An “Unfortunate Misunderstanding”

A controversy has found its way into Urban Outfitters’ store once more. A sweatshirt emblazoned with “Kent University” appears to be a faded pink, but on closer inspection it has what looks like blood splatter across its chest. In 1970, Kent University was devastated by a school shooting led by the Ohio National Guard. The company has been under fire and recently responded with a public apology in response to the promotion of the school shooting.

Urban Outfitters says that the sweatshirt was bought from a Rose Bowl Flea Market. They mention that it’s a one of a kind piece, and they never had any intentions of bringing back the haunting memories of the school shooting. Do you believe that a company should research what they’re selling before putting it on the market? In this case, their lack of prior research definitely bit them in the butt.

However, Urban Outfitters has a habit of pushing the boundaries – perhaps a little too far in many situations. They have been known to sell (and still do) clothing items and assorted goods that promote drug use, alcohol in teens, racism, sexism, and other social issues. With their bumpy history, their sincerity on their apology is under question. Should Urban Outfitters have been put in this situation before, do you believe that they should’ve learned from their mistakes? Is a written apology enough to (for lack of a better phrase) clean up the mess they’ve made?

With all of the mistakes that this clothing company has made (such as promoting anorexia, drug use, racism, sexism, and other social issues), it seems that they’ve gotten into the habit of creating trouble for themselves. It brings on the idea that these “mistakes” could potentially be a marketing scam. The amount of free publicity that they get from their “oopsies” is insurmountable. The articles explaining the scam always bring curiosity to what else the company sells and likely lead people to the Urban Outfitters website. Do you believe that this is a possibility? Or are these numerous mistakes on purpose to bring a wide variety of potential customers to their website?

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2 Responses to An “Unfortunate Misunderstanding”

  1. Paul T. says:

    I’ve been hearing about this issue throughout the week, but I wasn’t quite sure exactly the significance of the situation. I personally believe that a company like Urban Outfitters is in it solely for the press. You did a great job alluding to other scandals about the store, and with their current track record they clearly don’t look at the cultural impact of their merchandise. At the end of the day, they are a business who has a sole goal for to make money, and until this affects their business model I don’t believe their ethics will change.

  2. Emily Dorso says:

    Consistently trying to push the boundaries, Urban Outfitters often crosses an ethical line. While its branding is intended to be controversial, the target audience is a younger demographic that is extremely susceptible to UO’s questionable marketing tactics. Its constant lack of research before placing items on the market lends me to believe it is a deliberate act to gain headlines. Some people and organizations operate under the notion that “bad press is better than no press.” Though not always ethical, Urban Outfitters seems to follow this principle, consistently making headlines with its less than ideal business decisions. This controversy not only adds to UO press coverage, but also supports its branding of a cutting-edge, pushing the limits company, an image that lends itself to its “hipster” and “indie” target audience. The real question is how many “oopsies” can a company get away with before it has gone too far and is stopped?

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