Companies Shouldn’t Be Rewarded For Purposely Offending People

One of my favorite quotes is “the only bad press is an obit.”  Not surprisingly it’s credited to Dennis Rodman.  I do think there’s some public relations validity to the statement depending on your goals.  But I’m disgusted by the fact that some companies purposely and strategically are trying to offend people to use that bad press as a way to grow their brand or create buzz.

On the day I write this, a certain clothing company ( I don’t want to write by name in fear that it provides them free buzz) successfully pulled a stunt that resulted in countless news stories and was a social media trending story.  They decided to sell a Kent State University throwback sweatshirt with red splatters that appear to be fake blood.  They soon claimed that they didn’t intend for it to be interpreted to May 4, 1970 when four college kids were killed by national guardsmen while protesting the Vietnam War and stopped selling the sweatshirt.


As a graduate of Kent State, I concede that I may be more annoyed by this than most.  I was born after the shootings occurred, but I walked by the May 4th Memorial daily on the way to class.  I was a student during the 25th anniversary events.

This isn’t the first time that the COMPANY has created a controversy about itself. Rather, it appears that they made a calculated decision to purposely offend people to generate buzz.  They likely did the math and figured Kent State was a safe controversy, as that generation of Americans that vividly remember the events at Kent State likely don’t shop for clothes at their stores which are geared towards younger audiences.

Can you imagine if they pulled the same stunt using more recent school shooting tragedy?  Like a Virginia Tech sweatshirt, or one from a high school like Chardon High School or even Columbine?  If they had, it would have upset their current customers, resulting in lost revenue—hence why they’re unlikely to make that “mistake”.

Which brings be back to the Dennis Rodman quote.  For many, there’s still validity to the statement.  Just ask Paris Hilton or the Kardashians.  Sadly, their bad press directly promotes their success- or at least their fame which earns them more money.  Personally, I find them revolting and I do my best to ignore them.  Still I don’t blame them for purposely trying to offend me or others just to help themselves make more money.

What bothers me is that we seem to be entering a time where companies are making strategic decisions knowing that they will offend people just to create buzz.  I hope just that their “success” doesn’t encourage other companies to try similar stunts.