Come on now!

In just a couple of day, my daughter will head off to high school. She will more than likely follow that with a successful collegiate career, land a good job and be a fine, upstanding citizen. Over the past decade and a half, I have been steadily reinforcing the idea (in her and her brother) that she can be anything she wants to be, do anything she wants to do. You know why? Because she’s smart. She is also beautiful but that’s an aside; I’m teaching her to value what’s in her head, not on it.

I wish I could say the same for retail giant JC Penney, which used to be one of our favorite stores to score school clothes. For those of us on a budget, they were fashionable and reasonably priced. To that we can now add offensive. It seems among Penney’s back to school offerings this year, are these screen T-shirts, just perfect for your little airhead.

I’m speechless. Really. Time and again I see things like this and I wonder how they come to be. In this case, I can think of two reasons; there are no women in the decision-making hierarchy at JC Penney or if there are,  they’re not thinking  very clearly. Frankly, neither is a good option. But lest we forget, JC Penney is not the only big organization to show how out of touch it is with consumers. Remember this debacle by Italian Vogue  and prior to that, skincare company, Nivea, stepped squarely into the insensitivity Olympics with this entry, featuring a clean cut, African American man, ready to jettison the head of a scraggy, unkempt man, as part of their “Re-civilize Yourself” campaign. Perhaps not racist, but it does register on the foot-in-mouth scale.

Listen, I’ve said this so many times in this space and to anyone who will listen that frankly I’m tired of it. But it’s beyond time for advertisers to get in touch with the people who buy their products. The way they do that is by not living such an insular existence. They need to come on out of the high-rise, corner office and down to street level where most of the people who buy their products live and work. Rub elbows, listen to us, learn what we value and by all means don’t insult our intelligence with stuff like this.

After feeling the full wrath of Twitter, JC Penney pulled the shirt and released the following statement:

We agree that the “Too pretty” t-shirt does not deliver an appropriate message, and we have immediately discontinued its sale. Our merchandise is intended to appeal to a broad customer base, not to offend them. We would like to apologize to you and all of our customers and are taking action to ensure that we continue to uphold the integrity of our merchandise that they have come to expect.

There’s a tough lesson in this for JC Penney. See, I’ve always been fairly neutral on Nivea; they and their products never registered with me one way or another. JC Penney is another story. I was a fan. Until now. School is in session and I’ll be teaching my whip-smart daughter an important lesson in economics; shop where you are valued. That will be anywhere BUT JC Penney.

So what do you think of this T-shirt and the move by JC Penney to carry it? What do you think of their statement? How about the Nivea ad, does that offend you? Why do you think big companies keep making mistakes like these? Let me hear ya!