Multicultural PR Disasters

Throwback Thursday: Multicultural PR Disasters

The United States is headed towards being a majority-minority nation within the next three decades. This has major implications for brands, as the new majority-minority will wield incredible buying power (the Hispanic market alone is expected to hit $1.5 trillion in 2015). Lots of companies are acting on this trend, creating targeted marketing and public relations campaigns aimed at multicultural audiences. However, some brands have not always been successful with the multicultural population, so on this Throwback Thursday, take a look at a couple of multicultural PR disasters.


Abercrombie & Fitch

In 2002, Abercrombie & Fitch recalled a line of shirts just days after they hit the shelves due to overwhelming complaints of racism and stereotyping. The shirts featured caricatured images of Asian people with slanted eyes and rice-paddy hats, advertising fake businesses such as “Wong Brothers Laundry Service – Two Wongs Can Make It White.” The offensive t-shirts led to protests and demands for a public apology. When asked for a comment, Abercrombie spokesperson Hampton Carney from Paul Wilmot Communications said “the shirts were designed to appeal to young Asian shoppers with a sense of humor… We are truly and deeply sorry we’ve offended people… We never single out any one group to poke fun at. We poke fun at everybody, from women to flight attendants to baggage handlers, to football coaches, to Irish Americans to snow skiers. There’s really no group we haven’t teased.”


Urban Outfitters

In 2003, Urban Outfitters sold a knock-off of Monolopoly called “Ghettopoloy” for a month before complaints had it removed from stores. The board game featured “Hernando’s Chop Shop” and “Tyron’s Gun Shop” as some of the properties and cards that read “You’re a little short on loot, so you decided to stick up a bank. Collect $75.” Members of the black community found the game to be offensive, and the Black Clergy of Philadelphia & Vicinity held a rally outside the Urban Outfitters corporate headquarters. Game-creator and Pennsylvania-native David Chang said “[Ghettopoly] draws on stereotypes not as a means to degrade, but as a medium to bring together in laughter… If we can’t laugh at ourselves… we’ll continue to live in blame and bitterness.” Urban Outfitters is no stranger to PR disasters with its clothes, recently coming under fire for selling a Kent State sweatshirt that appeared to be stained with blood.


Cover Photo Source: Northfoto /

[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’][/author_image] [author_info]Jenny is a Junior Executive at SJG. She earned her BA in Psychology and a minor in Educational Studies in 2014 from Colgate University. Outside the office, Jenny loves to travel (usually to Disney World), bake and watch copious amounts of TLC.[/author_info] [/author]