Fursuit entrepreneur learns rocky lessons about advertising
Zweitesich, a fursuit "designer label", released their first line of partial fursuits to the general public on April 16th. The three available designs are currently being sold for $6,000 apiece, and were advertised in a similar way as designer clothing brands Calvin Klein or Tommy Hilfiger. The product launch, like that of a large sea-faring vessel, ended up with a lot of shattered glass on the ground, as many in the furry community did not receive the promotion fondly.
The Zweitesich brand name is a German compound word that means "second self" (zweites + ich). At first there was speculation that the price and advertising schemes were so tone-deaf that it was coming from an outside group, looking to cash in on fursuit fans. The ads were being done through a new social media account that hid its ties to whoever the designer was. However, the speculation was proven wrong when the actual fursuit creator stepped forward and apologized for the marketing mistakes. It turned out to be AlbinoTopaz, whose previous fursuits had broken records at auctions, like "Lavender Corgi" which had sold on FurBuy for $8,025 in 2014.
In their statement, Albino explained that she had hired a marketing designer to develop the video and campaign for Zweitesich's first line of products. But the marketer and Albino had different opinions on how aggressive the ads should be to help the fursuits stick out from the ever-growing field of fursuit makers. The marketer, who wasn't part of furry fandom, has corroborated what happened and agreed that they had misjudged the reaction their work would receive.
There were many critical views on why the promotion was tone-deaf. Some designer labels have been tied to the exploitation of overseas workers to increase profits, so maybe it wasn't a good idea to emulate that style of branding. In fact, the ones I mentioned earlier (Klein and Hilfiger) had their parent company announce an investigation into the abuse of their Ethiopian workers, on the very same day that Zweitesich started their promotion. And there were other disconnects and misunderstandings. For example, whether the partials were to be one-of-a-kind, or if they would be mass-produced (as is the case with clothes). AlbinoTopaz noted in a follow-up statement that the items would be unique, and what some of her plans were for the brand.
However, the strongest criticism was made against the ad campaign's phrasing, which came off as belittling and elitist to other fursuit designers. This is an example of how one of the ads used to look:
By saying that Zweitesich was a fursuit designer (in some ads, the "very first"), and that other creators were merely tailors, the marketing fell short of the fandom's camaraderie and communal creative spirit, instead suggesting a sense of cut-throat competitiveness. As of today, the pages with provocative wording appear to have been reworked or removed.
In her follow-up statement, AlbinoTopaz also said she's parted ways with her marketer. Although initially she had seen potential in the marketer's profession, they didn't understand the nuances of selling a product within furry fandom. Instead, the fursuit maker is moving forward to regain her customers' faith, and that if she rebuilds it and sells her fursuits with a more genuine approach, then those "second selves" will eventually find a home.