Tone Deaf. Blind. Insensitive. And More


No one can know everything. I know that, because I’ve tried to know-it-all, and it doesn’t work. I do research so that others who don’t know it all can know and understand more and better. We can’t research everything, though. Some things we just have to know.

Those of us in marketing have an obligation, I think, to be up on current events, and have a better than passing knowledge of history, social justice issues, and culture.

Why? Because when we communicate with our customers, in a public manner, not only do we want to be persuasive and to sell, we want to build positive feelings and (I hope) not offend people. I think we have a moral and ethical obligation to be on the side of “good,” compassionate and sensitive and caring, when we as a company communicate in any way with an audience.

The Spanish retailer Zara just pulled from its shelves a really cute top for babies three months to 3 years that is done in blue & white stripes, with a “Sheriff’s star” in yellow. That just happens to look a lot like the really not-so-cute star the Nazis forced Jews to wear. The star sits on top of what looks like the not-so-cute striped top prisoners in Nazi concentration camps were forced to wear.

Zara top

Zara apologized in multiple languages for the gaffe, saying they had no idea. To which all I can say is “Really????” No one who approved the design, bought the fabric, did the sewing, photographed them for the website, packaged them for distribution, unpacked them and put them on the shelves…no one caught the offensive connection?

And oh, by the way, Zara had to pull a handbag from its shelves in 2007 after a customer or two complained about the swastikas sitting right next to the flowers on the bag. The excuse then, “we bought it from an outside supplier, and it wasn’t visible when we looked at it.” Huh? No one looked at the whole bag before purchasing hundreds of them?

Zara handbag 2007

Words fail me. This is more than poor marketing. More than lack of insight. I would love to know how this really happened. In 2007, and in 2014. But perhaps I’d rather not know.


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