Urban Outfitters is under fire again, this time for profanity-laced merchandise. (Photo: Urban Outfitters)In what may be an effort to connect with a younger crowd, Urban Outfitters has laced its 2012 holiday catalog with words that most news outlets aren't allowed to print, prompting parents to call for a boycott of the trendy retail store.
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"My whole family will be boycotting Urban Outfitters because of your profanity-laced products," Mary Streetman Lewis posted on the company's Facebook page. "SHAME ON YOU!!!!"
The products themselves aren't offensive: Candles, photo albums, mugs, and other knick knacks. It's what's on them that's causing outrage. One $24 candle, for example, looks like the classic LOVE sculpture, except that the four letter Urban Outfitters' version starts with F and ends with K. (It's available in the "Gifts for Guys that Don't Suck" section of the retailer's website.)
Other profanity-laced products include "Magic S**t" (a slime-like "stress reliever"), hip flasks emblazoned with curse words, and a throw pillow that reads "Carpe That F***ing Diem." Also raising eyebrows: decanters and iPhone holders shaped like guns and plenty of pot-themed merchandise. (You can view their entire catalog here.)
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"Profanity is never 'cool,' and in your efforts to be edgy and gain business from the younger crowd you are alienating their parents, who might have actually bought your products for their kids if those products were not in such poor taste," pointed out Gay Anderson Molise on Facebook. "Your creative team should be fired."
While older consumers may be outraged over the casual profanity, teens and 20-somethings say that curse words are far less shocking now than they were a generation ago.
"Most of the common swears people say have two meanings and because one of them isn't good, the word is considered rude, which it can be, but not always." points out "thecherrykas," a writer at Teen Ink. The F word "can mean 'oops,' 'ouch,' 'sex,' or it can just be a meaningless intensifier. So obviously not all forms of the word are bad."
Marketing experts agree that the outrage may be a generational issue.
"College students really don't care about using salty language and it's great publicity to those who object to it," marketing expert John Tantillo, host of WVOX's "Brandtalk" radio show, told FoxNews.com. "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."
Urban Outfitters did not reply to a request for comment but the company -- which also owns Anthropologie, Free People, Terrain, and BHLDN -- is no stranger to controversy. In fact, the Philadelphia-based chain seems to bank on it.
In 2012 alone, Urban Outfitters was taken to task for their $100 Wood Wood Kellog T-Shirt, which featured a Holocaust-like Star of David patch on the pocket; a line of shirts for teenagers that glorified drinking; St. Patrick's Day themed clothing that offended the Irish; pictures of girls making out with other girls; for pushing online shopping during Superstorm Sandy; and for blatantly copying designs from other artists. They are routinely boycotted on social media, but that doesn't seem to bother the brand one bit.
There's a fine line between appealing to new customers and alienating the people who are paying the bills but, as marketing expert John Tantillo points out, the company is focused on their target audience -- young hipsters who are likely to see profanity as ironic rather than offensive.
"Remember, when you talk about your brand, it's all about your customers," he told Fox News. "Not the parents of your customers."