American Product Merchandising Hits A New Low With Urban Outfitters’ Holiday Catalog


WTF are they thinking? ‘Edgy’ Urban Outfitters’ Holiday Mailing Drops F-Bombs


Published December 10, 2012

Re-blogged from


American mall fixture Urban Outfitters put itself on the naughty list with a holiday catalog that pushes profanity-laced products, including a $24 candle that uses the f-word in the form of the iconic LOVE sculpture.

The retailer, whose efforts to be edgy have raised the ire of parents groups in the past, is now trying to connect with the younger crowd by hawking an $18 “Let’s f—— reminisce” book, a $16 “It was all f—— awesome” photo album and a profane candle that would make your grandmother blush.

“Their catalog has offensive profanities on products and little knickknacks, T-shirts, you name it, and so many teenagers shop there.”

– Monica Cole, director, One Million Moms

A quick look at the retailer’s website reveals even more questionable products, including:

— an $18 flask emblazoned with the words: “That s— cray”;

— BYOB Gummi bears;

— an $8 “Merry Christmas b-tches” mug;

— a “stick ‘em up iPhone stand” that uses a tiny, plastic gun as a cellphone accessory.

The items — and the catalog now hitting mailboxes around the country — may strike a chord with the target audience. But the company’s detractors say it is all part of a cynical marketing plan.

“This really isn’t anything new for them,” said Monica Cole, director of the American Family Association’s One Million Moms division. “Their catalog has offensive profanities on products and little knickknacks, T-shirts — you name it. And so many teenagers shop there.”

Cole said the company “consistently” uses profane language in its merchandise and has been on AFA’s watch list for at least three years. AFA contacted Urban Outfitters several months ago for inappropriate pictures in its catalog and last year for graphic content on its apparel, she said.

“They use it consistently,” she said. “We’re asking them to clean up their website and catalog. They are offensive.”

Messages seeking comment from company officials were not returned, but marketing experts contacted by said the company is playing to its market.

“The people who would be offended are not their customers and the people who do think it’s cool are their customers,” said Jack Trout, president of Connecticut’s Trout & Partners. “It gives them an edge of coolness.”

Trout, who had no issue with the heavy sprinkling of profanities, said words that were previously taboo have largely become commonplace.

“There is no bottom to America,” he said. “We will continue to move in this direction. We will become looser and looser.”

Paul J.J. Payack, president and chief word analyst of The Global Language Monitor, compared the F-bomb to the word “suck,” particularly in how it has become more accepted over time in some venues.

“It used to be an awful word, no one would say it,” Payack told “But it has transformed from a word that was offensive to one that’s more and more accepted. That change happened over a generation.”

Urban Outfitters likely used the word for its “shock value,” Payack said.

John Tantillo, a marketing expert and host of WVOX’s “Brandtalk” radio show, said he saw no problem with the profanities, characterizing it as a “win-win” for Urban Outfitters.

“College students really don’t care about using salty language and it’s great publicity to those who object to it,” Tantillo told “So, it’s perfect, and if they wanted to discontinue the items they could, but it got guys like me to talk about it – so it’s very smart.”

Tantillo said the Philadelphia-based chain with 400 locations nationwide across five retail brands (Urban Outfitters, Anthropologie, Free People, Terrain, and BHLDN) is savvy to market directly to the customers it targets most: teenagers and young adults.

“Remember, when you talk about your brand, it’s all about your customers,” he said. “Not the parents of your customers.”