14 December 2012

Urban Outfitters catalog gets naughty

originally appeared in USA Today:

At Urban Outfitters, the choice of being naughty or nice in its 2012 Christmas holiday catalog was easy: naughty wins.

The edgy apparel seller has shipped out a holiday catalog that's chock-full of naughtiness, including a $16 "It was f---ing awesome" photo album and a block candle that boldly spells out the f-word in wax. There's even an $18 "Let's f---ing reminisce" book.

Just a few years ago, Urban Outfitters might have received some serious, verbal raps on the knuckles from parents and protesters angered by the ultra-spicy language. But in today's social-media environment, along with those verbal raps, it's also receiving some surprising kudos from brand and marketing gurus.

It's brilliant, explosive, short-term marketing that generates buzz, it's the right voice for the teen markets according to the CEO of Havas PR and national trend-spotter.

Over the years, many of the most successful fashion brands -- from Calvin Klein to Benetton to Abercrombie & Fitch -- have relied upon racy imagery in their ads and catalogs to generate buzz, PR and sales. In a social-media age, however, such efforts appear to be emboldened.

Shocking imagery sells according to a senior fashion editor at Women's Wear Daily. On Twitter, Foursquare and Facebook, this is a way to get buzz.

Not everyone is impressed.

According to a leading brand guru it's all about getting up on Instagram or someone's Facebook page. This kind of marketing really isn't so rebellious. It's just kind of stupid.

Worse than that, says the director of the activist Christian group One Million Moms, it's tasteless and vulgar.  Her organization, which is affiliated with the American Family Association, isn't calling for a boycott but is asking its members to think hard before purchasing any Urban Outfitter products, she feels they'll be losing business from conservative families.

Executives from Urban Outfitters declined to return phone calls or respond to e-mails for this story. But one catalog guru says the company clearly knows its audience.

According to the president of Direct Marketing Insights, a catalog consulting firm, good marketing requires that you communicate with your customers on their same wavelength, they're speaking the language of their customers.

Specifically, to today's teens, the f-word doesn't even mean what it means to most adults, it no longer even has sexual connotations. It's almost a synonym for 'give me a break.'

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