‘Huge disappointment’: Inside the customer backlash to MeUndies’ NFT announcement

Judging solely by the announcements of dozens upon dozens of fashion brands getting into NFTs, one might think consumers are clamoring for these digital products.

But not everyone is on board with the concept. On January 27, the DTC underwear brand MeUndies posted on Twitter that it had joined the Bored Ape Yacht Club, an NFT collection and community centered on slight variations of the same image of an ape. Celebrities like Jimmy Fallon and Paris Hilton also own Bored Ape NFTs. The post included an image of MeUndies’ NFT, an ape with a big smile wearing a hat with the brand’s logo on it. The company also changed its Twitter profile picture to the image of the ape.

The reaction the company received was less than positive. Within a few hours, the tweet had more than 1,000 responses and 263 retweets. The majority of those responses were highly critical of the decision to get into NFTs. Some posts featuring anti-NFT memes and pledges not to shop with MeUndies any longer amassed thousands of likes. 

“The irony of a company that boasts about their use of Planet Friendly materials joining in on a scam that uses a disgusting about [sic] of wasted energy to mint Pretend Money is too much for me,” one comment said. “this is a huge disappointment, I cannot support this and I will be cancelling my subscription :/” said another.

The top reply under the tweet is a detailed guide on how to cancel a MeUndies subscription. It has more than 7,000 likes, 4,000 more than the original tweet itself.

Across industries, NFTs are a controversial subject. Their environmental impact has been criticized by climate activists, and their economic structure has been compared to a pyramid scheme by analysts. 

In gaming, they’ve been met with frequent backlash. Multiple gaming companies like Team17 and GSC Game World canceled their NFT plans after public backlash from their fans. Social platforms Artstation and Discord also canceled NFT plans after harsh reactions from their users. And the film production company Legendary, which had planned NFTs to promote the release of “Dune,” did the same. The negative responses these companies received from their communities centered on NFTs’ environmental impact, the rampant use of stolen artwork in NFTs and the predatory economic underpinnings of the NFT ecosystem.

MeUndies has been silent on the NFT front since the tweet was first posted. The company changed its Twitter profile picture back from the NFT image to its company logo and deleted a response defending the plan shortly after it was first posted. MeUndies has not posted anything on Twitter since the NFT post, and the company did not respond to request for comment on this story. 

Alice Clarke, a freelance journalist who was one of the people who posted a negative response to the MeUndies NFT announcement, said her opposition was a matter of principle. 

“NFTs in their current form are such an obvious grift and do so much damage to the environment, that it’s hard to take anyone who invests in them seriously,” she told Glossy. “I had understood MeUndies to have some environmental chops, so either they don’t research their ‘investments,’ or they’re willing to abandon environmental principles for a fad best compared to a pyramid scheme or multi-level marketing. Either way, it’s not good.”

MeUndies is not the only brand to advertise sustainability while still engaging with NFTs. Gucci is one of the most notable luxury brands to embrace NFTs, while its parent company Kering has made sustainability a pillar of its business model. Meanwhile, Nike bought digital fashion company RTFKT just a year after launching its “Move to Zero” campaign intending to bring its emissions to zero by 2025.

But one brand’s loss is another’s opportunity. Several commenters under MeUndies’ post said they would be moving to TomboyX, a rival underwear brand. TomboyX’s social account swooped in, responding positively to several such comments and promising that the brand had no intention of ever getting involved with NFTs.

TomboyX CEO Leslie Garrard said the environmental impacts of cryptocurrency and NFTs go against the brand’s sustainability goals.

“Brands should be asking themselves, ‘What business are we in?’ and stay laser-focused on driving every decision through that,” Garrard said, adding that NFTs are a distraction from her goals. “FOMO is not a brand pillar for us, but sustainability is. Crypto is resource-intensive, while we’re trying to reduce our impact and footprint.”

But Garrard said the idea of messaging around the brand’s opposition to NFTs isn’t one she wants to pursue except when asked directly. She said it was only because the team’s social media account was getting tagged regularly in comments under the MeUndies post, that she felt the need to respond.

“Brands should stand for something,” Garrard said. “And when you stand for something, you also necessarily are standing against something. But I want to share the positive messaging of what we are doing that’s better for the planet, rather than get wrapped up in these side conversations about things like crypto.” 

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