At first glance, it looks like any other holiday catalog, filled with colorful glossy pictures with beautiful young people having a good time. There are candles, photo albums, mugs and other knick-knacks. But the Urban Outfitters holiday catalog, mailed to millions of homes, is not like any other holiday catalog. This one contians one f-bomb after another on various merchandise.
“Let’s f----ing reminisce” is on the cover of a pink memory book. Another book says “It was f----ing awesome.” There’s also a candle that uses the f-word in the form of an iconic love sculpture.
And there’s more: wrapping paper that says “bit--es” all over it, and another one that says “Merry Christmas bit--es.” Oh, and did we mention the beer and pot theme throughout the catalog?
The popular retailer is known for its edgy and provocative ads, targeting teens, but many outraged parents say this time they’ve taken things too far.
Fran Strauss, a mother in Atlanta, Georgia, says she was completely taken back when she glanced through the catalog she got in the mail. She says she was getting ready to order some items when she saw the curse words and changed her mind. Strauss, a mother of two, says she will “never ever” buy anything from Urban Outfitters again. As far as her girls, who are ages 17 and 20, she says, “We can choose. Are we going to continue to purchase, or give our dollars for our kids to purchase here, or not? I’m not. No. Never again,” Strauss says.
Strauss is especially angry because she says, “It’s not subliminal -- this is black and white, right there in our face." 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. I hope the negative publicity will backfire on them.”
But it may not.
Gary Rosen, who owns his own public relations company, says the strategy might actually help the company, which is known for pushing the envelope. “They’re actually going after a very young audience and you know, college age, and it’s working for them,” he says. “It’s incredible publicity. Yes, there is some negativity toward this, but the bottom line is it’s getting people talking and this was very calculated. This is working perfectly for what they wanted it to do.”
Urban Outfitters is no stranger to controversy. In trying to connect to a younger crowd, the retailer has offended several groups, including Native Americans, Jews (a shirt that seemingly referenced the Holocaust) and MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) over the years.
Will the ploys pay off? Considering most of Urban Outfitters customers are teens, they are the ones who will ultimately decide if the shock-value marketing strategy is working or not.
So far, there has been no comment from Urban Outfitters, which also owns Anthropologie, Free People, Terrain, and BHLDN.