Urban Outfitters potty mouth catalog draws heat

Urban Outfitters

Urban Outfitters outlet in Times Square. Image: ElizabethHudy/Flickr/CC BY-ND

Urban Outfitters, a trendy retailer known for its marketing “edge,” is getting a lot of attention for its 2012 holiday catalog. The catalog is laced with f-bombs and other objectionable words and phrases that some are calling offensive. Others see it simply as a sign of the times.

Urban Outfitters goes blue

The new catalog looks like any other retailer’s marking publication. But inside its pages you will find items such a photo album entitled “It was f@cking awesome,” or a candle, sculpted to spell out the f-word. Or you can buy wrapping paper emblazoned with the motto, “Merry Christmas, b@tches.” Or perhaps a memory book with the words “Let’s f@cking reminisce” on the cover. Or maybe you’d like some “Magic Sh*t,” an artificial “bowel movement” that is squeezed to relieve stress. There is also plenty of marijuana-themed merchandise for the pothead on your Christmas list.

Some consumers offended

Some American consumers are not in the least amused or impressed. Some have posted remarks on the company’s Facebook page, expressing their outrage.

Mary Streetman Lewis wrote, “My whole family will be boycotting Urban Outfitters because of your profanity-laced products. SHAME ON YOU!!!!”

Another consumer, Joni Cline, wrote: “We actually have spent money at your stores for our college kids. Will NEVER again!! Christmas is a religious holiday for much of the world. … How disrespectful you are in your attempt to be edgy and cool.”

Short of calling for a boycott, Monica Cole, director of the activist Christian group One Million Moms, said the marketing scheme will cost them business from conservative families.

Fran Strauss, a mother in Atlanta, told HLN TV that she was prepared to buy merchandise from the catalog until she saw say the spattering of obscenities between its covers. Now, she has vowed, no way. She was especially incensed that the company did not try to white wash or hide the obscenities in any way:

“It’s not subliminal — this is black and white, right there in our face.” Strauss said, “I really think it was very insensitive and plain stupid for them to include something like this, in what they call their holiday 2012 catalog.”

Some might argue that not trying to hide the obscenities is actually more honest and transparent to the consumer. Whatever the case, Urban Outfitters is not commenting on or backing away from its marketing scheme.

Marketing pros chime in

Marketing pros seem to have polarized views on the strategy. Some say it is “brilliant.” Others are calling it “stupid.” None, however, seem to find it overly shocking.

Brand consultant Peter Madden said the scheme is designed to prompt sharing and comments on in the social media. “It’s all about getting up on Instagram or someone’s Facebook page,” he said. “But this kind of marketing really isn’t so rebellious. It’s just kind of stupid.”

However, public relations pro Gary Rosen said the scheme is reaching its target audience. And that audience is definitely not conservative families.

Rosen said: “They’re actually going after a very young audience … It’s getting people talking and this was very calculated. This is working perfectly for what they wanted it to do.”

Marian Salzman, CEO of Havas PR, took it even further. She called the strategy “brilliant, explosive, short-term marketing that generates buzz. It’s the right voice for the teen market.”

“Remember, when you talk about your brand, it’s all about your customers,” marketing expert John Tantillo told Fox News. “Not the parents of your customers.”

What’s in a name?

No matter what your take on the increasingly common use of foul language in public forums, it seems to be the direction we are going as a culture; and the trend shows no sign of turning back. Perhaps the old adage that “words can never harm me” is the best policy to adopt. The fact is, words have no power other than the power that we give them. Accepting that sure beats stressing over the inevitable.


USA Today

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