Thrifted: When Brands Use Controversy To Sell Product

They say sex sells, but so does controversy. And in this day and age, that’s all that matters, right? Doing whatever it takes to make a quick buck and get your brand worldwide recognition, even if it costs you some good publicity. To the vast majority of people, that would sound completely crazy. Who would want to risk their brand’s reputation for all of that? It is an unfortunate reality that we all must come to terms with and figure out how to combat before all brands resort to doing it.

If you have kept up with the news at all, you’ll know that brands like H&M and Urban Outfitters have a history of throwing out offensive and downright evil garments to the public, probably in hopes that we’ll talk about it. Even now as I type this, I’m bringing light to the situation and still giving them what they want, which is a conversation. However, I feel that it is necessary to share these stories with you all, so that you know what to look for and what to do.

The first big clothing brand controversy I remember was the UO Kent State “vintage” sweatshirt situation. If you’re not familiar, let me catch you up to speed. In 2014, Urban Outfitters released a pink dip-dyed sweatshirt featuring the Kent State logo. While this alone doesn’t sound too bad, It only gets worse. In certain spots on the sweatshirt, holes and what appeared to be blood stains were placed. The topic is very sensitive because on May 4, 1970, 4 college students were infamously killed by a National Guard unit while protesting the Vietnam War. Urban only took the product down when enough people pointed out how awful and insensitive it was. Why did it have to take that long? In my eyes, they knew that the product was offensive, I’m sure of it. They just wanted to put it out to get more attention to their brand.

This isn’t limited to just fashion brands, however. In very recent news, brands like Tarte have come under fire for their lack of diversity in the shades of a new foundation they’re releasing. In my book, it’s well deserved. I don’t believe for a second that a brand as big as and as well known as Tarte can release 50 shades of white and three shades for darker skin tones and think it’s okay. They know damn well that skin tones other than white exist and should be matching the amount of white shades from the jump, not just later after you’ve been called out. They did it because they only have the short term in mind. Tarte is only interested in a quick buck and a month of media coverage to hype the new product up. I don’t agree with it and would never run my company like that, no matter how desperate I am.

In situations like these, brands need to be called out. We cannot stand by and avoid giving them the attention they crave, because injustices like these must be punished. It sucks falling into their trap, but we have to do it. Something I’ve thought a lot about is how do we call them out and shut them down, but avoid handing them sales. The best way, in my opinion, is to continue to talk about it to bring light to the situation, but to reinforce that shopping with them is a bad option. Also, don’t link to the product in question, because it leads people down a path of exploration, which in turn leads to them buying at least one product from the brand that they didn’t really need or knew existed.

One day, hopefully, brands will stop this tactic and move on to better things. Don’t give in and don’t give up. Make sure you hit those brand where it hurts, in their wallet! People say it doesn’t work, but protesting a brand by refusing to give them your money works; while not always immediate, in time they do take notice.

When brands use controversy to sell product -- All too often we see brands throw out controversial campaigns, ads, and/or products to make a quick buck. We can't continue to let this happen and let brands get away with it. | gutterfashion.com When brands use controversy to sell product -- All too often we see brands throw out controversial campaigns, ads, and/or products to make a quick buck. We can't continue to let this happen and let brands get away with it. | gutterfashion.com When brands use controversy to sell product -- All too often we see brands throw out controversial campaigns, ads, and/or products to make a quick buck. We can't continue to let this happen and let brands get away with it. | gutterfashion.com When brands use controversy to sell product -- All too often we see brands throw out controversial campaigns, ads, and/or products to make a quick buck. We can't continue to let this happen and let brands get away with it. | gutterfashion.com When brands use controversy to sell product -- All too often we see brands throw out controversial campaigns, ads, and/or products to make a quick buck. We can't continue to let this happen and let brands get away with it. | gutterfashion.com When brands use controversy to sell product -- All too often we see brands throw out controversial campaigns, ads, and/or products to make a quick buck. We can't continue to let this happen and let brands get away with it. | gutterfashion.com When brands use controversy to sell product -- All too often we see brands throw out controversial campaigns, ads, and/or products to make a quick buck. We can't continue to let this happen and let brands get away with it. | gutterfashion.com When brands use controversy to sell product -- All too often we see brands throw out controversial campaigns, ads, and/or products to make a quick buck. We can't continue to let this happen and let brands get away with it. | gutterfashion.com When brands use controversy to sell product -- All too often we see brands throw out controversial campaigns, ads, and/or products to make a quick buck. We can't continue to let this happen and let brands get away with it. | gutterfashion.com When brands use controversy to sell product -- All too often we see brands throw out controversial campaigns, ads, and/or products to make a quick buck. We can't continue to let this happen and let brands get away with it. | gutterfashion.com

So, how do you feel about this topic? Do you feel that brands frequently use controversy to generate sales? Also, what are your thoughts on the Tarte and H&M situations that are currently going on? Be sure to let me know in the comment section below!

Links à la Mode, February 1st, 2018

SPONSOR: Amazon’s Shopbop, R13 Denim, THURLEY Dresses, Solid & Striped, LGR, Flora Nikrooz, Vilshenko, Floral Jumpsuits, Workwear, Rainbow Dresses, Men’s Ralph Lauren

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6 comments

  1. Not something I ever paid attention to, but I agree they should be called out, even if that is what they want. Eventually, people might take notice that this is a tactic used again and again and decide the company itself is rotten. Or the company will realize their client base is entirely made of Nazis and decide that isn’t cool.

    1. Honestly, it can be hard to keep up with everything sometimes. The best thing you can do is Google an article of clothing if you have second doubts about it.

  2. Tarte should totally be called out for their product line. It’s entirely too slanted towards the paler end of the spectrum. Controversy for attention is nothing new, though, and it’s not just brands. YouTubers posting stupid crap for views (I’m talking about you, Logan Paul), instagrammers flashing t&a for likes…sigh. People will do whatever it takes to get attention in an already noisy world, and the only way they’ll quit is when the general public stops giving them the publicity they’re seeking and starts ignoring them instead. But people loveeeee to comment on controversy, so the cycle continues.

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