Offensive Products


In the world of advertising a little creativity can go a long way; sometimes in the wrong direction.

Most companies want their ad campaigns to draw attention unless it gets the product pulled from shelves. And in the case of some of these companies that’s exactly what happened. Instead of customers lining up to make a purchase they were demanding an apology.

But some mistakes a bigger than others; so to remind some businesses to tread carefully MSN Money has put together a list of the 13 most offensive product blunders. Some are so bad they weren’t even around long enough for you to remember them.

For example in the late 1990’s Reebok released a running shoe for women called “Incubus.” The only problem is that Incubus is a mythical demon that violates women in their sleep. The company apologized and said it wasn’t sure how the word made it through so many people and ended up on its product.

For more offensive products that didn’t last long on store shelves keep reading. And they say there’s no such thing as bad press.

From MSN Money

Adidas shackles shoes
Shackles on sneakers, a product that's heavily marketed to black consumers? Really? Yep, making this the marketing blunder of the year so far. Just one look at the Adidas JS Roundhouse Mid sneaks, which had been scheduled for release in August, and you could anticipate the reaction.
These shackle sneaks sparked howls of outrage from black leaders who denounced them as "slave shoes." The Rev. Jesse Jackson called them a "gross insult." Adidas (ADDDF) apologized and withdrew the shoes. But it maintained the shoe was "nothing more than the designer Jeremy Scott's outrageous and unique take on fashion" and had nothing to do with slavery.

Ben & Jerry's Lin-Sanity frozen yogurt
Given the liberal leanings of Ben & Jerry's founders Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, you might think they'd be the last people to cook up a product that reinforces shallow cultural stereotypes.
But earlier this year, Ben & Jerry's rolled out a vanilla-flavored frozen yogurt named "Taste the Lin-Sanity," to capitalize on the popularity of New York Knicks basketball player Jeremy Lin, who is Asian-American. Sadly, the yogurt contained fortune cookie pieces mixed in with honey swirls.

You can buy dozens of versions of the classic board game Monopoly based on different source materials: cities, the Beatles, the Lord of the Rings and many more.
So how about a parody of Monopoly with blatant racial overtones called Ghettopoly? Replace the railroads with liquor stores, and populate the board with other off-color properties like a peep show, a pawnshop and a massage parlor. For good measure, lace the game with racially charged references to pimps, crack houses, carjackings and 40-ounce bottles of malt liquor.

Abercrombie thongs for children
Sex. Kids. You'd think any large corporation would know not to mix the two. Apparently no one got the memo at Abercrombie & Fitch (ANF).
In 2002, it released a line of thong underwear for children, complete with sexually provocative slogans like "eye candy" and "wink wink."
A look at Abercrombie advertising shows that a big part of its marketing strategy involves the use of sexuality. But slapping slogans with sexual overtones on thongs for children obviously crosses the line. Heck, thongs for children might cross the line all by themselves.

Barf detergent
Believe it or not, every week there are people who wash their clothes in Barf. That sounds downright disgusting. But "barf" is the phonetic version of the word for "snow" in Farsi, the predominant Persian language.
This makes it OK, sort of, that the Iranian company Paxan uses an English word for vomit as the name for a laundry detergent. Still, translated it has to be the worst name for a laundry soap ever.

Oreo Fun Barbie
The Oreo, of course, is an enduringly popular cookie from Nabisco. But it's also a pejorative term used by some to describe black people who are "white on the inside." This definition of Oreo itself is a can of worms I'd rather not get into.
You'd think that Mattel (MAT), which makes the Barbie doll, wouldn't want to go there, either. But in the early 1990s, it joined with Nabisco to offer an Oreo Fun Barbie.
A Caucasian version sold well. So in 1997, Mattel released a black version of the Oreo Barbie. She sports an Oreo-shaped handbag, a long-sleeve turtleneck with an Oreo cookie design, and a skirt with an Oreo emblazoned on the pocket, along with the brand name for good measure. That product identification didn't fend off the howls. The black Oreo Barbie soon disappeared from shelves, though it now sells for about $30 on eBay, or three times what the white Oreo Barbie commands.

The iBeat Blaxx music player
Several years ago, a German company called TrekStor introduced a line of MP3 players called the iBeat. Inevitably, it would roll out a sleek, all-black version of its MP3 player, setting itself up for a train wreck. Apparently, no one at TrekStor thought it might be offensive to call the music player the iBeat Blaxx.

'I'm too pretty to do homework'
In August 2011, J.C. Penney (JCP) seemingly thumbed its nose at all the hard work done to dispel sexist stereotypes about women when it released a shirt with the slogan "I'm too pretty to do homework so my brother has to do it for me."
The shirt sparked a backlash, forcing Penney to pull it and apologize.

The Reebok Incubus shoe for women
Adidas (ADDDF) isn't the first shoe brand to find itself backpedaling.
In the late 1990s, Reebok (which is now owned by Adidas) launched a running shoe for women called Incubus. Small problem: An incubus is a mythical demon that violates women in their sleep.
Reebok got lucky, in a sense, since it had put the offensive name only on the box, and not on the shoes. But it was at a loss to explain how the problem happened. ''I'm horrified and the company is horrified,'' Reebok spokeswoman Kate Burnham said at the time. ''How the name got on the shoe and went forward, I do not know."

The 'Lolita' bed for pre-teen girls
Here's another case where checking a dictionary might have helped. In 2008, Woolworths in Britain sold a bed set with a pull-out desk and cupboard for young girls named the "Lolita Midsleeper Combi."
The chain maintains it was unaware that "Lolita" can be a name used to describe sexually active preteen girls, and is also the title of a famous Vladimir Nabokov novel about a guy who has sex with his 12-year-old stepdaughter. The book has been made into a film twice, including a version by Stanley Kubrick.

Pillsbury Chinese Cherry drink mix
It featured a cherry face logo with buck teeth that played on a widespread Asian stereotype of the time. Pillsbury changed the name of the drink mix to Choo-Choo Cherry in 1966, which tells us that the offensive racial stereotype was on the market for two years. This wasn't the only Pillsbury drink character to stir people up; the company had another called Injun Orange.

Ayds appetite-suppressant candy
We can't blame this one on the marketers; rather, sometimes a product is just overtaken by history. During the 1970s and early 1980s, a product called Ayds was sold successfully as an appetite-suppressant candy for weight loss.
But by the mid-1980s, Ayds sales were hammered because the product name sounded exactly like the name of a frightening epidemic that was spreading rapidly -- AIDS. The company behind Ayds, Dep, first tried to get by with a name change to Diet Ayds. But then it pulled the product. "They just got unlucky," says Rob Frankel, a brand management expert with Frankel & Anderson.

Five Wives Vodka
While it may not be common, sometimes what looks like a stupidly offensive product really is just a cheap play for the publicity. And it works. Case in point: Ogden's Own Distillery, which sells Five Wives Vodka.
Though the Mormon Church denounced polygamy in the late 1800s and Utah banned the practice at the same time, misconceptions persist. So it's no surprise that Ogden's Own launched Five Wives Vodka in Utah and Idaho, states with large Mormon populations. The label features a historic Vaudeville photo of five women modestly lifting their skirts.