you know, human beings).

Attempting damage control, Kyte founder, Ying Liu, posted an apology video that was rapidly bashed by the brand's followers for being insincere and scripted. In response, Liu released a second apology video. It did little to quell the calls for a boycott from her once-loyal customer base of moms.

As the saga continues, Kyte Baby finds itself in the midst of a PR nightmare of its own making. The brand's missteps have not only eroded trust but have also starkly contradicted the very "mom on a mission" values it once championed. Buying $40 pajamas for your baby—just like super-soft socks—is a privilege not everyone can afford. So, if we're going to ask people to shell out, they need to know the purchase is connected to a mission they value. Marketing is communication, and the messages we send by our actions matter just as much.

Even before the pandemic, our world was mediated by screens: movie screens, TVs, computer monitors and phones. But we'd all do well to remember that there are people on both sides of the glass. 

It's almost February, but it's not too late to get our resolutions right. Here's to a year in conversation. We'll be listening.

And, remember, if you want to say "Hi" or have a groundbreaking idea to pitch, my virtual door is always open. You can reach out to me at or connect on Instagram @CharellStar. And make sure you're following our work at Muse on Instagram @ClioAwards and LinkedIn @TheClioAwards.

Charell Star
Charell Star is executive director of Muse by Clio.

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