Following an uproar by netizens, Urban Outfitters had to remove one of its products (pictured) featuring the word “Depression” from the site.
Several have likened the incident to another where Urban Outfitters promoted a top with the words “Eat-Less” on its site years ago.
Caught in the middle of the fiasco is home-grown brand Depression who created the cropped top. The brand has since gotten a fair share of flak on social media channel and consumers have swamped its Facebook page accusing the brand of being insensitive and trying to make profit out of a mental illness.
When contacted by Marketing, Kenny Lim & Andrew Loh, the founders of the label said that the duo were not “expecting such a storm.”
The t-shirt was originally designed as a men’s tee, and it was a piece made for fans in Singapore.
“It was really just printing our logo on a t-shirt, something like a brand piece, or monogram top, if you’d like. It was sold out very quickly in Singapore and if you scroll through our FB, our products are always humorous and entertaining,” they said.
As for the cropped t-shirt, the duo explained that it was ordered by Urban Outfitters in a special women’s crop style and going forward it is probably best that the brand doesn’t make any more of these logo t-shirts.
“Our brand story has not changed,” they said.
According to Katie Ewer, strategy director at branding agency JKR, despite the uproar, what feels legitimate is “that the product in question was promoting their brand rather than acting as a vehicle for an offensive slogan in the same way as ‘Eat Less’ notoriously did.”
Ewer added that the explanation the founders used to justify the story of their brand name underscore what marketers all know: At the point of purchase, products don’t get an introduction or an excuse, they need to speak for themselves.
Ewer added that to remedy the situation, the brand could make a donation to a mental health charity as a gesture of goodwill, including all profits from the tee in question before it got pulled by Urban Outfitters.
“They need to apologise, and not just coast on the publicity. Then, they need to weather the storm and work at turning animosity into goodwill on social media.”
“But it’s hard to believe the name wasn’t chosen to be deliberately provocative. You can’t ask your brand to behave provocatively and then be surprised when it provokes,” she said.
From a PR point of view however, Mylinh Cheung, founder of Epic PR said that despite the internet chatter, as long as the brand maintains its current authentic path and keep creating great clothes, they do not need to apologise.
“The founder’s explanation is an acceptable one and it is honest. That being the case, the brand needs to simply maintain this stance and the negative chatter will go away soon.”
Cheung also added that in some ways, the brand might have done some good by bringing the issues identified with the word ‘depression” out into the light.
“As a guardian of a brand, I don’t think it’s wise to react so quickly but remember why they started the brand in the first place, what it stands for, and to keep going. To try and leverage it for commercial benefit would be unwise and then they will destroy themselves,” she added.
(Photo courtesy: http://www.herworldplus.com)